Inklings Art – new Manga art classes in Tauranga

I met Kris Coburn at a SpecFicNZ writing meeting more than a year ago. He was visiting our group to show us his artwork portfolio. There was some fantastic work in that folder and I immediately wondered if his style would fit a quirky picture book text I’d written: The Groggle and the Chubbly Fluff.

Kris and I started meeting every few months or so to discuss our ideas and pretty soon he’d developed both the Groggle character (big, furry, scary but cheeky and knowing) and just recently, the Chubbly Fluff (a bird-like fairy creature, beautifully soft with touches of violet, yet fierce!).

We’re continuing our work on the picture book, but Kris is also embarking on a new adventure – Manga classes for kids. Find out more about Kris and his vision:

Hi Kris! When did you first realise you loved to draw and do art?

When I was 3 years old, my dad showed me how to trace cartoon characters like Donald Duck and Sonic the Hedgehog – it started me off trying to explore bigger and better things.

Did you do much drawing as a child?

Yes – a lot!  We have a home video of me at 4 years of age drawing a pretty decent picture on a standard computer paint program. All the way through school I was drawing all through my schoolbooks when I should’ve been working.  In my spare time, drawing, tracing and copying was one of my main hobbies.

Kris and PicWhat did you like to draw?

Creatures that I invented, existing characters, people.  Comic art – I made my own comic books and later on at school collaborated with my friends. I liked to draw machinery at times..and sometimes animals.

Do you consider yourself self-taught?

The thing is we always learn from somebody else. But this learning can come from many sources. Dad showed me some basics, which gave me the confidence to learn more on my own. He also bought me comics to study and copy or trace. But from there I learned by copying other artists from books, TV, games etc and it mainly meant being obsessed and paying more than the usual attention to anything drawing-related, as I went about my day. I think passion is the key.

When you want to know and you are searching you will see the answers when they are nearby. Adding to that I read, I look at things, I practice, I copy other artists etc. Isaac Newton said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” So copy and learn how the best artists do it. You don’t need to be taught to enjoy your hobbies.

Tell us about your style?

I’d say that my main influence came from Tetsuya Nomura. He’s the art director for Square Enix who made the Final Fantasy games. I was exposed to his work in my teens and I loved it. He has a Japanese manga-like style and his character designs are always interesting.

Tell us about your influences and points us to some images or websites to check out…

Tetsuya Nomura and what the Square Enix team have made will always inspire me. But I also follow artists like Ross Tran, Sakimichan, WLOP, Ilya Kuvshinov, Tim Burton, Dr Seuss, Arthur Rackham, Noah Bradley and various other artists in imagineFX magazine and Newtype magazine. Recently thanks to Jan, Shaun Tan has become another influence. These artists have tutorials online and you can pledge them small change for their work and tutorials on

Tell me about one of your favourite drawings you’ve created…

‘The Dreamscape’ is one of my favourite pictures. It was mostly created digitally in Photoshop. It started as a simple sketch that I decided to finish. I started with basic brown and blue colours with a hard, round brush and a solid blue for the sand and sky, and then I used a soft brush at different sizes to paint the dust and clouds as well as the sun. A mixture to paint the girl of these brushes. Then I used photographs over the top with different layer effects to provide textures and smaller details like sparkles on the sand etc. Then I made a colour dodge layer and paint in some lighting effects. The photos usually provide interesting abstract elements too. I then mess around with the colours and contrast of the whole image to achieve what I want. I will put together some Youtube tutorials at some point for students to have a look at too and explain it in more detail. In the meantime, you can find the picture on my website

Tell us about Inklings Art…

The idea for Inklings Art arose last year when a local teacher asked me to help his students develop their drawing skills for a comic strip project the school was working on. The students responded really well, even the ones who don’t enjoy drawing.  I really enjoyed teaching them, and remembered at their age being frustrated when trying to follow drawing advice from books and finding the instructions inadequate.  That’s what led me to develop my own construction techniques… and it was great to see how easily children could pick them up and improve.

I believe anyone can draw better if they are shown the way.

Also, when I started networking as part of my market research, parents of artistic children expressed their frustration at not being able to find a program that suited their child.  There didn’t seem to be anything catering to anime/manga – a Japanese style of drawing that is very popular with children and adults alike.  I was obsessed with drawing it as a child and it’s a great place to start when learning to draw anatomy in proportion.

So I decided to start my own classes. My goal is to make the classes a permanent feature in the community so no-one misses out on the opportunity to tap into their natural ability – develop their existing talents, or maybe even discover talent they never knew they had.  I absolutely loved drawing as a child.  It’s a wholesome, absorbing, fun and cheap way to both entertain and express yourself at any age.

The classes will be lively and fun and packed with information and easy-to-master steps.  I can’t wait to share what I have learned with other budding artists-in-the-making!

Details about Kris Coburns’ Manga art classes

Here’s an article in the Bay News (Page 6) about Inklings!

Classes will run parallel to the school terms – so the course consists of a one hour lesson for 10 weeks.  They will be every Tuesday at 4pm, starting Feb 9th, 2016.  The classes will be held at the Elizabeth St Community & Art Centre, but children must register prior to the beginning of the course to book a seat in the class.  Each lesson builds on the one before – and we will be starting with how to draw faces, front on, and various profiles – including eyes, nose, mouths, ears, hair, emotions, lighting and shading and anime facial features.  The students will create their own portfolio of art so they can document their progress from beginning to end.

More details can be found on or on Facebook – Inklings Art.  Or people can email Kris directly with any queries: or phone/text 022-039-5048



Comments (2)

  1. Deryn Pittar 27th January 2016 at 1:24 pm

    The workshops sound like a wonderful idea and a great place to get artistic children started on careers, using their ‘artistic eye’. I once heard a quote that “if everyone had to draw to earn a living then everyone would be able to draw.” Art is a much neglected subject. Good luck to Kris Coburn and his future. As the parent of one artistic child, who now makes his living in design, I am sure inklings will be well supported.

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