Behind the scenes: The earliest drawings

Early ink and waterbrush sketches of Emmie the android
Emmie’s shirt: World’s Best Thing That You Are
[Arrows pointing to various sketches of Emmie that read: Lots of random t-shirts; hair tied back; hair cut]
Scribble in the corner reads: (working title) “Lonely [not sure what this word is – Rivers? Rovers? Revers? Probably Rivers, though I have honestly no idea why aside from possibly listening to Unchained Melody while scribbling]” is a collection of stories about a domestic robot who is bad at math & worried about nonexistence”

It’s Labour Day in Canada! The first (non-cover) page of Now Recharging was actually posted on Tumblr on Labour Day – September 7, 2015. Titling the chapter “Labour” was probably coincidence, since I wasn’t really planning to hit any specific launch dates at the time. The obvious meaning was Emmie’s work and search for a job, but there was also a sense in my mind of labour as in the work of creating the comic, carrying it for a length of time, and finally bringing it out there in the world. 

I did a bit of a dive into my sketchbooks to try to find some of the earliest drawings of Now Recharging characters. It was really interesting, because while I definitely remembered some of where I was going at the time and how things evolved, other things totally surprised me.

In my original special print edition of Chapters 0 and 1, I included this picture of “Delinquent Emmie” and wrote next to it:

The original version of Emmie the android was a stupid, brash, and rather rude robot. The first part stayed, as did the swearing, but they ended up being much sweeter in temperament. It was really important to me to have a character who is very expressive. It makes them a lot of fun to draw, and helps keep the momentum going! (Emmie’s messy hair also comes in handy for covering up errors, which keeps me from crying into my pillow and giving up when I ink my 23,973th[sic] drawing mistake…)

Me, in my author’s notes from 2016

For a reason I can no longer fathom, the first iteration of Emmie was a “badass”. Not that they were actually a badass, but that they had that outward appearance, a kind of confident attitude and style. “Emmie the badass” was a potty-mouthed android wearing an apron that lasted pretty much the duration of the pages posted here. (As you can see, I was also already planning on random t-shirt designs appearing throughout the story.) I think at the time I thought the contrast with the cute aspects would be amusing and engaging, but now it doesn’t seem to fit what we know as Emmie at all.

But that attitude didn’t completely disappear. There are some hints of it early in the story, like the encounter with the actual delinquents picking on the cat. The rest of it went to another character: The Prince. Perhaps you can see the similarity in his design with some of the drawings here?

Ink and waterbrush sketches of Emmie with two children labeled "Heart" and "Eve", as well as sketches of other characters: a mom and dad, and a woman who looks vaguely like Susan, but at varying ages
I originally toyed with the name “Heart” for Wren. Her baby sister, “Eve”, appears to have been a little older and more mobile than in the final version
Ink and waterbrush sketches of a woman who looks like Susan at different ages, as well as more sketches for the mother and father, and rough logo designs
I seem to have been struggling with Susan’s age. The bottom right reads: “Robots for all sorts of support services from fitness to physio to palliative care”

In any case, as soon as soft fluffy sheep made their way into the story, it really oriented me to what Emmie would be like.

Pencil sketches of early iterations of Ranran and Emmie
The scene of Emmie holding up Ranran to be scanned by a laundrybot was sketched very early in the conception of the story

Pencil sketches of a tiny Ranran, and Emmie hugging Ranran at the laundromat
Early on I had this idea of Ranran being accidentally destroyed while being cleaned, and its remains turned into a pocket-size version of Ranran. This did not end up happening

Brush pen ink sketch of Ranran
The final version of Ranran was based on the Valais Blacknose, which appears on Emmie’s Sheep of the Month calendar in Chapter 4

Pen and pencil sketch of Emmie and Ranran looking very cool
A sketch that I knew was never the vibe I wanted for Now Recharging, but fun to draw nonetheless. It was actually fleshed out as an illustration (click through to see it!)

It’s really fascinating to see what changed and what stayed. I don’t always remember the details of my thought process, so some of my old doodles and notes baffle me as well! Something in an alternate universe, maybe. Hope you enjoyed this peek at the early days of Now Recharging!

News on some other creative projects!

I recently launched the Genjimonogatari art/game deck, based on a series of illustrations I created from 2018-2022. You can get it at the Game Crafter, and there’s also a free downloadable PDF booklet to learn more about the Tale of Genji along with all of the illustrations accompanied by summaries of the characters who appear in it.

I’ve also been continuing my Taiwan Túxiàng illustrations, a series exploring nostalgic memories and impressions of Taiwan.

And today is the last day of a site-wide sale at INPRNT! You can get all of my prints for 15% off, including prints from both the Genjimonogatari and Taiwan Túxiàng series, as well as Now Recharging illustrations! All profits from my INPRNT shop continue to go to charity, which you can learn more about here.

Wishing you all a safe, lovely September, and a cozy beginnings of autumn (if that’s the case for the season where you are!).

♥ Maiji (September 5, 2022)

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