Welcome to the first Art Appraisal! If you're unaware of what this is about, you can check out the Motivation & Intro post where I explain the motivation behind these self-reviews. In them, I talk about select pieces of my art and give insight into the process of their design and creation, the pieces' significance to me and my work, or simply what I like about them. I hope you'll enjoy it!
I did set the bar a little high with the first Appraisal by picking this one to start out with, but I genuinely couldn't think of a better candidate. Several of the things I think I've grown known for and that I take pride in from my work can be traced all the way back to this piece from 15 years ago (just earlier this month, too!). I may have started experimenting with these common themes and concepts prior to making this drawing, but I feel like this is the one that those who've known me for a while would remember the most clearly.
Likely the hardest part was deciding on what aspects I'd most like to discuss, so I figured; what better source of guidance could I defer to other than 20-year-old me writing the description for the original submission? We'll first start with the images, with the description to follow.
1. Vibe and Attitude
The first and predominant thing that really struck me when re-reading the description was the energy I had around my art back then. Outright stating that I was "so fucking proud of myself" for making it still feels rather powerful so long after the fact, not least of all thanks to how that attitude has evolved to this day.
It's not to say that I was completely free of self-criticism then, nor that I'm incapable of being satisfied with what I create now, but even looking at other uploads around that time it's pretty clear that I was having a lot more fun with it back then. That really shouldn't come as any surprise, but it still feels as refreshing as it is melancholy to revisit those thoughts and feelings from so long ago, as if they'd never abated. I genuinely pine for rekindling that same sense of unabashed, shameless excitement about what I'm doing, and it's something that's very much been on my mind as of late.
Though the overall writing style feels almost naive in its purity, what really stands out to me in stark contrast is the subtle hint of apprehension about posting the piece and talking about it given its subject matter. Although ABDL folks still deal with a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding nowadays, back then it was nowhere nearly as easy to find information and like-minded people for mutual support. The extent of the outreach I had available to me at the time was a tiny handful of ABDL friends and a single chatroom on IRC, so it comes as no surprise that I felt like "almost all my friends [were] Nappyphobic" - a term I honestly gawked at slightly when I read it again. I mean, it gets the point across, but I doubt we'll see its widespread use any time soon.
I won't go into the exact details regarding my personal life and situation back then since it's beyond the scope of this discussion, but it's worth having a basic understanding of it to understand where I was coming from when I first posted this piece. It's fascinating to see that, amongst all the other hallmarks of my work, the description I wrote for Kitsune Dynamics even includes the self-consciousness, self-imposed restraint, and subsequent worry about how tapping into new fetishes would be received. It was, for all intents and purposes, my coming out to my audience as a babyfur/ABDL - it was likely as intimidating a prospect as it is now, and I still struggle with these kinds of thoughts even to this day. Although, had I not broken down that barrier with my first diaper-related upload then, I think I'd be on a somewhat different path now, years later down the line. It's really no coincidence that I'm also still friends with Locke, who featured in the piece.
If we comb through the rest of the description, we can find various aspects of my work which have carried on to this day to an almost uncanny degree. In it, I mention:
- My interest in a new fetish
- Drawing for someone else
- Explaining my work in detail
- "Bubbles with Pictograms" (eerily accurate descriptor for what I'd eventually call Pictobubbles)
- Early hints of Character Lore™
- Explaining my work in even greater detail
- My interest in yet another fetish
I won't be delving into every single one of these since I'd rather not take up the rest of your day with this post, but you can already see some of the things I'm known for by now having taken shape even from back then.
2. All About the Details
The one major thing that stands out to me looking back on this piece is the detail - not necessarily in the artistic sense given its gestural, sketchy quality, but rather the sheer amount of context within and around the piece that I felt was necessary to explain at length even then.
Most of my work starts within the context of a setting or broader story, and over time I've learned to strike a better balance between what is implied and what is explained. It's clear that a lot of this was still very new to me at the time, though. I was either too excited to exercise restraint in my exposition, or still lacked the confidence in my own work to imply it clearly enough. I still sometimes wonder if I've landed in quite the right spot, but in any case, I've come a long way since then.
Regarding some of the artistic details at least, it's fun to note the similarities in the visual language that I still maintained to this day; the overall anatomical style, oblong shaped sparkles, and both the magical and expressive flashes and sweatdrops. I'm fairly sure I cribbed most of these from Anime, much like the basis of the rest of my art style.
3. The Obligatory Thing (i.e. Pictobubbles)
This is the first deliberate occurrence of pictobubbles in my artwork and it's honestly so cool to look back and see it feature prominently in the same piece that stands as such an early and typical - prototypical, even - example of my work.
If I'm not mistaken, this picture set the record for most pictobubbles in a single image (five of them!) right from the start. One of them was also referenced in Spellcasting at the Supermarket as a deliberate callback. I'm not sure if there are any pieces that have more pictobubbles in them (the one linked below matches it), but nor have I checked in any exhaustive fashion to find out.
While doing a cursory search to check if I could find any examples though, I was honestly quite surprised to see that they did continue to feature in my art somewhat regularly starting from then; even about as often as they do to this day. The only difference I'd note is that I took a very literal approach to the pictograms inside the bubbles - whereas I'd have something more representational like in this piece and several others like it, diaper use is expressed almost literally in this case. It's not all that surprising given that this was my first attempt at it, but that's not to say that they're necessarily worse off for it. I've sometimes found it a little tricky to make up abstract depictions of whatever it is I'm trying to convey inside a pictobubble, so perhaps allowing myself to be a little more literal from time to time should be the way to go.
4. Proto Soul Chocolate
The Tail was Soul Chocolate before Soul Chocolate.
This is where I started doing my own thing even though I loved the original concept of a kitsune in Japanese folklore; even back then, magical hijinks was unsurprisingly my favourite gimmick for the purposes of exploring fetishes and roleplay. While there isn't all that much to elaborate on, we can see the beginnings of the idea that my fursona is not simply one entity, and they aren't always operating in tandem with one another.
I vaguely remember using this dynamic during various roleplay sessions but it sadly never made it to any of my artwork to any real degree for quite some time. It's something I still would like to do more of even though it's featured in some subtle ways here and there ever since I eventually evolved Chocolate's design into a dedicated pair.
5. What I Like
I really like the gestural look of the piece as a whole. I remember struggling a little with getting the tools in ArtRage to work the way I liked, which is why (along with simply being inexperienced, let's be real here) it took me several hours to put together the piece despite it looking quite messy. That said, I do still think that it works in its favour as a finished illustration. It's something I've not quite managed to capture again from my style in my more recent work, since my eyes prefer the lines to be tightened up and closer to where they "ought" to be.
I love that despite the limitations of my style and abilities, the picture as a whole still manages to go quite hard and still has a similar energy to it that I manage to get in my art now that I'm better at what I do. I clearly enjoyed drawing what I did, and I feel like that excitement comes through with the poses and especially the pictobubbles and lettering. I'd been meaning to do a part two ever since then, but it honestly felt like I'd never get to capture the same vibe as with the first and none of the ideas I've come up with have really stacked up. I want to note that I'm not taking suggestions though, since I'd much rather it come from me since this is still a very personally significant piece.
So, there you have it. I hope you find this deeper dive into what is one of my most classic pieces of art as interesting as it was for me to revisit and explore in a way that I don't often do, and I look forward to the next one. They likely won't be quite so detailed every time, but I'd say this was as good a start to the series as any.