Making sure Year 9 pupils, particularly boys, are interested and enthused by art is no easy task. Part of the trouble is that art is seen as a female dominated subject now and many departments choose easy options, focusing on projects about long-dead artists or natural forms. To excite 21st-century pupils, art teachers need to use their creative powers to devise new and relevant projects.
Over the past few years Manga, featured in Japanese comic books, has become increasingly popular throughout the Western World. The influence of these comic books and animations is widespread; there cannot be a teacher who has not come across pupils talking about Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragonball Z or other Japanese imports.
It is easy to see the artwork in these comics and films as throwaway trash, but their power and influence is not to be underestimated and there are scores of books and websites that claim to be able to teach people how to draw in the unique style of the Manga-ka (Manga artists).
I came up with a scheme of work based on Manga after seeing pupils reading books around school, or asking me where they could go to develop Manga- style drawing skills. The scheme began as an after-school club, but it became clear that pupils were keen to turn it into a full-blown project.
After perfecting the style myself, I ploughed through books and websites creating lesson plans, worksheets and flipcharts. Pupils develop their drawing style using professional materials and equipment, and learn about the pressurised environment a Manga-ka works in. They are shown how to create their own characters, based on people they know for authenticity, and also produce guide sheets, so that others can create the characters they have invented.
Jonathan Carney is an art and design teacher at Bishop Barrington School in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.