Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zodiacs - Aries, Aquarius, Capricorn, Pisces

A lot of anime artists have tackled the zodiacs, so you might wonder why I wanted to draw a set of them too. My primary reason for drawing the zodiacs was that I like drawing things that I can put into sets--a quick look through my gallery will prove that. I also like pulling from the real world for what I draw--as in this isn't 100% something I pulled off the top of my head (although you can find a little bit of that too). I may not be the first to draw the zodiacs, but I wanted to approach the way I designed them differently to separate myself from other artists. A lot of artists have focused primarily on the symbol associated with the zodiac (i.e., The Twins, The Ram, The Crab, etc.). I tried to dig a little deeper. While keeping elements from the symbol, I tried to focus on the personality associated with the zodiac. Here I'll go into a little more on four of the zodiacs. I'll post another entry later to cover the others.

Aries: Aries is the Ram. Aries is a fire sign. It was slightly tempting to draw a sheep on fire, I didn't feel that was particularly appropriate. Digging a little more into what the sign of Aries means, I came up with someone who was a trend-setter, a leader. One direction I briefly considered taking with that was to draw a run-way model type or the cliched Beverly Hills 91210 style person who wears designer labels and always looks like they're at the top of their game. That honestly seemed a little dull to me. When putting together the Aries design, I tried to come up with someone who would be the first to try something new and would thrive on standing out from the rest of the crowd, someone who might take a few risks, someone who could become a leader or who might stay on the fringes of society, but in either case someone who would define their own identity rather than be lead by existing accepted trends.

Aquarius: Aquarius is the Water-bearer and is associated with the element of air. Of all the zodiacs, this is one where I took the most inspiration from the basic sign and element. Aquarius is also someone who likes exploring the mysteries of life. So the train of thought went something like: exlorer... + water... boat captain... + air... airship captain! The design for Aquarius then was influenced by the kinds of airships seen in the Final Fantasy games (yes I know I'm obsessed with them) and the dirigibles in the Girl Genius card game and comic book. This decision was purely personal taste. I like fantasy over sci-fi, so Aquarius has an older, slightly steampunk feel to him.

Capricorn: Capricorn is the Goat. It is also an earth sign. The personality behind Capricorn is stubborn. He is strong and proud, especially in response to adversity. When life gets tougher, Capricorn scoffs at it and keeps going. The choice to give Capricorn an Arabian Nights theme was heavily influenced by The Rose of the Prophet. The main characters of this trilogy, for the most part, fit the label for Capricorn perfectly. It certainly isn't the only theme that would fit the description, but I think it works well enough; life in the desert is rough, and you have to be more than a little stubborn to make that kind of life work for you. I also happen to really like Arabian Nights themed stories, but of course that had nothing to do with it, right? ;)

Pisces: Pisces is the fish with the element of water. Pisces is someone who is mysterious, alluring, and intense. When working with the design for Pisces I kept the element particularly in mind. I have heard oceans described as mysterious, alluring, and intense, almost to the point of being cliche. I had a vague idea of something associated with Poseidon when drawing Pisces, hence the trident. I also had some thoughts of an island lagoon, thus the sarong and sea-weed theme to the clothing. I felt pearls, with their clear association with the sea, kept with the theme and added (I hope) to the mystery and allure of the character in the design.

Well, so much for keeping things short. I apologize for being so rambling; I tend to write stream-of-consciousness style. Maybe one of these days I'll figure out how to write some other way, that's a little more concise.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Evolution of Anime Tarot

 The process of deciding what characters to put in each slot for the Anime Tarot set has been ambiguous at best. It is something that has been in a constant state of modification--at least until a card is finished; then, for my sanity, the card is set in stone. As most good writers can attest, you can go back and edit and tweak stories (or in this case the card list) endlessly. I drew the line at the point a given card is finished.

Originally my husband and I had brainstormed a long list of characters and just pulled from that. We were just trying to find enough characters to fill all the slots. At this point the list consisted of primarily characters that we liked (which means it was at least 75% Bleach, Full Metal Alchemist, Final Fantasy, and Clamp). This more basic goal changed. After the Major Arcana and the Swords sets were finished, I started reanalyzing the character list I was using to assign slots for the set. Instead of keeping to the original list, I decided I'd rather see how many different series I could represent in the set. There are some cards from the Majors and Swords I would have changed out, but they were already finished, and I wasn't about to touch that. So, I highlighted all the characters from series I had already drawn from or had multiple characters (exceptions being the Kings and Queens). I sat down with a committee of friends and we rehashed over the remaining three suits.

Some characters stayed the same--for example the King and Queen of Cups, Sakura and Syaoran from Tsubasa Chronicles. I already had Fai as The Star and Kurogane as the Eight of Swords, so Sakura and Syaoran were high on the list of characters I wanted to take out. I spent a lot of time looking for replacements. However, the King and Queen of Cups represent an emotionally mature man and woman--anyone familiar with anime can relate to how difficult it is to find one character with that quality, let alone two from the same anime. And so, Sakura and Syaoran remained the Queen and King of Cups.

For a lot of the slots, we did find adequate alternatives. For example, the Seven of Wands was originally going to be Light from Deathnote. He had been highlight since I had already drawn L as Death. Several suggestions came up while discussing this card. The first replacement for Light was Kamina from Gurren Lagan. Kamina eventually moved into the Three of Wands (leads by example) replacing Hikari from Magic Knight Rayearth--it was determined that I had way too much from Clamp even if they were spread out over at least four different series, and I'll admit I'm guilty there. What can I say, I'm a big fan of Clamp's stuff. Heero Yuy was suggested along with some explanation for how he fit the card from a couple of friends who had seen Gundam--as of yet I still have not watched even one episode of any version of Gundam.

In conclusion, we tried to put a lot of variety into the Anime Tarot set. The choices were, in the end, still limited by what we (myself, my husband, and a couple of friends) have seen--I will be the first to admit there are many anime series out there that I have not even heard of. Then, the selections were also affected by my personal tastes--when there was a choice between several characters, it frequently boiled down to the one I liked best, or wanted to draw the most.

Friday, March 25, 2011

No Really, Skulls Are Adorable

I happen to believe that skulls with pink bows are cute--actually, I would honestly prefer purple bows. Color aside, I've decided that my new favorite thing (aside from pandas) is skulls. It's the best of a lot of worlds all tossed into one--a little bit of horror, a little bit of goth, a little bit girly. It's also something anime fans seem to be particularly good at--mixing cute and morbid. Personally I love the result. =)

On this theme, I have been working on compiling a treasury of my favorite skull items on Etsy:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March WIPs

#1-->Seven of Wands: Heero Yuy.
First of all, I've never watched Gundam... not any version of it ever. XD You might wonder then how Heero ever made it into the Anime Tarot set I've been working on. The Seven of Wands stands for eliminating problems. Now originally I'd intended on putting Light from Deathnote into that spot. He kind of fits. But long story short, during the process of compiling the set, Heero's name was added to the list primarily because I already had a character from Deathnote, and as of yet Gundam is unrepresented.

I got my first actual look at the character a week ago when I started digging up references. I'll admit, I expected something along the lines of a solid colored uniform of sorts--I've seen Duo Maxwell cosplayers for years and that had shaped what I'd expected to see from Gundam. So the last thing I expected to see was a scrawny kid in a tank top *tucked into* skin-tight bike shorts. Personally I thought his outfit was kind of frightening... although really I think it was just the shorts. This particular piece is still very much a work in progress. It needs lineart and *much* better coloring.

#2 --> Chibi Amigurumi Moogle

Anyone who spends time around me will know I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan. It should be no surprise then that the Moogle creature from the Final Fantasy series made it onto my list of plushies to put together. So far... all that's finished is the body, arms, legs, ears, and nose. The little pompom on top of his head is *almost* finished. That may sound like a lot, but honestly those are the easier pieces for a project like this. I'm still playing around with the wings; so far nothing acceptable has come from that yet. I think I can come up with something though--it can't be any worse than Pikachu's tail, right?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chinese Zodiac Inspiration

Lame title I know, but I'm not feeling very creative today. Is it too late in the month to blame Day Light Savings Time? Anyways... on to the more pertinent content of today's blog. =D

The Chinese Zodiac Badge set is one of my oldest sets--it's right up there with the major arcana from my anime tarot card set. A couple of months before Anime USA 2008, I discovered Fruits Basket. I watched the anime--loved it. I then found the manga and read it in less than a week--finished it on because I couldn't wait to find out what happened. I fell in love with the manga; the anime is hard to stomach after the manga--not that the anime is really that bad, just that it is disappointing when compared to the manga. They could have done so much more with the story. Roughly, for those not familiar with the series, Fruits Basket tells the story of Tohru Honda and the Sohma family, in which certain family members are cursed to change into an animal when they hug someone of the opposite sex.  The curse was based (loosely) off of the legend behind the Chinese Zodiac.

First and foremost, as great as the story is in Fruits Basket, what really sold me on the series were the characters. I loved Kyo--he is the Six of Swords in my anime tarot set. That card stands for frustrated. After reading/watching Fruits Basket I couldn't imagine a better character to use for that card. I loved how Yuki developed in the manga. Rin and Hatsuharu were my favorite characters from the series; I was really sad that they weren't more involved in the anime--I don't even think Rin appeared at all. I did feel a little sorry for Momiji by the end of the manga, but I can't really argue with it--I won't go into too much detail. ;) Don't want to give out spoilers.

After consuming both the Fruits Basket anime and manga, I, of course, wanted to make something related to the series--isn't that what all good fans do? Tohru won a place in the major arcana set as the Wheel of Fortune; that was one of the characters I put my foot down on when planning the set with my husband, although I can't even remember who the alternative choice was anymore. Having Tohru in the tarot set wasn't enough; I wanted to do something else. The result was the Chinese Zodiac badge set featuring the animal versions of the cursed Sohma family members. The set has undergone a couple of changes since I first put it together for Anime USA 2008. The original versions had plain borders and white backgrounds. Since then I've embellished the border a little--make it prettier, but still keep it simple. I've also added a little color to the backgrounds.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Trials and Traumas of Writing Anime RPG by Shaun Cashman

For those unfamiliar with our little group here, Shaun is my husband and author of Anime RPG, a D20 supplement for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. He offered to share his experience with the writing process for this book. - Gothic Panda

I am so excited to see this book finally in print. It was a long and, at times, painful process to make. Thinking back, it’s sort of a funny story. You see, I actually started this book eight years ago. Gothic Panda and I thought it would be really fun to try and blend some of the silliness of anime with role-playing. We looked around and all that was out there was (Big Eyes Small Mouth) BESM and a few other stand-alone systems based on individual series like Sailor Moon. Since Wizards of the Coast made D&D open source, we thought it would be fun to make an anime game based on the D20 system so I did a bunch of research, put together some classes, and we started play-testing ideas. This was back with third edition. I’d actually written some supplement books for Fantasy Flight Games so I felt confident I could make an anime-themed book based on the D20 system.

I had about 75% of the book written when bam! my laptop died taking with it everything that wasn’t on paper, which was most of the book. Months of work down the drain in an instant. I had forgotten the cardinal rule of computers: Back up everything! I was so upset that I had to walk away from it for a year or two. During this time, Guardians of the Order released an anime D20 book but it borrowed too heavily from BESM so I wasn’t worried that I would have to compete with them. I tried again and this time wrote the entire book. I was in the process of formatting it in Pagemaker when…yeah you guessed it, my second laptop died. Stupid me, I still didn’t think ahead to make a backup. I remember literally beating the computer with my fist and head, screaming obscenities, and giving up on the book entirely.

A few years passed and for whatever masochistic reason, I decided to try again. By this time, fourth edition was out and the open source license on third was no longer available. I had to basically scrap most of the rules I had initially written and start again from scratch. Only some of the flavor text was salvageable. This time I backed up everything. Like in four different places. I was neurotic about it. Finally though, after about a year and a half of work it was done. My computer didn’t crash. I found a printer and sent them my files! Yay! A few weeks later I get an email from the printing company. They had gone out of business. Gah! I found a new printer and then a few weeks ago I finally got to hold a finished, printed copy of the book. It was a good feeling.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Work Space - A Work In Progress

In July 2006, we moved into our first house, and it was epic. It had an extra room, a converted carport, that I was able to turn into a craft workroom. It was awesome... ok, so if I'm honest with myself, it was only somewhat awesome because I never actually got it organized to the point where it could be really functional. However, it was still a space of my own and I was able to use it -- it just stayed in a constant state of chaos and clutter.

In August 2010, we moved again. This house has an extra room too, but right now, it isn't connected to the house's central heating, plus we've been using it as storage for all those boxes we didn't want to unpack -- it might be worth noting that at least 80% of those boxes were filled with all those craft supplies and tools that I never got organized back in the first house. The motivation to do something: my dining room is a complete wreck, and it's hard to deal with having my craft stuff consuming our living space after being spoiled for 4 years by a separate craft room.

Before 1
Before 2

Well, the first step in turning the extra room I have now into a good workspace was to go through all of those boxes. So, a couple of weeks ago, my mom -- who happens to be an organizational genius -- came down for a couple of days and she and I went through every box in "The Cave" -- my term for the room because it's set slightly below the rest of the house and is kind of darkish and currently very cold. Go us! Alright, so again, if I'm honest, it's still very much a work in progress, as much as I'd like to say I'm finished. We got everything in all the boxes sorted by project and supply type: Cosplay and Quilting, Scrapbooking and Stamping, Cross Stitch, Knitting and Crocheting, and Art (drawing, painting, etc). I'd say that's an excellent start. Now I just need to get it all put up on the shelves in a nice organized way (as opposed to just putting everything on the shelves in a haphazard way like what I normally do).


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Films Behind the Nintendo Noir Characters

Although many of the character types selected for the Nintendo Noir profiles represent archetypes within the film noir genre, each character badge was inspired by a specific noir film.

Black Mage: This badge was inspired by Fritz Lang's M, a creepy early noir in which Peter Lorre plays an insane psychopath. Peter Lorre was the 1940's version of Steve Buscemi.

Donkey Kong: Donkey Kong was loosely based on two film noirs: The Asphalt Jungle, which involved an ex-con getting forced back into a life of crime, and Dead on Arrival or DoA, which had a heavy building construction theme.

Link: Film noir has a lot of hit men, but Link was based somewhat on the hit man Raven from the film This Gun for Hire. Link represents all the physically strong men who are manipulated by strong-willed women in film noir.

 Luigi: Luigi's look and character is typical of many crime dramas of the time period. However, Luigi's character personality was drawn from Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.

Megaman: Megaman is loosely based on the actor, Steven Seagal, who has never, at least to my knowledge, appeared in a film noir. The Megaman character comes from the Alfred Hitchcock film Shadow of a Doubt. Artistic inspiration came from the movie poster for Army of Darkness, which didn't look like anything from the movie; Megaman got a sparkly movie poster picture that looks nothing like any of his characters in any of his movies.

Michelangelo: Inspiration for Michelangelo came from the dramatic thriller Taxi Driver, about a mentally unstable war vet who violently lashes out against crime to save someone he cares about.

Peach: The Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane provided the inspiration for Peach. Both Peach and Kane were born into money, live lavishly, and created a fantasy land in which to live, and both were afraid of but at the same time desired emotional commitment.

Pit: Pit's character was inspired by the less known Orson Welles classic, in fact it was probably one of his most frightening movies, Touch of Evil. In this film, Welles plays a greasy corrupt cop.

Samus: Samus is based off of a more recent sci-fi film noir, Dark City. She is specifically modeled after Jennifer Connelly's character.

Simon: Simon Belmont was inspired by Holly Martins from The Third Man. Both characters are out of work drunks chasing shadows.

Kirby: Although Casablanca is best known for Humphrey Bogart, another character in the movie who is equally interesting is Signor Ferrari. Kirby's noir version was based directly off of Ferrari.

Zelda: Zelda represents almost all femme fatale characters in film noir. She is beautiful, blond, and manipulative. Specifically, her character inspiration came from Sunset Boulevard.

These last two are new additions to the Noir badge set based on viewer requests and personal random inspiration. They are not part of the Nintendo Noir mystery game.

Note: Originally posted to WordPress on March 14, 2011. Reposted here when I moved to Blogger.

Nintendo + Noir = ???

Original Design
Every year, since 2002, my husband and I have hosted a Halloween Party. One of the premier events that night is a murder mystery game. Each year follows a different theme, ranging from Star Wars to Ninjas, from Trigun to Final Fantasy I. The theme for 2009 was Classic Nintendo. My husband writes the game, but instead of keeping 100% to cannon, he takes significant artistic liberty with the characters, usually by mixing in another theme. For instance, the year we did Lord of the Rings, all of the playable characters, with a few exceptions, were high on "magic mushrooms" that Gollum had sneaked onto the pizza at that party at the Prancing Pony. So, when we tackled the Classic Nintendo theme, he added a Film Noir twist. We created a Noir-themed Mushroom Kingdom setting and went all out for the build-up for the game that year -- not limited to creating a Facebook page for Max Koopa, premier reporter. The Facebook page still exists, but most of the links to the articles are dead--some of the pages are, I believe, still on my husband's laptop, so if there's interest, I can re-upload them.

Noir Redesign
This is where the basic concept for the Nintendo Noir came from. That year was also the first year we decided to make badges for the players. I had just started Gothic Panda Studios, and so I had the supplies -- badge clips, lamination sheets, laminator -- and it seemed like a fun addition to the game that would also make it easier for players to keep track of who was who in the game. Since that game, I reworked the art a little, added the profile descriptions to the back, and made the Nintendo Noir badges available at my art table. We are working on editing and compiling the original murder mystery into a pdf file that we will make available for free download.

Note: Originally posted to WordPress on March 11, 2011. Reposted here when I moved to Blogger.

New Beginnings - What This Is All About

Welcome to my blog. Before jumping into all the fun stuff, I wanted to take a moment to sit down and let you know what to expect from my blog.

First, I want a place to communicate with people. I want to hear what you guys think, what you like and don't like, and your opinions -- even negative ones. I am always open to suggestions for new things -- I won't do everything that people suggest, but I will consider every recommendation.

Second, I want to document some of the back-end details on how I create my art, crocheted stuff, and anything else you'll find on my tables in Artist Alley or in my Etsy shop -- inspiration, scrapped versions, and work-in-progress previews. These posts should provide insight into the how and why I do things, and they should also give you a chance to provide feedback. I will also include information on specials for my Etsy shop.

Third, I will be doing the same thing for Team Sidequest's projects. This may eventually move into it's own blog, but right now a lot of what goes on at Team Sidequest is very closely tied to Gothic Panda Studios. For those unfamiliar with Team Sidequest, T.S. is a brand new game company that specializes in table top RPGs, board games, and card games--you know all those fun old fashioned games. ;-) These posts will also include special bonuses for readers, such as free game downloads.

Fourth, I will rant on random topics related to anime, video games, lolita, or anything else that strikes my interest.

Finally, I will provide insight into projects unrelated to my art shop or Team Sidequest. This will include mostly personal projects like cosplay.
My current goal is to update this blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is my first blog project, so I may adjust that schedule if I think it's unrealistic--I will make announcement if it changes. =)

Note: Originally posted to WordPress on March 9, 2011. Reposted here when I moved to Blogger.