Welcome to the Community Spotlight, where from week to week, I will take a few moments with a member of the community and see how their art of different varieties has shaped over the course of the years, among other things.
Today, that spotlight shines brightly on Amy Jeferies, who you’ll more wildly recognise by her alias of Feniiku.
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy what I hope will be an insight into the artistic side of some of our community.
Titans Creed: When did you first start doing Sonic related artwork and items and why?
Feniiku: I’ve been working on Sonic related artwork for years, I don’t actually remember when I started! Most likely way back when I first encountered Sonic the Comic. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing the blue dude for that matter.
I don’t really remember why I started, but I know that I carried on with it rather than just drawing it a few times and dropping it is because to me, Sonic has always been cool. He’s just so sleek to look at, something which carries over into everything else I draw, ahah. Not to mention he keeps pushing onwards, no matter how the odds may be against him.
TC: Can you show us examples of how your artwork and items have improved over the years?
Fen: Oh Chaos, as much as I’d rather not share old artwork, I suppose I should! Some of my oldest pieces went walkabouts, but on my look for them I did find some others that can be better compared against my current work.
I’m sad to say a lot of my earliest drawings were either really bad traces or copies of STC artwork. When I did draw on my own, it was usually pictures of Tails, since he was my favourite character for a time. Most of the artwork I still have is ten years old or less, and I only know that because I drew the characters with coloured irises.
I remember one of the earliest things I drew though was a doodle of Amy Rose on a wall in the house. But most of my artwork used to be done on those hole-punched printed sheets. Which were perfect for making comic strips! I’ve been drawing Sonic comics for as long as I have been drawing Sonic.
The oldest ones featured Tails and a fan character whose name I can no longer remember. Usually they were themed around episodes of SatAM or any other cartoon on at the time. I don’t have any of those left, I threw them all away years ago. Most of them were finished in a page anyway!
Nowadays I work on several Sonic comics in my spare time, as well as writing up scripts for my original work too. The work load is daunting, but I love a challenge so I keep at it. Most of my comics come off the top of my head as I write, leaving the plots very flexible. I think it drives people mad when suddenly; a twist! Hehe. Here’s a comparison between the early version of Sonic Thunderstrike, and the current one.
Over time, I kept practising, trying to get my artwork to match up to people I looked up to, whose pictures I’d seen in STC or on the few art sites I knew about at first. The internet was amazing too, it helped me find so many people who liked Sonic! Some of my biggest influences in that time became awesome friends to me, and I have Sonic to thank for all that.
Plus, it gave me a good sense of playful competition. These people were better at drawing than me, but I wasn’t going to lag behind! Eventually I joined DeviantART, and found even more people to share my interest with. With their help and encouragement, I’ve grown to a standard, in my opinion, far beyond what I ever expected to manage. But I’m still aiming higher!
Other than artwork, I also like to throw my hand into animation. My earliest attempts were nothing more than mere stick figures, but they were all good practice. As time went on, I learned the benefits of symbols and tweening, though I still mostly animate frame by frame. It takes more time, but I think it’s rewarding in the end.
TC: Out of all the artwork and items you’ve created so far, do you have a favourite piece?
Fen: I have so many I love, but Sonic related, I think my favourites are two of my most recent pieces; Super Sonic Generations, and the animation Endless Possibility.
Super Sonic Generations was drawn shortly after the teaser for Sonic Generations appeared, and started life as a tiny sketch in a palm-sized notepad. Normally the sketches stay like that, but I looked at it when I got home that night, and had to do more with it. Then it was meant to stay as a line art. But then I had to colour it. It just screamed for colour. I had just learned a new technique for colouring with my pencils, and didn’t want to damage it, so I was going to scan it then print out a copy, but I never did. I coloured straight onto the original lines. Everything was done on one page: sketch, inks, colours. Never before had I tried so hard to get the colouring perfect, but I needed to do it.
The background was originally a selection of blue circles, but when I uploaded it to DA, so many people requested a star-scape, so I gladly obliged, using photoshop tricks. And I’m glad people suggested it, the Sonics stand out so much better in the dark stars, and the little bit of blue left from the original background added a glow to it I never thought of adding.
Endless Possibility is my favourite animation to date. It took, on and off, four months of work. I drove myself completely sick to death of that song. I hated seeing the time line, key frames, layers, and everything else which flash provided. And I nearly killed my graphics tablet, not to mention my PC! But the reaction I get from people when they see it for the first time, even multiple times, is completely worth it.
Never mind that there’s nothing from the comics, cartoons, or any jokes in the animation. Never mind that the shading disappears so quickly, or the million other niggles and things I can find wrong with it. People have said so many times that it brought tears to their eyes, and good memories, and that they want Sonic to carry on another twenty years. Seeing how happy that painstaking work made people, that has tipped this onto the top of my favourites for me. I may have learned some new technical tricks for it, but the joy people tell me they felt, that’s what the real reward was. I’d love to show it to some of the guys over at SEGA some day, but for now I’m happy making everyone smile with it.
TC: Moving onto Summer of Sonic, how did you find the event?
Fen: Honestly, I don’t actually remember how I heard about it the first time, but I’ve been attending since 2008. Every year it’s been a friendly place, crammed to the brim with Sonic-y goodness and so many people who are all equally passionate about the blue hedgehog. Taking away the barriers of screens and keyboards, people have the chance to say what they genuinely think, and have proper conversations with others about a common interest.
Every year it’s been a lot of fun, and last year, while I hung around at the back for the most part, I still got to meet new people and chat with old faces. So many photos were to be had! I wish I could have just recorded the whole thing haha!
I met a young fan in the queue, she’d never been to SoS before, she wasn’t able to reserve a ticket, but I’m glad she got in. She was waiting so patiently, we chattered while I got my Metal Sonic cosplay accessories on in line, and she was genuinely looking forward to it. I was so glad to see her inside nearer the end of the event, seeing new faces in that hall, both young and old, that was amazing
TC: What was your favourite Summer of Sonic moment?
Fen: Personally I love the whole event, but there are several moments that stand out for me; such as being able to just hang and chat about Sonic and stuff with my friends, seeing the other entries in the cosplay contest and being awed by some of them, the general love for one blue hedgehog in the room, and AAUK singing on stage with Jun Senoue, that was an amazing end to it, and totally deserved by one of the guys who’d put so much work into the event!
But I think one of my favourite moments was after it was over. I said goodbye to everyone, and myself and my friend went to Burger King for some food. On the table next to us were two young boys. One of them had won one of the limited statues, and was carrying it so carefully when they left. It was so wonderful, seeing young children enjoying Sonic again. I remember playing games on the playground at school, we’d all pretend to be Sonic characters, it was cool then. It was so nice, seeing children openly loving their Sonic stuff again. Never mind the bitterness that permeates a small percentage of the older fans, seeing children, the people whom Sonic is designed for, in awe and respect of the dude again? That is a moment well worth remembering.
TC: How do you come up with new ideas for artwork and items?
Fen: It depends on the situation, but usually it starts with a circle on a piece of paper. (or on whatever digital program I have open at the time). I tend to have a pretty good memory for anything I think would be fun to draw, so I file away ideas like ‘design a character based on this’ or ‘an outfit of paperclips!’, or ‘animate a dancing turkey’ for later. Sometimes the ideas never get used, but they’re always there for reference. Or in some cases, cannibalisation into other ideas. I’m never afraid to twist my old ideas into something new!
TC: Where do you find the inspiration for your artwork and items?
Fen: I can find inspiration for my stuff from anything. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s a film, or another person’s artwork, or a particular shade of green in a plant. Heck, one of my original characters is a haunted frying pan! I designed him because I dropped a hot pan into a sink of water and saw a cloud of steam.
Inspiration can be found anywhere, you just need to learn how to look past the obvious to find something truly interesting.
TC: What are your current projects?
Fen: At this time, I have several projects on the go, most of which are comics. In Sonic based work I’m working mainly on Infinity, which is a comic set post-STC, and several fan-fictions, the main of which is Blue Star, a Sonic 1 and 2 adaptation.
I’m also working on an animation for NiGHTS‘s 15th. It’s a bit late, but I had been working on Endless Possibility for the first part of the year and needed a break from animating for a while. The song it’ll be playing to is one from the NiGHTS- Lucid Dreaming OCR album- I’ll Fly You (nel ceilo notturno) by AkumajoBelmont. I’m hoping to have I’ll Fly You finished by the end of December!
In original work, I’m concentrating on two novels, known by their working titles of Phoenix Feathers and Slintos, and a comic strip script known as Never Walk Alone. Finally, I’m starting work on writing an animated series called Star of Broken Fire.
TC: How would you compare traditional and digital art, and which is your favourite?
Fen: In all honesty I wouldn’t compare them, both have advantages and disadvantages. And both can be used in a similar way to each other. I like the bright, bold colours and ease of applying sparkles and shiny things into digital pieces, (and, of course, the undo button), but I don’t like the glare the screen gives off when I have to sit at it for an extended time. Traditional can often give me smoother effects, and I like to feel paper under my fingers, but then there’s the time it takes to scan and the fact that if I make a mistake it’s harder to fix.
When it comes to animation, digital is the only way I can do it easily and without wasting paper. But for artwork, I usually draw traditionally, since I often carry a sketchpad of some sort with me wherever I go. Colouring, I do depending on what the picture calls for. Sometimes, I’ll use both!
TC: What advice would you give for aspiring artists?
Fen: Never give up. Seriously, if you think your art’s not good enough, you shouldn’t kick yourself and stop drawing. The only way you’ll get better is to keep drawing. Also, don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new, sometimes it can be a good kick start on your work to draw something completely different to what you’re used to.
Take criticism when it’s given. Any advice is good advice. But don’t ever let it get you down. Don’t ignore it, since they may see mistakes you don’t, but don’t think of it being too harsh. Sometimes you need to roll with the punches and pick yourself back up. Take the advice in hand, and use it to improve! Try out new methods, new media, taking ideas and flipping them upside down. Put your heart into it, and draw because you want to, not because you think you’re expected to. You want it done right, not done fast, and it won’t ever feel right if you rush past your limit.
TC: Are you currently taking on any commissioned work?
Fen: I take commissions regularly, but at the time of writing this they’re closed as I have a backlog and need to finish them. However, this doesn’t hurt people from asking, I always read my notes on DA, and I may make exceptions for special occasions, depending. I’m hoping to re-open them fully by the new year, after my current list is completed.
Thanks to Amy for taking her time out to answer these questions for us, and if you felt like viewing more of her work, you can see the rest of her works at the following links:
Also, if you are interested in purchasing theSuper Sonic Generations piece, they are available in a limited number, and you can see how many are available on her DA journal.