Monthly Log Blog 4 (December 2015) – Improving my Skills,Illustrating my Avatar and Christmas Casuals at Santa’s Workshop

If you ask any other blogger or entrepeneur, they would tell you to hire an illustrator to draw a mascot for you to maximise the effectiveness or the design which sounds completely reasonable. But the problem is with this approach is that I don’t find it an effective way of “self-expression” which is one of the key aspects in my opinion of having a personal blog. Make no mistake, it’s often highly recommended for anyone to hire a professional to design things for you because they have the knowledge and experience necessary to design effectively but where’s the fun in that? Not to mention, the amount of money you’re going to have to pay which is well above the budget for small blogs and paying hundreds of dollars to someone to do something that is better off enjoyed by yourself is not an option I would take. The solution? Learn to draw, illustrate and design your own mascot.

Many people would discourage you from designing your own mascot unless you have experience as an artist which is understandable because the average person won’t know anything about design processes and how a design “works”. Not to mention many people just don’t draw because it’s too difficult or tedious however if you’re like me and wouldn’t mind trying out new things and discovering new tricks then with a little patience you can just DIY. There are thousands of tutorials on the internet, and many of them are on sites like DeviantArt and Pixiv (if you can read Japanese). If you want videos on something specific, you can simply search for it on Youtube. I’ve spent a lot of time studying these tutorials and I’ve also googled many images to use as reference. Research and study is key to success, and it will take hours upon hours to get your first illustration out. If you want speed-drawings that are sped up then be prepare to be disappointed at how slow it takes to be beginner illustrator. My first display picture had a few drafts and took a few weeks of doodling and experimenting to get the design how I wanted it before actually scanning it, doing the linework and shading it in on Clip Studio PAINT.

When I first decided to draw myself a display picture, I had no idea how I wanted my character to look like and so I had to do some brainstorming. Considering that it’s for my personal blog, I decided to base it on me as a person and as a result I’m designing an avatar, and not a mascot. For a mascot however, there are many character sheets to fill out so you can flesh out your character probably more than you ever need to before you start drawing. This is a particularly important step because you want your mascot to stand out while also having it related to your blog. For my avatar however, I already knew myself well enough so the design process was much shorter.

While I was coming up with a design, a few of the decisions I made were

  • “Anime” style – I’m an Anime and Gaming blogger.
  • Black Hair, Glasses, and Pointy ears – I’m an Elf with short-sightedness and black hair.
  • A Wind swept “Wing” hairstyle and Azure eyes. – I dream of flying and soaring to new heights and my eyes reflect the colour of the sky.
  • Double Ahoge – They’re propellors for me to fly with. >:D
    These were removed becuase they erroded the prominence of the “Wing”
  • Shoulder length hair- Not too short, not too long.

Sorarin Evolution line.

My first avatar looked alright however I never got past the feeling that there was something “off” about it. The basic idea was there, but it wasn’t exactly refined because I could see a lot of problems with it. Despite not being too happy with how it turned out, I nonetheless was happy that I managed to design and illustrate my very own avatar. I was a bit shy to show my friends my sketches and doodles leading up to this first avatar but I showed them anyway just so I can have some criticism and feedback. The most important thing in my opinion for designing your first mascot is to just draw, experiment a lot and get it done or otherwise you’ll never improve nor finish it. The first version of your design doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to give you the foundation to build upon. There will be lots of improvements and things to change so with each iteration you want to try to find ways to make it better.

I did lots of experimenting, and redesigning and now I’ve got a design that I’m happy with, and with a few more slight adjustments I don’t think I’ll need to tweak it any further. Now all I need to do is keep on learning and practicing so eventually I’ll be able to tell stories through illustration. The reason why I want to learn design and illustration is that I get a sense of satisfaction from it. I would ask for some help but I would never let anyone do the entire thing for me because just doesn’t feel very original. I put my heart and passion into my creative work like any artist would so a part of me is in every piece I complete. It’s putting yourself into the work and the satisfaction of knowing that you did it yourself is what makes design and illustration enjoyable and paying someone else to do it for me is a complete waste.

I’m very curious to see what original characters/mascots you and other people create. If you’re interested in drawing your own character here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Be original but not completely original because it’s near impossible to build a house without materials or a foundation. Everything is a remix.
  • Vary the width of the lines in the linework
    Thicken the lines where they touch other lines, and thin them where they are not.
  • The distance between the eyes is exactly the width of one eye.
  • Make some design rules and know when to break them.
    Some rules are just made to be broken.
  • Keep it simple stupid. The easier it is to draw, the more likely you will keep drawing it.
  • Good characters can be identified by their silhouette.
  • Keep refining and keep polishing until you get your design right. No need to rush, take it slow. Rushed designs often suck.
  • Stay well away from clichés.

I didn’t write many articles this month because I spent a lot of time with friends before going to the North Pole to work as a Christmas Casual at Santa’s Workshop. Mr. Claus really likes it when I’m working for him because he thinks I’m hardworking and reliable but I think he’s just being nice because I’m very clumsy. I make a lot of mistakes and he just laughs it off while I stare at him red-faced like a tomato! This year I was helping with the naughty and nice database and making sure the presents go to the right people. Mr. Claus is surprisingly up-to-date with technology, he even has a smartphone and tablet! He wasn’t too proficient at using them so he keeps getting TONNES of viruses, and I had to teach him how to stay safe on the internet! Hopefully he doesn’t get himself into any technology troubles before the next time I see him. While it was a very busy and tiring job, I had fun and Mr. Claus even let me ride his sleigh home this year! The christmas lights from above were very pretty and I wonder if the reindeers were tired from dragging me and jolly old Mr. Claus, I hope I didn’t gain too much weight from all the Christmas snacks and pudding!

Mr. Claus, please don’t go to all those dirty websites or Mrs. Claus will get angry at you and put you on the naughty list~! ❤

With 2015 coming to an end, I hope to see you my dear readers next year! It’s going to be another fun, awesome and derpy year.

Good Luck, Have Fun!

~Hayashi Sora (林空)

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