Now, 2003 was not the first year I started to color art digitally -that would’ve been 2002-ish-, but it was the first year I started doing digital art using a drawing tablet. It went about as well as you could expect.
My parents bought my sister & I both tablets: she got the Intuos 2 and I got a Graphire II (in ruby red). It wasn’t playing favorites, given the Intuos back in the day was considered a huge flex. The Graphire 2 looked cool and was small enough for me to use, though by today’s standards it’s a tablet for ants and very little screen real estate… though you could argue something about screen resolutions et al. It served me well for many years and it wasn’t until about 2007 that it finally gave up the ghost.
The workflow of this era would roughly be the following up until late 2009: Draw on paper> Scan > Color in Photoshop
Photoshop was given to us by a family friend on a pirated CD-ROM, because that’s how some people managed to circumvent having to fork out the nose for an obscene price in the store every single time they made major updates to the software, because yes, they used to sell Photoshop in stores as standalone software.
Mind you, Photoshop was not intended to be a digital painting program: there were others at the time that were intended to be drawing-specific programs like Corel Painter and Open Canvas, but for whatever the reason PS was the program to use if you wanted to be taken seriously as an up and coming digital artist and was seen as a huge flex on sites like Side 7 or DeviantArt in its early days.
Due to being a wholly inexperienced artist back in the day, none of my drawings had any uniform sizing like they do today. So most of what you’re seeing in the image here isn’t even actual size. Images for ants, even.
And there was a ton of usage of text, like putting a character’s name or something to be “artsy” or “funny”. It’s from these days that I have an aversion to using text like lyrics or quotes in anything I create outside of sequentials. Go figure.
And now for the “fun” part: explaining what the fresh hell is going on during this particular point in time that would cause these ungodly creations to be made in the first place.
From late 2002 to early 2004, I was into the “200x” He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, which had been airing on Cartoon Network. The cartoon itself was nothing to really write home about in hindsight, but I enjoyed it for what it was. During this time I also had gotten into “She-Ra: Princess of Power” and decided to do what others in the fandom were doing at the time: adapting POP characters for the 200x canon/aesthetic! There is no way this could go wrong, right?
While I’d designed other characters, the three I focused on the most were:
- Sweet Bee, whom I basically used as a stand-in self-insert to ship with Buzz-Off (whom I had a thing for, lmao)
- Spinnerella, who I changed to be an Anwar Gar-ian like Sy-Klone, making her his long-lost cousin or some horseshit like that.
- Perfuma, who was a little dryad who was essentially Moss-Man’s adoptive daughter.
There were others, like Castaspella, though it’s basically lost media at this point. In hindsight, they were not necessarily good designs or completely fit in, but for my first real experiment in trying to blend/adapt different canons together, I suppose it wasn’t too terrible. Others did it far better, in my honest opinion, but I was too much of an envious petulant brat to really accept it at the time.
The beginning of the end was when I accidentally got access to a private forum within He-Man.org and saw people who I thought were friends if not on good terms with me at the time saying some pretty harsh truths about me: that I was immature and not emotionally capable of being a moderator (as they were trying to suss out new ones). And they were absolutely right. I remember not being angry or sad at discovering this, honestly: I knew they were absolutely right. And with that, I quietly left the fandom and never truly looked back.
In hindsight it wasn’t a great experience due in large part to being a minor at the time, personal matters going on in the home, and a volatile cocktail of hormones, untreated emotional issues, and general immaturity. I was also homeschooled at the time, so I spent… way too much time online than I should have.
In late 2003, after my family had moved states, we got a game called “F-Zero GX” and for a couple years, fandom life took an incredibly sharp pivot into some weird territory. There’ll be more bloviating on this particular fandom era in the next post, but suffice to say it was an experience filled with drama, fan characters, and the start of some poor experimentation into adult-ish content in some spots with some really rough art skills.