The Evolution Toward Artistic Mediocrity

One thing I’ve always done as an artist is keep a pretty good archive of my old work. Even though there is plenty of stuff that still isn’t scanned (back in my ‘paper’ days), the majority of relevant art is and it’s always fun for me to comb through it and really look at my improvement. I don’t particularly think of my self as a particularly good illustrator, but over time, despite my rather dodgy drawing regiment (I manage a drawing every few months it seems) , I’ve seemed to have improved. This, added with the fact that I keep characters around means that I have a pretty long lineage of drawings of particular characters, some of them over 10 years old! So lets look back at my old art and laugh a bit, shall we? I’ll also be talking about the development of their actual characters.


Kayin Nasaki

Kayin started as a player surrogate mostly. The first drawing — drawn during the days of dialup and AOL, is probably the oldest drawing I have of a character who is still around. It’s basically a self portrait of me in highschool. Same haircut, same clothing and a sword (though Kayin’s was at least sharp). He had all of my opinions and interests and was only different in that he was better than me. Surprisingly the first picture of him will not be the worst thing I show today. The picture communicates surprisingly well for it’s age.

Sometime near or approaching 2000, I started working in Gimp. Kayin also started becoming more of a character. Kayin, already a small swordman, drew some inspiration, admittingly, from Kenshin to round out his personality. A small, quirky Japanese swordsmen. Fortunately even then, personality wise, he didn’t draw too much from Kenshin. Kayin was more like a strange uncle who enjoyed fucking with people in friendly and comical ways. The second picture was the first representation of him in that style and also the first digitally colored piece I did. The background came from a friend whom was using bryce. I used 3d backgrounds for quite awhile after that, though I mostly made them my self.

Kayin hasn’t changed terribly much since then, but my ability to present him improved. He bacame slightly more westernized — basically having a history similar to Ramírez’s from Highlander, but due to the ethnic ambiguity of anime inspired art, it never particularly mattered. The second to last picture of Kayin shows a little variety in what he might wear and the last picture is meant to be Kayin during his time in Japan. This series of pictures represents roughly 15 years of slow improvement, with the latest having done within the last year. It’s also the only picture of Kayin I’ve done while possessing a tablet laptop, which represents a large change in my line quality when it came to digital ink.


Cassara Nasaki

Cassara is probably the character on here who will have changed the most. She possibly also has the most pictures drawn of her — I had to skip more pictures of her than any other character.

The first Cassara picture has it’s genesis sometime before Kayin’s second picture. There are older pictures of a “proto Cassara” but I sadly don’t have them on hand. Either way this the first picture where she is somewhat identifiable. She has her scar (though the side switches soon after), long hair, trenchcoat, t-shirt and jeans. It’s (and the one following it) are also probably the worst pictures I have! God, everything is so super distorted and wrong. She also has a katana. In fact she used to dual wield katanas and be a fast, speedy character, like every other female character ever. Personality and style wise, she was meant to contrast with the voluptuous babes that were populating the AOL chatrooms at the time, but she was far from her current form, basically just being a cranky punk bitch.

The second picture is also cringe worthy. The sarashi is kinda cool, but the Sephiroth armor kind of hurts. Cassara became progressively more of a brawler and had, for special occasions, a giant sword that she could summon up from the earth to deal with larger enemies. The next two pictures came into existence sometime in the early 2000s and sort of remained the ‘standard’ pictures for Cassara for far too long. For their time they were some of my better work. The one with the green trenchcoat still communicates quite well I think. Obviously it is done by a relatively young illustrator. Both were hand inked — rather sloppily. After that I began inking with my mouse, which lead to the more blocky style that lasted for a good 6-8 years. The fire punch picture also began changing the direction of Cassara and is what began to solidify her character. Cassara became more fiery, vicious and filled with rage. Her style also began to normalize to a degree. While I would still draw her occasionally in more elaborate outfits, the black coat, red undershirt and glasses became the typical look.

Around 2005 or 2006, my good friend Katie drew a piece of art for me that solidified her design. Katie did away with Cassara’s disgusting, inconsistently drawn mop of hair and introduced elements that would occasionally reappear such as the turtle neck and duel seamed shirt. More importantly, Katie brought more dignity to Cassara and her style. While I still had issues copying that style, it influenced how Cassara was played. Cassara7 was the first attempt to copy it and didn’t go over too well. Between that and Cassara8, there are numerous other attempts, each with various levels of success. Cassara8 was a picture I was very happy with at the time. I was using my tablet laptop at the time so I had nice lines and I managed to have fun making my own fire effects… but there was something I always struggled with and that was Cassara’s body type. She was always supposed to be muscular, but that is a hard thing to do with a female form. Cassara 8 was too voluptuous and… boobly. Other older attempts just turned out feeling gross.

Cassara9 eventually hit it. Cassara had her dignified look, and under her clothing, a lean but powerful body type.. I also began drawing lips a bit more prominently, which helped try and add what I think is a bit more character to her face. The slender body type also captures her height better, as she’s supposed to be somewhere around 6’2.

I ended up not totally discarding the sloppy haired Cassara. Instead, I decided that the separate characterizations represented Cassara at different ages. I figure she’d clean her self up as time went on.


Makoto Shojuro

Oh, adorable Makoto. While I always had to fight the instinct to not draw Cassara voluptuously, I ended up totally embracing it over time.

Makoto started as a throwaway character for a homebrew PnP game a friend was running. Most of her character there at the time — Japanese/German, emotional wreck, murdered father, deadbeat mother, sword smith and sword fighting prodigy, total nerd. Her appearance only somewhat changed over time. Mostly in proportion, but also slowly in her hair style. The primary change was her hair. Her parted hair slowly merged between the first 4 pictures into a hime cut… Not for any weeabooish reasons, I just really liked Uma Truman in Pulp Fiction. Makoto4 was done sometime after 2000 and were probably the best things I drew at the time. By Makoto5, we are in 2006 and Makoto has ditched the headband and has gotten with one of Katie’s characters, Sydney.

Katie at this point influenced my art again. The jokes at the time were A) Makoto has a really big butt (though I have no SFW pictures that illustrate this) and that Makoto has always taped her boobs down and they were really actually pretty big. Now when I meant pretty big, I was thinking somewhat realistically. When I drew her with less clothes I also always drew her chubby. Well, assuming, like with most men, that when I said big boobs, I meant BIG boobs, Katie drew me some amazing gift art. When I mentioned that’s not what I meant to big, she offered to change it, and I did the only sane thing. I said “Absolutely not”.

Boobley Makoto6 was the first little doodle I ever did on my tablet laptop. I immediately had an easier time doing a lot of things I usually found hard. While it was clearly rough, it gave me hope for things to to come. Makoto7 overdid the boob thing a bit too, but captured the look I wanted in her face quite well.

Character wise, Makoto never changed much, outside of an improvement in my ability to show her mental issues. With her increased body size she also got characterized as more out of shape. Since she has a huge katana, the implication is often that she can only fight for a short period of time before becoming horridly winded!


Naomi Vos Cruz

Naomi doesn’t have the legacy of a lot of history like the above three, nor the same amount of art. Sadly I’m also missing her original pencil drawing (I have it in a binder, but have no scanner right now). What I do have, for fun, is Naomi’s PIXEL legacy.

Original

Naomi was originally conceived purely for the purpose of making a Symphony of the Night-esque game. I made her sorta crazy small and also gave her some CRAZY one pixel boob bounce that looked ridiculous.

Second

Eventually I revised this. She still had some boob bounce but the resolution made it more tolerable (barely). She also got her loin cloth and more obviously plate armor.

High-res

By the time I really had a chance to consider Tower in the Sky, I realized I should probably totally redo the sprites. Sadly they will probably never be used as they are too labor intensive to make. There is still some boob swayage in her segmented armor. She really should have that more secure and I really shouldn’t have such a horrible boob addiction. Actually part of the reason I worked bigger was to make more more pixels for bouncing armored boobs. Kayin, you are the worst.

NES Style(2x)

When I decided to do Prologue, part of the appeal was NES graphics, which worked out here. The rules of NES sprites are not strictly followed, but she’s in style enough to fit in. Due to being more oldschool Castlevania-ish, her brisk run has been replaced by a slow, purposeful march. Also learned my lesson about low pixel boobs and just left them in place. THEY’RE ARMORED ANYWAYS, GOD WHAT IS MY PROBLEM!

Naomi in her art hasn’t changed much. She’s gotten darker, and has shed some armor compared to some older art. The chainmail midriff went, replaced with more tasteful leather. The above shows about 5 years worth of improvement from the first to the last picture.


Other Examples


Reese’s first picture probably was done sometime in the early 2000s, which is frankly embarrassing. That was a time of rapid improvement though. 2001-2002 is basically the difference between this and Makoto3, as I got used to the digital process and also figured out how to just draw better. It was probably the time where I actually drew the most.

More interestingly is Reese2 and Reese3, both seperated by about 5 years or so, with reese2 predating my tablet laptop. What’s the best about this is that they are basically the same picture in a lot of ways, making them more interesting to compare than a lot of other pictures.

Vayn gets the same treatment, though there are some obvious changes to characterization there, as Vayn has been changed to better suit her personality and come off as less stuffy and, well….. old.

Anyways god damn that’s a lot of pictures and it was fun to go through all of that. It’s probably more interesting for me than for other people, but I had fun doing it. If I find any other examples (or create any more examples by redrawing old characters), I’ll probably post them.

8 thoughts on “The Evolution Toward Artistic Mediocrity

  1. I found this post pretty interesting, don’t worry. Wouldn’t mind another post like this down the line at all.
    Most of these pictures (within one character) look like they’re drawn by several people. Guess over 10 years of time can do that. Sigh… wish I could draw something that at least resembled your early sketches :/

    I must say, I really like Makoto’s kimono, but I’m disappointed you ditched the hairband. I think it might have worked. I could imagine her with a long hairband (no neck-band-thing) that clashes with her dark hair. The fact that’s she’s not a white skinned zombie anymore helps too :P

    PS: Also, can’t help to notice, but boobs get mentioned a lot on this blog. Can’t say I blame you though ^^

  2. Wow. Takes balls to post early old work like this. You never fail to impress. I love seeing ‘before and after’, improvement stuff like this. Keep up the good work!

  3. I really liked this post. Man, I remember that shit back in college. Is is okay that I have a semi-nostalgic attachment to art that isn’t even my own?

  4. @Makaris I suppose that makes sense! It surprises me, but I don’t think it’s weird at all, especially since I was way more artistically prolific back then.

  5. Your work really has gotten quite impressive since when I remember you drawing stuff back in 2003 :)

  6. @Cat Not that I’m particularly any good now, but it amuses me because I really don’t deserve to be as good at all. I tried so hard back then, but now I draw a picture every few months and somehow keep improving. I actually remember drawing this dorky faerie picture (or maybe even two of them?) for you, but I have no idea where the files were. I just remember them not being particularly good!

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