Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Incase it wasn't evident, I enjoy creating animal creatures and characters.
And anthropomorphic (non-humans with human characteristics).
And human characters.
Whether cartoony or realistic, I like to infuse my signature stylistic flare. I don't like to be locked down to one category, style or theme.
Kitsune, which means "fox" in Japanese - hence the katakana script - was created as a series of concepts for a leather handbag designer in Korea who hand-makes custom designs. We happen to be fellow Kendo/Gumdo masters (Japanese/Korean sword martial arts) and It was my cat and mouse painting that I showed him after a Saturday morning training session that inspired him to have me create some designs for to put on his leather merchandise targeted to the Japanese lady's handbag market. (For the cultural context, I'm an American character illustrator/designer in Seoul, Korea speaking with a Korean handbag designer about creating design on his product to be sold in the Japanese ladies leather bag market).
It started with a 'crying wolf' sketchbook drawing of a white wolf with streaks that appeared as tear tracks from the edges of the eyes (not shown) - but I scratched the idea of the tear track markings/tattoo idea and lengthened the nose and exchanged that for a fox. I brought the loose sketch into SketchbookPro and let the creativity flow to see where the digital brushes would take the concept and it resulted in the glowing golden fox above and an alternate red fox seen below. (Also, since I wasn't certain if full-color was an option or not, I produced the contour and monochromatic versions above.)
The lovely, calm, elegant lady fox concepts were well received by the handbag designer and his Japanese marketers....that is, at first! But, then a second feedback came back to me a few days later. There was a cultural issue: The kitsune is a sacred animal in Japan, and either it is forbidden to use fox imagery or it is taboo to wear fox imagery, or perhaps even sacrilegious. Cultural sensitivities are often learned by first-hand experience like this. I don't consider it time lost because it did produce a wonderful set of images.
"Could you turn it into a dog?"
Was the question they asked. Sure, I could definitely try to turn a fox into a dog (aka, "inu"). Well, so I did.
A little erasing here, and little digital image manipulation there on the fox snout and brushy side furs and she transforms into a pretty dog character.
Again, some various examples were provided: How about a collar? Could you put a lemon on it? How about a crown or tiara? Chewing bubble-gum with a giant pink bubble? Okay, so the last one they didn't ask.
And that's how a fox became a dog. Still, in the end, both the fox and the dog designs were not used and we moved on to other animal designs of cute appearance rather than elegant/beautiful.
During this exploration process for the Japanese market, I had a helpful contact in Japan to give me advice on character and styles as an experienced fashion design expert.
Having a network to help one another at various times is valuable!