“I prefer the Dire side”: an interview with Diredude

Today we dip into the Dota 2 creative community to find out “who is Diredude?” We know he‘s a Filipino artist who has an undeniably unique style and a limitless imagination when it comes to his illustrations, but who is the man behind the Casual Dota series? Let’s find out!

ESL: Please tell us a little about yourself.
AJ: Heeey! My name's AJ Sarmiento, 23. I took industrial design, and am now working as a game designer. For a fun fact, I can eat and not gain a single pound (more of a curse for me).

ESL: You’re known in the community as Diredude, so you’re clearly a fan of Dota 2! With working and artwork, do you get to play the game much?
AJ: Yeah! Dota's the only game that stuck with me through the years (almost eight years now). When it comes to playing, I always make sure I get to play like two or three games a day, between work and making art. I can’t get through a day without playing XD

ESL: So you've been with the game since Defense of the Ancients - nice! Which heroes do you usually play or are favorites? Any heroes not yet in Dota 2 you're hoping to be able to play soon?
AJ: My favorites are Lone Druid, Venomancer and Brewmaster! As for the unported heroes, back in Dota 1, I've always enjoyed playing Pit Lord, so I can’t wait to get to play him in Dota 2 😀

ESL: I think the community would agree with you there about Pit Lord, and we’ll also be looking forward to your illustration of him as well! Do you mostly illustrate your personal favorites, or lean more towards fulfilling requests or heroes popular in the community?
AJ: I usually tend to draw heroes who I feel like drawing, or when a certain hero gets popular in the community. There's also a lot of people giving really cool requests in my blog, and I tend to draw them too.

A fulfilled request: “Legion in workout clothes. Can you even lift, brah?”

ESL: Are the heroes you feel like drawing geared more towards how much you enjoy playing them or based more off their model?
AJ: Haha! it's a bit of both! Like, I really want to draw Phoenix, but her model isn't a humanoid, so I'll have to pass making a casual version of phoenix (for now) XD Though there are times when people request really cool non-casual stuff, and I'll definitely draw them despite their model!

ESL: Speaking of that, your Casual Dota series captures so much of each hero’s life and personality in such a relatable way. Are there any future ideas for this series your fans can look forward to?
AJ: Yes! First I need to finish all 100+ heroes, though, and I think I’m just halfway there. But when I do get to finish them, I'm thinking of making snippets of comic strips based on the heroes and their casual lore (the guys over at Reddit and Tumblr make the coolest lore for the stuff I draw by the way, and it's hyping me up more to make little comics XD). Also, as a game designer, I also wanna make a small game based on them (based Valve, please allow me XD)!

Example of a little comic inspired by a fan’s request

ESL: You definitely have a lot of work cut out for you, though it must not really seem like work due to your love for the game. Do you also follow the competitive scene? You recently shared a fantastic rOtk and BurNIng piece during TI4. Which other teams and players do you root for?
AJ: Yeah! I've started following the competitive scene since the first International, and I've been following it since. I'm a big fan of Cloud 9 (big SingSing fan!) and DK (big BurNIng fan!), and I really wished for a finals between them both, but after VG beat them both, I had to root for them to win (but they didn't :().

 rOtK/BurNIng homage for TI4

ESL: Did you happen to follow SingSing during his Heroes of Newerth days? Are there any other games you enjoy playing or illustrating?
AJ: I actually just learned about SingSing being from HoN sometime after following him in Dota 2. I never really played much of the other MOBAs - it's always been Dota for me. I find it hard shifting to their gamestyle.

Besides Dota, I really enjoy Nintendo games (especially those on the 3Ds), and I'd draw a whole lot of Nintendo fan art if I got the chance!

ESL: We know your style would fit the Nintendo world perfectly! Could you walk us through your process? What mediums do you use to create your work?
AJ: Usually my thought process begins with whole lot of scribbling, while thinking of the theme of my piece. Like, while I was drawing my rOtK piece, I had to go through a whole lot of poses and positions before I got to that, and while scribbling I felt the whole burning-rotk thing seemed like an anime scene, so I went on finishing my piece that way.

As for mediums, I usually scribble a lot with a ballpoint pen on paper, then after I’m happy with the draft, I jump straight to the computer to finish it up there. I use a pen tablet and Photoshop to finish my draft 8D

ESL: We wondered what some of your inspirations were! So anime is definitely one of them. What are some other inspirations of yours?
AJ: Yeah, anime is definitely a source of inspiration! Other than that, the whole Dota community is a huge inspiration to me, as well as the Dota 2 artist community! Before I started making my blog, I followed a whole lot of them on Tumblr, and if not for them, I wouldn't be inspired to make art for the community, too. You can say I'm also creatively inspired by them, as they all have cool different styles that I want to emulate and adapt into my own.

Three pieces inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender

ESL: You've definitely joined a fantastic community of artists. Are there any in particular that you were especially drawn to?
AJ: Before starting my blog, I was a big fan of fwosh's and 99hunters art, because they’re witty and they add their own flavor to the art. So that inspired me to start my blog! Then after getting into the art community, I made a lot more of artists friends like cottonwings and shelzie, to name a few, and they, too, have their own cool, unique styles that I'm really drawn too! Shout out to them! Check out their art too! 😀

  • fwosh: http://fwosh.tumblr.com/
  • 99hunters: http://99hunters.tumblr.com/
  • cottonwings: http://cottonwings.tumblr.com/
  • shelzie: http://shelzie.tumblr.com/

ESL: We’ll definitely check them out! Going back to your work, though, which of your pieces do you like the most? Maybe there’s a story behind their creation that makes them your favorite?
AJ: Personally, I like the Templar Assassin, Luna, and Witch Doctor! The story behind WD is that, basically, the community associated WD with dubstep, every time he casts his ultimate. So with that, I decided to draw him casually looking like a familiar DJ. It stands as one of my faves until now XD

The story behind the Luna one is simple - drawing turned out better than expected, and I liked it ever since!

As for Templar Assassin, I think it's the outwork that propelled this series forward! I remember someone posting my stuff for the first time on Reddit, and people really loved the Templar Assassin one, so that piece means a whole lot to me.

Luna and Templar Assassin

ESL: A lot of people recognize your work from /r/dota2, and you also have a Tumblr account. Where else can we find the most recent updates of your work?
AJ: Besides Tumblr (http://diredude.tumblr.com), I also have a Twitter (@diredude) and an Instagram (instagram.com/ajsrmnto), though, I usually mix my art with random things in my Instagram XD

ESL: Fantastic! Thanks for sharing your time with us! You mentioned before other artists in the Dota 2 community we should check out - do you have any other shoutouts?
AJ: Thank you, too! 8D Shoutouts to my awesome friends and inspirations from Tumblr (mentioned earlier, fwosh,99hunters, shelzie and cottonwings)! Continue making cool artwork so more artists can get inspired, and they, too, can share their art with the community! 😀

ESL: Thanks again - we look forward to your future updates!


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