Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Learn to Draw Manga - Project Book & Kit" and Staedtler Graphite 771 Automatic Pencil Review

Spotted this compact Walter Foster "Learn to Draw Manga" Drawing Kit by Jeannie Lee on the 75% off clearance rack of a local Borders.
Since I am still sporting my braces, I realized the audio on the video review might be hard to make out. Thus I'll also cover the main points in this blog entry.
The 32-page instructional booklet has a nice layout and packs enough fundamentals and techniques to serve as a fair introduction to Manga for elementary students (4-6 grade) that previously have not had much exposure to anime and manga. Even some middle school students might find it as suitable reference given the pleasing art style that is clearly influenced by popular conventions of Shonen and Shojo comics.
The tools featured in the kit: a pencil, an eraser, and 4 felt-tip colored markers are fairly disappointing and barely adequate for elementary students to get started. The lead core in the pencil was off-centered, so it would be impossible to sharpen it evenly. The eraser works, but not as cleanly as a foam eraser or the reliable Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser. The limited markers' palette of black and 3 primary colors allow only for some crude coloring. Students would probably had been better served with a range of gray markers and a skin colored marker. Thus unless you can find this compact Manga kit on clearance, I would not recommend it and would direct you instead to the full version kit if you like the drawing style of this author. The larger kit packs a few more tips and techniques and seems to have a wider marker selection. For middle school students it would be better to bundle the instructional book with a more substantial manga drawing kit like the Sakura Pigma Sensei kit or a set of Prismacolor Illustration markers.
For children that tend to break the leads on 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm mechanical pencils too often, it might be worth switching to the larger 1.3 mm lead used in the Staedtler Graphite 771 Automatic Pencil. For more photos and another review of this mechanical pencil you might want to visit Dave's Mechanical Pencils.
While I regard the erasers in most mechanical pencils just as simple plugs meant to keep the leads inside the barrels, the Graphite 771 twist-up 1.5" eraser is actually quite functional and efficient in removing pencil marks cleanly without damaging the paper surface just like the classic Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser.
The thick 1.3 mm graphite lead resists breakage better than thinner leads, and it can still be used without sharpening to produce a range of line widths by simply rotating the pencil. Yet if a finer point were desired, the lead can still be easily sharpened with a 2 mm lead pointer as shown above.
Some test sketches inspired by the Manga project book.
The Staedtler Graphite 771 Automatic Pencil is a fun comfortable 1.3 mm mechanical pencil that would serve children well for writing and drawing applications with its well-designed ergonomic triangular grip, break-resistant lead, and substantial and efficient 1.5" twist-up eraser. Its lanyard hole (at the base of the pocket clip) might be useful to prevent accidental loss by securing it to a larger sketching kit or backpack especially for kids prone to losing their smaller school supplies. Adults that prefer pencils with wider bodies are also likely to enjoy this value-priced Japanese pencil bonus pack with 2 spare erasers and tube with 6 spare HB graphite leads.

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