Cygames Calendar January 2022: New Year Theme

Liven up your PC or smartphone with the Cygames Calendar! We have one of our illustrators create a uniquely themed image each month and ask them to tell us about their creative process. January’s theme is “New Year.”

Let this month’s image bring some holiday cheer to your PC or smartphone!

Click here for this month’s calendar image.

New Year-themed image from this month’s illustrator.
Illustration TeamKaori
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An arts university graduate with a major in illustration, Kaori creates character illustrations for Cygames’ ongoing titles, and specializes in drawing out each character’s unique charm through their facial expressions.

Celebrate the New Year!
Sweet Siblings at the Shrine

What was your intention with this illustration?

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カオリ
Well, it’s a picture of two close siblings celebrating the New Year by visiting a shrine, something that the little sister is very excited about. I wanted it to be obvious at a glance that they were siblings, so I made their hair and eye colors the same and gave their outfits matching patterns and color schemes.

Did you have a mental image of the characters’ personalities while you were drawing them?

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Kaori
I did. The older brother is kind of quiet and nonchalant, while his younger sister is very bubbly, a sweet and innocent little girl. That’s why I gave her long pigtails, to up the adorability factor. The two siblings are sort of complete opposites, and I tried to use that to give the illustration a charming sense of contrast.

Personally, I think part of the charm comes from their ensembles. Can you tell us about how you approached the clothing design for this illustration?

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Kaori
I started with the traditional outfit worn on a shrine visit in the New Year: a kimono with a simple and elegant color scheme. Then, to keep things fresh and interesting, I gave the brother a fedora and the sister a cute headband, and decorated both with matching flowers to complete the look. I think the result is subtly fashionable with a hint of flamboyance.

The background meshes seamlessly with the characters and their outfits. Can you tell us what went into creating the color scheme for the illustration?

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Kaori
I wanted to work some bolder shades into the background to complement the subdued color scheme of the characters’ ensembles. I also tried to bring the piece together by using several reddish hues in the background, highlighting the spots of red used on the characters. The flowers scattered throughout are meant to help with this, and I used dashes of gold and black to give the piece a classy feel.
You definitely succeeded! There’s something about the combination of those colors and patterns that makes the design feel very elegant.

I also noticed that you included the kanji for “New Year” or “early spring” in Japanese. It’s very well done. Are you experienced with calligraphy?

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Kaori
Oh, not at all! Not unless taking a few classes in elementary school counts. But I used a special brush that makes drawing kanji strokes a lot smoother and easier, so maybe that’s why it turned out so well.

Would you say your experience drawing characters for Cygames has contributed to the final product?

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Kaori
Yes, to the characters’ expressions, for sure. I always pay special attention to facial expressions, because that’s where most of the character’s emotions are communicated. It’s surprising how much even a subtle change to a character’s eyes or lips can affect your impression of them. I’ve always loved creating and drawing characters, and working on the facial expressions of these siblings was the most enjoyable part of the process for me.

What would you say was the most difficult part of creating this illustration, or illustrations in general?

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Kaori
The hardest part is probably planning the composition before I start drawing. There’s a lot to consider, especially for an image that’s going to be used on a mobile phone like this one, where you have to take into account things like the clock and calendar dimensions. I put a lot of thought into how I could naturally draw the viewer’s attention to the faces of the characters. One trick was the concentrated use of decorative elements behind the faces, but I had to adjust the level of detail overall to ensure that the final product would be balanced.

Okay, now I’d like to hear more about you! Did you begin specializing in illustration at university, or some time before that?

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Kaori
At university. I majored in illustration, but I was lucky enough to get to study a wide variety of courses, covering everything from traditional and digital illustration to three-dimensional art.

With such a wide selection of disciplines available, why did you decide to major in illustration specifically?

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Kaori
I love drawing. It’s as simple as that. (laughs)

What sort of experiences have you had that make you glad you chose to become an illustrator?

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Kaori
Nothing beats seeing people’s reactions to my illustrations. Working at Cygames has also been really motivating; I find I get a lot of inspiration from interacting with other illustrators, and I can really see myself improving consistently over time there, which makes the work really worthwhile.

As an illustrator, is it easy for you to separate your work from your personal life?

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Kaori
Not really, no. I’m always on the lookout for things I can use as inspiration, and if a picture or design catches my eye out on the street, I can’t help but analyze it and try to figure out what makes it good. Not to mention, I’ve got a huge backlog of reference pics: tons of photos with pretty color schemes and portraits of girls taken from cute angles. (laughs)

That just goes to show how much you enjoy what you do!

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Kaori
Absolutely. Working on character illustrations for Cygames is a dream come true, because this is what I’ve worked hardest to be good at. One of the most important aspects of my job is drawing out the charm of the characters I get to work on, and for me a lot of that comes from how well I can portray their emotions.

Last question! Do you have a message for the fans?

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Kaori
Yes. New Year’s might have been an obvious choice as the theme for January because of its significance to Japanese culture, but I’ll know that I’ll have done the theme justice if my illustration leaves you with a sense of the freshness that comes with the start of a new year.

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