Monday, 11 November 2013

Heavenly Wristlock

Heavenly Wristlock is the next in a series of geisha vs demon artworks I am exploring. I first began the series with my Gentle Omoplata design last year for Tap Cancer Out. Earlier this year, I created the Heavenly Footlock fundraiser t-shirt. For this followup I wanted to continue the serene and elegant poise of the previous characters so I chose her applying a wristlock technique. Wristlocks are powerful if applied correctly and cause immense pain. They are also quite handy for maintaining the character in a graceful posture - unlike techniques where she would have to unfurl her kimono and generate more body pressure on the demon (which might look less graceful).

So with the idea in my head, I quickly sketched out some very rough doodles in my notebook...

As is evident in the doodles, I had a hard time figuring out the exact wristlock technique that would look good. There are quite a few variations on hurting wrists. Originally I thought the one known commonly as sankyo would be perfect. But at its peak, the victim is elevated higher than the attacker - I felt this altered the dynamics of the composition too much. I wanted the geisha looking down on her opponent. After playing around with other combinations, I settled on nikyo. The parasol was something I definitely wanted in the composition from the beginning. Old school jits fans will already know that any straight object (such as a stick, pen or kubotan) can act as an additional lever when applying joint locks.

I sketched the characters more fully - just pencil and paper, then tracing over the top with each improvement to be made. It was very laborious but in my opinion, important to do so I could see a clean version with each re-traced version.

In the sketch above, I loved how the girl was positioned, but I wasn't too happy with her hair. I had changed my mind halfway through and made her into a Chinese girl wearing a cheong sam dress. But it just didn't look that great to me, so I reverted back to geisha.

In the past I just drew flowers in a very basic manner - quite flat and 2-D. For this project, I wanted the girl's dress pattern to incorporate more realistic chrysanthemum depictions. So I drew them out like this:

Once all the inked up elements were completed, I then scanned the lot into my laptop.

Once scanned and livetraced in Adobe Illustrator, I was able to add detail and colour layer by layer:

With all the files completed, they were sent off to the factory for sample printing onto a rashguard. The technique used for printing is known as dye sublimation - the factory uses a very large inkjet style printer and prints into a giant piece of heat transfer paper. This is then applied to the fabric where the ink particles embed themselves into the fibres of the fabric. With the ink completely embedded, they do not fade, crack or wash out. For me, as a designer, it means I am not restricted with colour, gradients, tints or any other aspects of artwork compared to screen printed items.

The final rashguard modeled by me!

The Heavenly Wristlock rashguard is available to buy here.



  1. I love your designs.. I wish you would make them for ladies!

    1. Buy this one, it goes down to extra small which is perfect even for small girls. I am a size 6-8 and the XS fits perfectly! It's a beautiful rash guard :)

  2. Really cool design, nice one!