High Schoolers Matthew & Daryna Draw Their Stories to Life

Japanese manga comics are a popular form of entertainment and creative expression. Two of our high school Drawing Lab students wish to take this form of artistic storytelling by the horns and draw their way to having an audience of loyal readers. Matthew Acuna and Daryna Reyna have spent the 2013 spring semester starting to build college level portfolios with Rob Court, drawing coach. They were given assignments such as creating character model sheets, story layouts, and studies in movement and expression.

Both Matthew and Daryna are prolific storytellers, highly skilled drawers in various media, and they fill sketchbook after sketchbook with fantastic concepts. They can quickly shift from manga to a traditional drawing style that accurately depicts real life objects and scenes–a rare skill with young artists. Furthermore, when adapting their ideas to digital media, drawing with a stylus is second nature to them.

Let’s take a look inside the creative minds of these two budding manga sketchers.


Matthew Acuna

Age: 17  Home town: Salinas, California  City of Birth: San Diego, California  Interests: Music, art  Favorite Music: Linkin Park  School: Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, Salinas  School District: Monterey County Office of Education

Matthew Acuna is on the fast track to breaking into the competitive arena of comics. Along with attending school, aspiring visual storytellers, such as Matthew, can rise to prominence by building a fan base on the Internet, entering manga contests, and attracting the eye of manga editors and publishers.

With confidence Matthew says, “I’m a self-taught artist… my teachers are the things I see on TV and the Internet.” The self-learning started for him at age six. “I saw my uncle draw and I wanted to do the same thing.”

Working mainly in pencil and pen Matthew draws every day. At school he is seen with guitar case in one arm (he enjoys music) and sketchbook in the other. Between classes at Rancho Cielo Youth Campus and at home (his parents are very supportive) Matthew constantly fine tunes complex plot lines involving several generations of families. “The story is about the adventures of many characters all in pursuit of one thing… true peace,” says Matthew.

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Above left is a model sheet of Matthew’s protagonist and to the right he is sketched on an iPad.

Although Matthew is honing his skills for a challenging career in animation and comics, he also shapes his metaphysical musings with a sketching pencil. “Drawing helps me see beyond the limits of reality… to imagine what could be possible in the universe.”

When it comes to Matthew Acuna’s future as a visual storyteller, the universe patiently awaits his first chapter.

Matthew’s character model sheets and expressions gallery:

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Matthew’s penciled story layouts, concept sketches, and digital drawings:

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Matthew’s stories unfold for fans online: Click here


Daryna Reyna

Age: 18  Home town: Watsonville, California  City of Birth: Gilroy, California  Interests: Art, anything creative!  Favorite Music: Industrial, techno, metal, indie, oldies  Pets: Dogs  School: Natural Bridges High School, Santa Cruz  School District: Santa Cruz County Office of Education

When Daryna was 5 years old she drew on the walls in her house. Since those early years she has considered herself an artist. At age 18 she continues her quest. “I am a self-taught artist. I first started when my father drew a rose tattoo and ever since I wanted to be an artist just like him.” She also has her sights on becoming a mangaka artist, which usually refers to the one who authors manga comics.

Daryna draws obsessively. “Drawing is my way to express myself in so many ways. Without art I don’t know who I’d be.” She goes on to say just how important this passion is to her. “Drawing improves everything in my life. It improved my social skills, my personality, and it gives me a path to my future.”

Daryna’s skills with ink pens and colored pencils are superb, as shown in this hand drawn Christmas card. Her expressive line work and color combinations are a joy for the eye to behold. Her brave protagonist bounces through romantic scenes, moments of vulnerability, and all out hand-to-hand combat. Daryna’s edgy graphic style and keen sense for layout composition bear the hallmarks of a successful manga artist.

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Above left is an inked model sheet of Daryna’s protagonist and to the left we see one of her her powerful sketchbook concept drawings.

Along with developing her creative skills and stories, Daryna is intent on building a future fan base. “Art is and always will be a part of my life, until the day I die. I want to have fans who write me saying how I’ve inspired them to draw. I’m willing to stay up each and every night to write back to all the fan mail I receive.”

If you ever get a chance to meet this spirited young artist in person, you will immediately want to be at the very top of Daryna Reyna’s email list.

Daryna’s gallery of character development sketches:

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Daryna’s gallery of concept development sketches, character poses, and facial expressions:

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Daryna’s gallery of exquisite sketchbook pages and colored pencil and pen drawings:

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Rob Court

Founder and drawing coach at the Scribbles Institute, Rob helps adults and kids learn basic drawing skills for work, school, and enjoyment. He is the author of a number of how-to-draw books.