My favorite new anime of last year was Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. As someone who is also fond of phone cases, I wanted a design that celebrates the good feelings and memories I got from Free!
When it comes to merchandise, I usually prefer to use designs that don’t have images of the characters themselves on it. I enjoy a bit of subtlety. So for a Free! phone case, I wanted something with the main characters’ spirit animals. I couldn’t find anything like that, so I decided draw it myself.
Something I was able to identify with in the anime was Rei’s struggle to feel free. He was used to functioning based on theory and calculation, and he admired how Haruka could swim so freely. I feel something like that when I look at digital illustrations by other artists that I can tell were done quickly, which gives them a more expressive and dynamic quality.
I know I admire that sort of technique, but I felt that something was holding me back from executing it myself when working digitally. I would zoom into like, 400% even though I knew the illustration wasn’t meant to be viewed that way and overwork every little detail and clean up every pixel that went past the line art, stuff like that. I would spend so much time and energy, and then end up with something that looked flat and robotic.
“Why can’t I be free?”
It was something I asked myself too. So for this illustration which is my bit of fan art for a series called Free!, I figured it would be a good time to push myself to paint more freely.
Before I immerse myself in rendering, I like to block out where the elements go to make sure that the proportions and negative spaces are to my liking. It’s easier to adjust things at this phase rather than try to move them when they’ve already been painted in.
Here’s a closer look at a part of the illustration. I’m happy to say that I didn’t overthink the rendering and I really did allow myself to be more free and messy while working on this. I also finished in a relatively short time so I consider it a successful exercise although my improvement isn’t at a monumental scale, hahah. I will continue to work hard!
Here are the boys’ spirit animals all painted and happily swimming together!
And here’s how the artwork looks as a phone case! I go to Society6 to produce custom cases I design because I really enjoy the quality of their cases. Colors come out faithful to the original art, and they have a good feel and offer decent protection. If you are interested, wrote a review with lots of photos, which you may view here. I figured other Free! fans might appreciate the design too, so below is the store link if you want your own Ever Blue case!
Store link: Ever Blue phone case in white / blue
(Available for iPhone 5/5s/5c/4/4s/3G/3Gs, iPod Touch, and Samsung Galaxy S4)
If you scroll down you’ll also be given other options such as prints or shirts, if you’d prefer that!
I look forward to receving my phone case! Please share photos with me too if you get it as well!
Thanks for looking!