If you're headed to BlizzCon next month, will you be lucky enough to be wearing a coveted custom name badge by Noxychu? Her whimsical character portraits have become all the rage this year, and Noxychu has even turned out badges for the entire Blizzard community manager staff. As staff artist for Wowhead and well-known WoW "Twitterati," the unassuming Brit has long since had to pause taking on new commissions, and her newfound popularity promises great things post-BlizzCon.
WoW Insider: Everyone wants a Noxychu! I'm betting most readers will recognize your name from the artwork you do for Wowhead. Tell us what you do there and how you got started.
Noxychu: I'm not sure I have a proper title; I guess just "artist" covers it. I make logos for the various ZAM websites, and I illustrate the occasional contest and guide. I got started with Wowhead by volunteering, I made some badge art for them in 2008, and then after that the occasional Warcraft-themed web comic. And they were bloody awful. I really loved making them, and they were weekly for a while. Unfortunately I'm a terrible at writing scripts, and I have been unable to find a consistently funny writer that is willing to put up with me to try and get the Wowhead web comic back to regular updates.
Main character Noxiia, draenei holy priest
Guild Halcyon (GM)
Realm Velen US (Alliance)
Your style is so friendly and open for what could have been a dry, formal database site. Were you surprised at the fit? Do you ever get requests for or do any WoW-related artwork with a harder edge?
I was very surprised! I very much enjoy adding little bits of character here and there. I feel very very lucky that I'm able to draw what I love. But yes, I do get requests for things more serious, or violent, but I enjoy drawing those, too. Doing the same thing, over and over, is what makes a job dull. I just wish I had the opportunity to explore different styles and topics in more depth.
You're a trained artist, isn't that right?
I went to an art college in England, which is essentially a specialised U.S. equivalent of the last two years of high school. I have a diploma in fine arts and illustration.
How did you find your way to fantasy artwork? Have you always loved the genre?
As a little girl, I was always drawing pictures of horses. Always horses, or unicorns, or pegasuses, with the occasional dragon. When I was in my early teens, I started watching the occasional anime that was shown on British TV channels and began attempting to draw similar characters. Things went from there, I suppose. As I got into playing video games and various little MMOs, I started drawing characters from there. I think I first fell in love with the details of character design and concepts when I discovered the Final Fantasy franchise.
Where do you pull your artistic influences from? Does Blizzard's art style impact your current style, or do you try to take it your own direction?
I'll give you half a guess! This follows my previous answer well, as most if not all of my influence comes from video game artwork. Blizzard's art style has been a huge influence. At midnight releases for new expansions, I am almost as excited to get into the Collectors Edition box and bury my nose into the pages of conceptual sketches and illustrations as I am to play the game. Luckily for me, there is always a little wait before getting onto the actual servers, so I have a chance to pore over the pages to soak it up.
The buzz among players headed to BlizzCon next month, of course, is the fabulous custom ID badges you create. How did they come to catch on?
They started with the three I did in 2008 for Skosiris, Malgayne, and Miyari. They were full-character chibi-ish -- and terrible. I also did some for the Wowhead team in 2009, but it was 2010 that I started doing them for general attendees.
It began with a group known as Chatcon, a little social circle of folks that habitually attend BlizzCon every single year and keep in contact throughout the year via IRC and Facebook and do the occasional meetup in the LA area. They encouraged me to sell portrait head shots of peoples' characters, so Warcraft players could walk around the convention halls wearing a real-life version of a forum avatar.
I'm not quite sure when or how it happened, but the popularity of my badges exploded this year. I went from doing on average 25 to 35 public orders in previous years to having well over 100 orders before the end of August!
Unfortunately, all hell broke loose earlier this year. My husband (Bryan/Glar) suffers from a chiari malformation (a condition affecting the brain). His symptoms got increasingly worse and he ended up needing neurosurgery in August to remove a chunk of his skull. Caring for him during this process put a hold on the amount of work I was able to get done. I ended up needing to cancel a good portion of the orders I had received. I felt absolutely terrible and I hated doing it, but I had little choice. Our finances were completely thrown off, so I am doing as many badges as my sanity will allow in an attempt to pay off what I can.
You've even done badges for the Blizzard CM team ...
They did not ask for them, and it started with me just wanting to do a few little doodles of thanks for the work that they do and the hell they put up with from the community. They seemed to really like them! So I did others, and I think I've now drawn one for at least every member of the Warcraft team.
I mailed the printed and finished badges out to the Blizzard campus last week. When I saw the photos of some of them with their badges in hand and how happy they were, I was speechless with smiles to make my cheeks hurt. I'm hoping all my clients will be as happy as they are.
Beyond the CMs, seeing so many of my clients using their art as Twitter icons has been absolutely fantastic. I've loved seeing how happy people are with just the digital files, and at BlizzCon, most will get their physical badges! Because yes, through everything, we will indeed be going, and I'll be handing them out in person.
You'll be at BlizzCon this year?
I am super, super looking forward to seeing my guildmates at this year's BlizzCon. We've been close for many years, and we're going to try and squeeze most of our 10-man team into one hotel room 'cause we're all kind of broke -- so, uh, I guess we're all going to get even closer! Hah.
How about a peek into your DeviantArt page? What kind of work would we find there?
Most of the same. Right now at the time of writing this, I do not have a gallery website (I'm working on it!), so DeviantArt serves as my public gallery space. The only art you'll see on my DA is from 2008 onwards and as such is primarily Warcraft-related; however, there are a few bits here and there to serve as exceptions. I often go weeks without updating my DA because I am incredibly forgetful. But it's full of badges, character portraits, chibis, scribbles, things like that.
Some of my favourite portraits I've done have been for roleplayers. It is a pleasure to bring a character to life that someone has such a deep connection with. They can communicate the personality, appearance, and feel of the character they play to such a degree that I'm no longer drawing something from a video game -- I'm creating concept work of someones much-loved protagonist.
What else do you do to pay the bills? Or where else might we find your artwork?
Aside from work for the ZAM Network and the annual BlizzCon badges, I do take on the odd open client commission here or there, but less often than I would like. Before everything got busy this year, I was submitting weekly into the Shirt Woot derby by collaborating with Cosplay Py; she would come up with ideas and handle all the logistics of submitting and things like that and I would just draw the designs. We won a couple of times, but it by no means pays the bills.
In that regard, I'm incredibly lucky in the fact that Bryan earns a fairly decent wage being a SQL code wizard and is very supportive of me in my endeavours to draw silly things.
What brought you to the United States from the UK?
Hah! Again, another thing I kind of have to thank my darling husband for. When I lived in Europe, all my friends were in the United States. I didn't know many people locally -- or at least, I didn't know anyone I shared similar gaming and nerdy interests with. In the UK, there aren't a lot of art opportunities (that I knew about or had any hope in), unlike in the USA where there are so very many conventions with artist alleys and specialist schools.
I always had a desire to move to the States to be closer to friends, in a better time zone with my colleagues, and for future prospects. .. I never put much stock into it though. One of those things that, oh, you know, "It would be awesome but it's never going to really happen."
Then I met Bryan at BlizzCon 2010. Things developed swiftly, and we got married at the end of January 2011. Looking back, we were pretty dumb, but it worked out. And so I ended up staying in the States, and I'll tell you this: The immigration process is hard. Really hard. Oh good lord, the stress.
Once we've gotten past BlizzCon and you have a chance to re-open client orders, what type of WoW-related commissions will you take on?
Mostly just character portraits: head shots, partial portraits, full body, with pets, full gear, etc. -- whatever, really. It's up to the clients. I've sold chibi drawings (cute little disproportioned cartoons) of peoples' characters and then more grown-up things in various styles. Solid lines, sketchier things, cell shading, painterly-styled, etc. I've also done a few logos for other people and some shirt designs for BlizzCon folks, like the Cosplay Dinner art.
If you want to know when I AM able to [accept commissions], I'll say so on my DA journal page or Twitter. Or both. Probably both.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.