ROCKPORT— If we know one thing about 12-year-old Olivia Gelerman, we know she loves the literary art form of manga. As Penobscot Bay Pilot’s exclusive teen reviewer of the “Manga 101” series, she isn’t just into reading them, she’s now into drawing original characters for them. And recently, one of her illustrations, hung up at her parents’ coffee shop 47 West, got her noticed.
Approximately four months ago, a yoga instructor came into the shop and was so impressed by Olivia’s artwork, that she commissioned the middle schooler to draw an original illustration for a poster.
“She wanted a figure to go with the text of an upcoming yoga Nidra class, so we got together and went over a couple of ideas,” said Olivia. “I did a few basic drawings of the Yoga Nidra pose and she really liked them. We picked one to go with the poster and I got paid for it.”
Her love of the manga form extends to graphic arts.
“For three years, I’ve been studying how to draw manga,” she said. “I started off copying other art just for fun. And then I started drawing my own original characters.”
Olivia and her best friend, Hannah from Boston, have been working on a graphic novel with original characters for some time.
“I have the story in my head; I just haven’t written anything down yet,” she said.
She uses copic alcohol-based markers on Bristol board to create her illustrations and then sketches in with colored pencil to add more depth.
“They end up blending together very well on paper,” said Olivia. “They’re fairly easy to work with and unlike watercolor, which can bleed, I like being in control of where the color stays. Though they are expensive. Each marker ranges from $7 to $12 apiece.”
YouTube is the medium that fuels most all of her creative inspiration. Just as she’d relied on YouTube to help her discover the best manga authors, Olivia used the video platform’s tutorials to teach her how to draw with copic markers and to learn the fine points of manga illustration.
She’s already building a portfolio of her illustrations and done three commissions so far. But, that’s not all. Olivia is also interested in another alternative creative form — doll customizing, which requires repainting and converting children’s dolls such as the Monster High dolls into custom 3-D characters.
“You take an old doll, cut the head off, boil it in water, take a pair of pliers and pull the hair plugs out,” she explained. “Then, I redo the face (using vinyl spray?) and reroute yarn hair though the scalp holes. I’m working on how to sew clothes for it with a sewing machine. I still need more practice. I was thinking of making dolls of my characters, but just need to get a little better.”
Olivia, who is home-schooled divides her time between studies, and working part-time at the store where she does everything from making coffee to serving food to curating her section of the bookstore upstairs dedicated to manga and graphic novels. “I don’t get paid at the store, but I can order art supplies and books online,so that is part of my ‘payment’” she said.
For more guidance on what manga and graphic novels will appeal to teens and tweens and get them reading follow her “Manga 101” series in our Related Stories below.
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org