Sunday, May 16, 2010

About my display picture

You've probably been wondering about my display picture, and why it's a drawing and not an actual photograph. What's that? You haven't? Well, tough luck, it's what I'm blogging about today anyway. It's part of my introduction to you of who I am and in what world I live in.

When I started posting on the Internet (see the "you may know me as" list in the "About me" gadget to the right) my camera was broken. Even though I did have some old photos lying around, I was forbidden by my mother from posting them online (and was still young enough to have no choice but to obey). So I did what I noticed most sensible people were doing at the time (remember that this was a time when webcams and scanners were luxuries). This meant Googling for your favorite TV show or similar, and using a character from it as your display picture (or, as it was called on the forums I was in, your avatar).

My avatar was usually a playable character from one of the Pokémon games. This seemed like a fine idea in the year 2000, but by 2003 Pokémon was already being called gay, geeky, and by other descriptors whose sole intent was denigrating it. By 2006, with no news of new games reaching me, Pokémon seemed dead and I felt a need to dissociate myself from it. I did still like it and I knew that changing my name could make it harder for the people I formerly posted with to find me, but I wanted to avoid being pigeonholed. My first feeble attempt was to try to find something neutral, yet identifying, in the concept art for the games, so I devised an avatar which contained only the eye of a character; a character which just so happened to look like me.

This worked for a while, with nobody judging me by, nor asking me about, the eye. However, in 2008 I was pointed to the wide world of webcomics, and couldn't resist the temptation to comment on one or two. I continued like this for about a year and a half, when I finally noticed that my avatar wasn't working properly due to a technical issue that wouldn't be fixed (I was known as "the guy with the black avatar" because of this).

As is typical when you're shown something new, I went too far into it, trying to keep track of some ten or thirty webcomics at once or so. In 2009 I scaled this down to the three I really cared about (more about this in another blog post). I then decided to make an avatar just for those three, except that I noticed that one of them didn't allow avatars in the comments section. I looked to the other, and noticed many readers, and its author, identified it as a "furry comic". (Don't laugh when I tell you I had to look up what that meant.) The third comic contained an anthropomorphic animal, so it also fit what I had found was the ambiguous definition of "furry comic".

This basically meant that whatever I chose for my avatar, it had to have an animal in it. I wanted something small (so that it would be a challenge as far as keeping proportions) and something that I didn't know how to draw very well (so that it would be a challenge to draw in itself). Here's where the girls usually say, "but there are many cute things that fit that description! Why go for a disgusting, scurrying, squeaking, hairy mouse?" Well, let's just say I'll need several other blog posts to explain that.

At the time, I was also actively participating in The Never Ending Quest (NEQ). Since I didn't want to have to make several different avatars, the avatar with the mouse had to imply an adventure setting, so that I could use it on the NEQ forum. I thus had the mental image of what I wanted; all I had to do now was learn to draw mice.

But it wasn't as easy as grabbing a "how to draw book" and following the instructions; most "how to draw" instructions out there are for characters like Mickey or Mighty Mouse: take a ball with a happy face, and push a snout through it. What I wanted was to learn to draw a believable mouse; a mouse that actually looked like a real mouse. This was not easy, and I have quite a lot to say about the process, so I'll save it for another blog post. I consider I have fulfilled my objective today of explaining why my display picture is what it is.

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