playing with Japanese woodblock inspiration

I remember the first time I saw a Japanese woodblock print in person. I was 12 years old, and it's the first time I remember really loving a work of art. Pictures had always been interesting to me, but that was the first time I remember being completely enamored with something. 
From that point on, I soaked in Japanese art and it's been making appearances in my style ever since. 

I had an idea awhile ago for a series of "animal warriors", which was going to be a series of paintings depicting animals as warriors from throughout history. I love military history, and I just thought it would be a fun project. But I dismissed it as too silly, and forgot about it until the other day when I realized that I've been doodling my way through a small collection of fury fighters for the last couple months. 

Here's a Japanese inspired fellow I put together today. 

Thought I'd share some of the process here:

Step one, I found this online this morning, and loved it. I tried to find out who did it and when, but no luck. I loved the gesture and the costume though, and thought it might be fun to try and translate it into my own image.

After a few doodles on tracing paper to get used to the shapes, I did this sketch in Photoshop:

As you can see, I stuck to values. I played around with patterns a bit, and designed two different acorn patterns for his shirt and his pants. I love the scalloped pattern on the original, so I stuck with that part. I kept having to remind myself that this is just an exercise and to not get too into it. 
Something I really admire about Japanese art is their control of values. They're insane. I'd like to study them a bit more and hopefully learn something from it. 

After getting it a point that I was happy with, I printed it out, and light boxed it onto a sheet of watercolor paper and set to work. 

Here's what it ended up as:

As you can see, the patterns in the clothes didn't really work out like I had hoped; the painting was just too small to get that intricate. I showed it to a friend/critic and first thing he noticed is that I forgot to include the end of the wakizashi (second smaller sword) poking out from behind his arm.
Drat. Oh well. For me, that's the most frustrating part about doodles. I can spend hours on it, but since I won't be breaking it down over a few days, small details slip past me really easily. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I wish that I had pushed some of the lines further and added a little more flourish to his gesture. His expression isn't quite what I had in mind either, but it was a fun little project. Down the road I may do a bigger one, using this as a guide. 

Anyways. Here's a snippet of what I've been up to lately.