Category: character design

SKETCH DIARY: Tsu-Yin

I’m excited to share this character portrait of Tsu-Yin Aasha Hou Kapoor, She Who Knows Ten Thousand Things.  Daughter of high-born sorceresses and chosen of the Unconquered Sun, Tsu-Yin left a life of comfort to pursue epic adventures and a grand destiny as a Solar of the Twilight Caste!

She’s from the same tabletop roleplaying game as my character, Kalara, if you all recall meeting my gunslinging businesslady earlier this year.  Exalted is such a fun game full of amazing Eastern-inspired imagery and epic level action!

For Tsu-Yin, my brainstorming began with the many beautiful references of Indian clothing and character drawing references provided by Tsu-Yin’s creator, Minis-sketchbook.

Mood Board

mood-board-tsu-yin

Tsu-Yin’s mood board on Pinterest.

Tsu-Yin was described as excitable and energetic.  She comes from a life of comfort and is finally able to see the world for herself.  She’s also a martial artist with a snake-inspired style as well as a sorceress.  I knew from her concept I wanted a friendly and optimistic pose, something more energetic than whimsical. 

Gesture Sketches

Brainstorming began with a sheet of gesture sketches to help me discover Tsu-Yin’s personality through pose.  Finding a good compromise between energetic and aesthetically pleasing was pretty challenging!  None of my initial poses really fit her perfectly. 

ten-thousand-things-gesture Read more

SKETCH DIARY: Lady of February Part 2

Last Sketch Diary, I talked about the research and design process.  Now, I’m diving into all the lovely details that make up the character and the mythos around her.

Before I could move on with this piece, I had to make a decision about the pose.  I ended up choosing pose 3 because I like the playfulness of it.  The other poses were too assertive or too tragic looking when February is meant to be more welcoming and playful.  The subtle smile really sold me on this pose too.

With the pose figured out, my next big decisions involved sorting out the character and her setting.  From the start, I knew I wanted to have clootie (hanging prayer cloths), a sacred well, and the beeswax candles, all which harken back to some of the most provocative imagery of February, mainly with saint and goddess Brigid and sacraments of purification involving the beeswax candles.  February also clutches an arrow representative of Cupid’s Arrow and the season of love.

I had already established a common element of corset, head garland, and dress with the past Ladies.  The corset, especially, is a nice area to include the birthflower element or other symbolic element.  I’ve also included a candle crown much like Lady of December‘s, but February’s candles have burned down to represent the end of Winter.  Her crown is also flowering, representing the presence of Spring.  With all of this in mind, I did some sketching in my croquis sketchbook first:

feb-fashion
Pen and marker on a croquis template.

With these basic costumes in mind, I blocked them in quickly in Photoshop and also explored more wardrobe combinations by cutting elements from each outfit and combining them.

Next, I block in the shape of the flowers at the bottom to make sure they work with the elements of the composition.  This also helps me make a final decision about which outfit to go with, since I can see how all the elements work together to fill up the space.  I don’t want it to be too busy, which is very easy to do in such a narrow space.

lady-of-feb-composition

The arrangement on the right is my winner because it allows for some of the background elements (ie. the well, more of the candles) to be shown more clearly.  With my major design decisions settled, it’s time to move on to refinement!

Next: Reference gathering, detail refinement, and color testing!

REMINDER!  Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order Limited Edition prints of Lady of February via Patreon!
Other Rewards include process tutorials, coloring book pages, etc.  Check it out!

Homework: Concept Art Starter Kit – Design Basics

I’ve recently started up CtrlPaint’s Concept Art Starter Kit with artist, Matt Kohr, as a way to brush up my own character design skills.  While I’m not quite going into Concept Art as a profession (yet?), I still think the basic skills will improve my artist’s eye, overall.  Plus, it’s just tons of fun designing characters for my own personal projects!

Since I’m coming mainly from an illustrator’s background, I felt like I needed to start at level 0.  I’ve read a lot of tutorials on concept design, but almost all of them assumed prior knowledge of industry jargon and familiarity.  It’s been refreshing to see something that starts off very simple with tons of visual examples.  The videos thus far are more lecture with examples than they are technique, but that’s just what I wanted and needed at this point. (Expect a review of the course kit over at The Muse’s Library once I’ve completed it!)

Shape Design covers the fundamentals of interpreting shape language and image recognition.  I tried out the suggested exercise of taking reference photos and not merely copying what I see, but trying to get a better idea about how the subject works via closer study and contouring.  The cat on the bottom right corner was drawn from memory after my studies were complete.

Exercise - Reference Studies

While this method does take longer, I think Kohr’s on to something with this more scientific approach, as I seemed to retain more info this way.  Admittedly, I’m used to copying and pasting references to get my final art done quicker.  Creating more in-depth studies is a good habit I need to get back into!

Next, I tried another suggested exercise where I took what I learned from doing my studies and drew a ‘good’ version and an ‘evil’ version of the same animal from memory using no reference.  Can you tell which one is which?

Exercise - Good vs Bad

If you guessed evil for the cat on the left and good for the cat on the right, I have succeeded!

For the evil cat, I went with the ‘modern’ body style of Siamese cat, which is sleeker and more pointed than the rounded ‘classical’ body style I used for the cat on the right.  I also made intentional choices to give the evil cat claws, pointed ears, pointed eyes, and to be showing his teeth while good cat is softer with rounded eyes and an overlarge head.  Both were drawn from memory based on what I’ve retained from my studies.

I’m looking forward to the next lesson!  Delving into the psychology of shape is utterly fascinating to me.  I think most of us understand this language instinctively, but learning how to purposefully implement it in our art can bring it to a whole other level.

Next Lesson: Design Basics 2

Sketch Diary – Monster Girl Spider

Inspiration

Jorogumo Illustration by Matthew Meyer
Jorōgumo Illustration by Matthew Meyer

Today I’ll be talking about how I created Spider for the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge.  For my version of spider, I went with a Japanese inspired Jorōgumo.

The Jorōgumo is a mythological creature from Japanese folklore which was known for luring virile young men to their lairs, charming them with food and music, then binding them up in their webbing so they could devour them.

Jorōgumo means “binding bride” or “whore spider”, but is also a word which refers to a particular species of golden orb weaver spiders in Japan.  For more info on this fascinating folklore, check out www.yokai.com

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.

Concept Inspiration

I took a lot of visual inspiration from the golden orb weaver (nephila clavata) of Japan.  My Spider has many of the same markings as decorative designs on her kimono and her color palette echoes the spider’s.  Her kimono is also inspired by a bride’s as a nod to the “binding bride” namesake.

References

A selection from my references. I had many more of the spider from multiple angles, but I’ll save you the nightmare fodder!

References for Spider
References for Spider

 


Process

Phase 1 – I doodled a rough sketch in turquoise to make it easier to see when I inked on top.Phase 1 Spider


Phase 2 – Line art created with a hard round brush.

Phase 2 Spider


Phase 3 – I laid in flat colors using the selection magic wand to select areas and Edit>Fill.

Phase 3 Spider


Phase 4 – A shadow layer set to Multiply was created that was clipped as a mask to the entire Group of colors.

Phase 4 Spider

 


Phase 5 – A final touch of highlights was added with white. The highlight layer set to Overlay.

Phase 5 Spider


Animated process GIF.
You can also watch a sped up time lapse video of the process here.

Animated Process GIF - Spider

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image plus a downloadable PSD of the image, Pledge $10 and up on my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!  You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the extra art goodies you would by purchasing via Patreon.

You can watch a preview of the narrated tutorial here: