Battle Angel Alita and Cyborgs

Since summer break started, I’ve been doing my best to take about a week off from anything even remotely taxing. I need to recover from the spring semester, so for my very first blog post here on Where Creativity Works, I wanted to share something casual. 

Over the past few years I’ve grown more and more interested in robots, cyborgs, mechs, and anything related. Naturally, I’ve been meaning to try drawing them too, but it seems daunting—I have no idea how machines work, so the thought of designing my own fictional machine does not inspire much confidence in me. I’ve heard that designing mechanical stuff is about faking it convincingly, but I imagine that to do that well, you’d need a decent understanding of basic machines. Basically, I don’t know what I’m doing. 

References from Battle Angel Alita volume 3

I believe that the best way to learn to draw something is to use reference and to study others who are doing it better than I am, so that’s what I did. I decided to use the manga Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro to study from. I really admire the art in the series, though the protagonist has a serious case of resting duck-face. The cyborgs are convincing and satisfying to look at. In the third volume of the series, the cyborg protagonist, Alita, quits bounty hunting to become a motorball player, the in-universe version of a race car driver. She switches her old body out for a body designed for her new profession, which is the cyborg design I decided to sketch from. 

I began sketching too stiffly, and I think it shows. I was focusing more on measuring proportions than analyzing the form that I was drawing, and as a result, it doesn’t feel as solid as I wanted it to. As I sketched, I realized just how impressive the design is. The author drew it from many angles over the course of the volume, and it remained largely consistent throughout. He clearly designed it in three dimensions from the start, whereas I tend to get stuck thinking in two dimensions when I’m designing. 

Towards the end I got more into the groove of it, and overall I’m happy with the result. I originally thought I would be sketching at least five different poses, but three was the best I could do. I’d like to do a few more studies if I can find the energy. I enjoyed the process a lot, though I stressed out over the proportions in the beginning. It didn’t require too much creativity, so it was relaxing. I feel a little more confident now, so I’m excited to draw more of this type of thing.

Featured Image: Battle Angel Alita Volume 3 cover art by Yukito Kishiro

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