A very special interview with cosplayer Sketch Mc-Draw, this year’s UK ECG Solo representative. Sketch chats to LoEc about prop making and his plans for the ECG Finals in July.
How did you first become involved with cosplay?
I never knew what cosplay was up until summer 2010 when one of my friends told me all about it and invited me to go to the London October MCM Expo with her and some friends. I chose to go as Zack Fair from ‘Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core’ as I was playing the game a lot at the time and always wanted an excuse to make the Bustersword since I played the original FFVII game as a young teen.
When you’re not cosplaying or at a convention, what can we find you doing?
You’ll usually find me listening to music, reading comics, playing video games, and tinkering away making something either cosplay or prop related.
What is your favourite cosplay and why?
I don’t know really to be honest, I’d say at the moment it’s my ‘Kuma’ costume from the anime ‘Afro Samurai’ as it was the first non-Final Fantasy costume I had done and it was quite a challenge to build. It was the first time I had made a full set of armour as well as using electronics in a costume, I had to wire up a small pin-hole camera to a 3inch screen with 2 Lithium Polymer batteries to power them and install it all inside the head so I could see whilst wearing the head (although it didn’t allow for a wide field of vision and played havoc with my depth perception haha).
What inspires you to choose your next cosplay?
For me it’s a mixture of things, the main one is my love for the character and the role they play in their universe (I kind of have a thing for the ‘damaged’ anti-hero type at the moment haha), the look of their costume as well as their props/weapons is another factor when it comes to deciding as I want to challenge and push myself to do something that I haven’t done before.
How did you feel when you were selected as a UK representative for ECG? Did you do anything to celebrate?
I was a bit taken back to be honest as I wasn’t really expecting it, I didn’t really do much to celebrate afterwards – just went to a bar with a mate and my girlfriend and got some food. Half way through the meal is when it really sunk in and hit me haha.
Who are you cosplaying for Japan Expo in July?
For the ECG Finals I’ll be cosplaying as Raziel from the game ‘Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver’. I fell in love with the character back when the game first came out in 1999 (I know – I’m old), I just loved how he looked and spoke, along with story in the game.
What was the most challenging part of this cosplay to make?
Oh that’s a hard one, I’m still in the process of making it. I’d say the most challenging part of Raziel so far has been making the Soul Reaver sword in its wraith form. In the game it’s a beam of light/energy with a coil of energy that wraps around it so has no real shape or texture, so I based mine on the official action figure version as it has shape and texture and sculpted mine from blue styrene skewered onto a long wooden pole and covered the whole thing in hot glue gun to give it the texture needed which took ages to do, then made a silicone jacket mould of both sides and made a cast of both sides using fibreglass and clear cast resin. Unfortunately the moulding didn’t quite go right so both sides of the Reaver don’t match up correctly so I’m going to have to be creative when it comes to hiding the seam lines after I’ve wired up all the LED’s and place then inside.
How are you feeling about the finals approaching in July?
I’m feeling really excited and a bit nervous at the same time haha
What are you most looking forward to about Japan Expo?
I’m really looking forward to the experience of going to a European Con and seeing how different it is from the UK Con scene, as well as finally getting to meet all the other ECG Finalists and seeing what they have all come up with, and the after party!
Your speciality is prop making, what was the first prop you ever made and what was the outcome?
My first cosplay based prop was the ‘FFVII:Crisis Core’ Bustersword for my Zack cosplay – I took me a whole month to make, it was a fun make though I did make a few mistakes that meant I had to redo a few parts. Though I did end up spending about £100 collectively on materials, it came out really well and though I know now much more about prop making and could build a better one for less money, I’m still pretty proud of it and have it in my possession.
You are currently studying prop making at university, what is the best bit about the course and how has it helped to improve your cosplays?
The best bit about the course is how much I’ve learnt over the past two years, such as mould making, wood work and welding. Learning all these things has vastly improved my cosplay skills as I now have a much wider understanding of techniques and materials, and being able to freely use the workshop and power tools in my own time means that I have been able to create much larger costumes and props that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do at home.
What advice would you give a cosplayer wanting to make their first prop?
I’d say one of the important things to think about when making a prop is what is its ‘overall’ function. If you’re making a simple sword for posing with in pictures then you can make it out of a piece of wood such as MDF, but if it has to be used as part of a duel for a performance then you’ll need to make it out of some sort of foam with a rigid core inside such as PVC piping. The Props function will usually dictate what materials you’ll end up using and how it’s constructed.
You study prop making, have your own commissions site and have won cosplay awards but do you see cosplay as a professional career or as a hobby?
I see cosplay as both – ultimately for me it is my hobby, but it has allowed me to create costumes and props that I’ve used to help build up my portfolio, and has helped to get my work noticed as well and helping to build up a reputation for creating good quality prop commissions. I’m planning on working in the film Industry for several years to learn more and make contacts before setting up my own prop company.
What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a professional career through there cosplay talents?
To help build up a good portfolio I’d recommend doing commissions as it will help give you more experience particularly with tools and materials you may not be overly familiar with. It also helps get your name out there and gain experience with customers and what they expect while also teaching you how to fairly price up your work.
What changes have you seen in the cosplay community over the years you have been participating?
When I first got into cosplay everything was bright and magical, though after a while I started to notice some of the politics involved behind the scenes and the elitism/drama that takes place and it has saddened me a little. But with that being said, most cosplayers are lovely, kind and fun people who help each other and help promote the cosplay community in a positive light, and I feel that this has made it more accessible to a much wider range of people.
Photo credits Kuma Afro Samurai – Trinity Wisdom Studios Cloud – Cosplay Portrait, Squall Leonhart Nathan Toper Photography Kumo and Fem Captain America Tolga Akmen Squall Leonheart Natini Art Cloud Baka Photography