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Megan Leigh Kallas
Wasabi Sprite

digital, Photoshop
5″ x 7″


Casey Roonan, Comics Artist & Cartoonist

Casey Roonan
Cartoonist & Comics Artist

Artist Statement
“I’m a freelance illustrator who works primarily in concept art and character design. Recently I graduated from California State University Fullerton, where I focused my studies in visual development and story art.

As an Asian American who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, much of my art is influenced by the large Asian community and my passion for creating stories that reflect the culture I was raised in. I have always loved writing stories and drawing up characters to fit them, therefore most of my work is comprised of character designs that I would one day like to incorporate into cartoons or feature-length animated films.

There’s a personal project I’m currently working on that features various nature creatures, and I just happened to see a mini documentary about cultivating wasabi that inspired me to come up with some sketches for a wasabi sprite. I like to work in loose sketches when I first come up with a character in order to give me room to play around with the design, so I kept these as rough doodles and added some color to test out a palette. I also wanted to give Wasabi wide bug eyes because that’s a common face that my friends and I make when we eat wasabi.”

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Video Transcript

“I’m really responding to the specificity of this character and find it very encouraging that you are drawing inspiration both from research and from personal experience when making your design decisions. I love this story of you deriving the characters facial expression from the faces your friends make when they eat wasabi, but to me that sort of bug-eyed look is more of a contrivance of cartoons than the face people actually make when eating spicy food.

So I would just suggest you take that personal inspiration even further – maybe take your friends out for a sushi dinner and actually do observational drawing of the faces they make when they eat wasabi. And try to get a real range because I think that could really inform how the character looks and all kinds of different emotional states.

Right now what I think this design has going for it is that the silhouette is really unique and really strong and I think in that sense the wasabi plant was a really savvy choice.”

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4 responses on "Megan Leigh Kallas"

  1. This is such a fun project, and I’m really excited that your subjects are being informed by personal experiences! This character is so lovable!

    I think you could really push this character’s facial expressions and body positioning to convey the emotion a bit better. While looking at the texture of a wasabi plant, I noticed that it has they have these really gross bumps all along the sides of it. These could be used to create a really interesting face, that conveys a lot of weight and emotion. I could see these ridges easy becoming eyelids! The big circular eyes seems a bit too easy for such an interesting form! Similarly, the way in which you position the body, what gesture the body is making, and what angle we see it at, can tell us a lot about the character itself!

    What a fun and exciting project, keep it up!

  2. OHMYGOD, this little guy is just the cutest thing I might have ever seen!!!! I was really a hardcore Pokemon fan when I was younger, but it was mostly because the earlier monster designs were really memorable and imaginative. I feel like you’ve captured that kind of uniqueness and charm in your wasabi character (especially in its stick/lying down pose, haha!) which makes me want to know more about it…or you know, collect it!

    I would love to see a range of expressions or variations of this little friend, to get a sense of what it’s like. The first two images are largely the same, and give me no new information. What does this guy’s tribe look like? How does it interact with the world? One thing that I love about Hayao Miyazaki’s sidekick creatures, is while they’re very simply designed, they still show personalities and emotions. True, a lot of this relies on movement, but think about how different each of the tree spirits from Princess Mononoke are, or the hilarious exaggerated reactions Calcifer has, despite being unable to move from his fire pit in Howl’s Moving Castle.

    I think this design shows great promise, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it in the future!

  3. It’s adorable! I would love to see some animation demos with this little wasabi – it would be fun to see how you imagine it walking, jumping, etc.
    After browsing through some other images of wasabi plants, it would be interesting to see how this character literally would grow – how it looks at multiple stages of life and growth. What would change in them? Think about it as how humans grow – we keep the same features, but these features change to reflect our new and older self. With character creation, every feature can be used to explain something about the creature — I don’t think the eyes would have that same cute and innocent quality with a very old and weary plant, you see?
    In these different reimaginings, I’d also love to see the plant itself transformed to become alive — as this guy is now, the arms and legs and face are “given” to the plant — but if the plant actually was a creature, would it maybe use its leaves to move around? Would it use the roots as legs? Or would it be upside down! These outside the box questions are the key to designing compelling character.
    For example, when I was working on a project with mice characters, I had a long fun talk with a friend about whether they would wear shoes! If mice use their clawed feet to climb it doesn’t really make sense – so we decided on a culture where the mice would be barefoot outside to climb, but would put on “socks” inside to keep the home clean – kind of the reverse of removing shoes when I enter my apartment! 🙂

  4. I love that you are using wasabi as a reference for this piece, and that the documentary inspired you to create this character. The documentary was an important step in your creative process, I feel like your character is a lot more informed because you have an understanding of your subject that is not just skimming the surface.

    I think it would be fun to play up the textural qualities of wasabi; it’s actually quite an ugly looking plant! Right now the texture in the bottom part of the character looks more like cuts with dots, instead of a more three-dimensional surface. This doesn’t mean the character necessarily needs to be more detailed, it would be a matter of shifting up the rhythms in your line work.

    Terrific subject, especially combined with the facial expressions, makes for a quirky and unique character!

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