For Halloween This Year I Did a Yokai Themed Art Challenge

If you’re an artist on Twitter or at least someone who follows a lot of artists on Twitter you’re probably aware that October is spooky art challenge month. It seems (to my limited knowledge) to have started with Inktober in which the challenge is to draw one ink drawing a day, but now there’s lots of elaborate themed challenges that give you one word prompts for each day of October. Prompts for monsters, prompts for comic strips, just a bunch of spooky adjectives etc.

Every year I wish I could join in on one of these challenges but the problem is I’m a slow drawer. I tried doing Inktober once but I can’t just put lines on paper and have a perfect drawing the way some artists can. I need to draw all the rough shapes then iron out the details and make adjustments. I can’t even ink my original sketches because they’re so rough and smudgy. I have to carbon copy them onto nicer paper. I can’t even wrap my head around how anyone can draw without rough shapes! Did everyone sell their soul to Art Satan except me?? Anyway, point is I can’t do these challenges unless I can take a whole day to work on them. If I’m given anything else to do I won’t be able to finish by the end of the day and then I get disheartened and give up.

But lucky for me, this year SmallFluffyCloud on Twitter made two versions of her Yokaitober challenge! One daily challenge and one WEEKLY challenge with three themes to choose from. Finally! An art challenge with an easy mode! And it’s yokai themed so it’s basically made for me! Even better, I happened to have some unfinished projects that fit the weekly themes so it was like I had a head start.

First week was yurei. By pure coincidence I had just finished up some stylized yurei I had made to be part of a logo for a personal project.

I liked them so much that I had started using the same style for some Japanese urban legends which by another pure coincidence happened to be one of the themes for the fourth and final week. I was super excited to work on them but of course accepting the challenge meant putting them aside to work on the other themes. Well, it would make for a fitting finale to this project anyway.

Second week was Prankster. I used this theme to finish a Rokurokubi I had since Rokurokubi are one of many yokai that like to lead people on and then give them a shock by revealing themselves as yokai.

Not long after I posted my Rokurokubi, Gaijin Goobah posted a video titled The Teacher’s Yokai Origins in Little Nightmares 2 that went much more in depth into Rokurokubi’s lore. Before even watching the video I had a feeling Gaijin’s analysis was going to make me feel bad about my brief justification of using ‘kubi for the prankster theme. Both on account of empathy for Rokurokubi and on account of Gaijin being smarter than me with way more resources. And yeah, I was right on both accounts. Gaijin’s video went more into how rokurokubis are often not only unaware that they’re yokai but are sometimes karmic punishment for some other dude’s sins. Which is something I knew but hadn’t put much thought into. It got me thinking about how much it would suck to be her. I mean, it’s bad enough getting turned into a monster, but getting turned into a monster that just yells at some guy you barely know about his murdered wife who you know even less about? How would you like to find out your head was yelling at people while you slept? Sure your waking life might still be fairly normal but how would you even BEGIN to feel about that?

That’s the interesting thing about yokai lore. As much as it’s about monsters that exist purely to shock or annoy people there’s almost always an element of pathos if you know how to look for it.

Also… the other thing I said.

Anyway, the idea of feeling bad for a monster as if you offended them seemed funny enough to be a good excuse to retweet my rokurokubi again while also boosting a fellow yokai content creator. So I quote tweeted my ‘kubi and added this:

After watching @GaijinGoombah's Little Nightmares video I feel kinda bad about using Rokurokubi for the prankster theme. It's like I insulted her by simplifying her story so much. Sorry Miss Kubi! :(

Gaijin responded to the quote tweet with

“You're fine! Yokai evolve! I think what you got is fine!”

I was only half joking but now I felt like I was making myself sound dumber than I actually am. I considered taking the joke further by adding “I texted Rokurokubi. She said it’s okay” theoretically making the absurdness of the inicial joke clearer by putting an even more absurd joke on top of it. But I opted out because I didn’t want to risk neither joke landing and then possibly having to convince a person I respect that I’m not an actual crazy person as I’m in the midst of working on the final week of the challenge. (Like I was saying earlier, time is important to me)

Thinking about it now, if I did make a joke a better one would’ve been “I texted her about it. She didn’t even know what I was talking about. It was so cringey I wish I’d never mentioned it!”. Feels more apt and relatable, doesn't it? Either way, water under the bridge.

Week 3 was Kitsune.

…yup, that’s a kitsune. I put a lot of work into evening out the tails and by the end I felt like I had spent a lot of time making something unoriginal. Fortunately I was able to save it from being too boring with some clipping masks in Photoshop. I also added the white tail tips in Illustrator. If you’re curious as to my work process you should say something because I’m not taking the time to write it here. (Time is important to me.)

And finally the grande finale! Week 4: urban legends!

This is the official final version for Yokaitober that I complete before midnight on the 31st.

And this is the "final" final version I made after that.

It’s fun to play with limited shapes and colors. I was originally going to stick with off white, red and black but then I wanted to have Aka Manto holding a choice of red paper and blue paper. Well, I couldn’t have blue paper without blue and I couldn’t just have one tiny smidge of blue in the middle of the whole thing, so I found ways to add blue to each character. I also changed Hasshaku-sama’s hat ribbon to red because she was the only one without red. For some odd reason I feel like that’s unlike her even though it’s not like she has a personality outside of relentlessly pursuing her victims. I gave Kunekune a blue outline to hint at him being less tangible than the other yokai. I figured he must be made of some ectoplasmic weirdness if attempting to understand him is enough to drive one insane.

The gray version happens to be just the right size to be a Twitter header. I could use a new one but I wasn’t sure if I was totally satisfied with it. Then I came across a couple of thumbnails that I had completely forgot about in my sketchbook.

Now it made sense. (Well, aside from the “how the hell does one forget their own way better ideas?” part) Jinmenken and Aka Manto were the two that didn’t sit right with me the most. Jin’s mustache face felt way too detailed compared to the other characters and the soft shapes I used on Aka Manto made him feel way too plush.

So I decided if I’m going to use this thing as a header then I should redesign these two. And if I’m going to redesign them then I’m going to be posting them on Instagram separately. And if I’m posting these two separately I might as well post all of them separately. And if I’m posting them all separately I might as well get creative with adding their names in both English and kanji… You know I probably could’ve saved myself a lot of time if I had just said all that aloud before going through with it.

As much as I’m probably over doing this and making more work for myself that’s possibly keeping myself from the bigger endeavors I want to do (Really should've said this out loud) I’m having fun here. I feel like I’m stretching my graphic artist muscles. Here’s a couple of examples if you’re reading this on Patreon you should be able to see the rest in the up there thing.

And for the sake of completion, here’s the four part version I made for Instagram

I considered translating Teke Teke and Kune Kune as Pitter Patter and Wiggle Waggle. They are technically correct after all.

There's another yokai themed tag I ended up participating in for October but that's going to have to be its own post.

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