Gently, firmly, his hands curled around her trembling figure. Her heart fluttered in the semblance of a dozen frightened birds, and however tightly he held, it failed to ease the aching desire she had to collapse at the closeness - and the reality - of him.
“My little seraph,” he crooned, and her eyes broke to shed water upon her cheeks. “how
tremulous you are.”
“It’s you,” she managed, her voice timorous and uncertain.
“It’s me,” he answered, pressing long fingers into her face and along the delicate coils of dark hair. The bow of his lips dipped to tease along her temple, and paused there to whisper into the ticked ear that mirrored his own. His words, though his breath was hot against her cool skin, chilled her until she shivered in the cage of his arms. “Your father."
This illustration was created for my personal story, Eislyn. The story tells the tragic tale of Eislyn (formerly named Eiko), who was a character that I roleplayed many years ago (between the ages of 13-21).
In the image, she comes face-to-face with her father, who previously had been nothing but a ghost of shadow that haunted and frightened her. It was inspired by a drawing I did when I was 16 of the same two characters.
I tried to stay true to the original, but decided to change the color of the outfit from
blue to red because I felt it looked better. I also wanted to bring her
closer in to have the feeling like she's caged in her father's arms,
and the wings aren't there to protect her, but rather, to claim her.
In the original image, she also looks more afraid than in the new
rendition. At first, I played with giving her a similar expression, but
storywise, I like it better to have her oblivious to any danger. She's
tentative and wary, but also drawn in.
For fun, I put together a .gif of my painting process :)
It's taken me about a month on and off (This month has been pretty busy with client work), and was a real challenging piece for me. This year, I've realized how important it is for me to find elements that I struggle with and apply them to current and future paintings. In this one, I wanted to focus on storytelling, lighting, composition, and perspective.
You can see in this initial sketch, I really liked the idea of a woman warrior looking down at a dragon who is climbing up a cliff or castle ruins. I initially wanted it to be castle ruins built into a mountain side, but even after looking at a lot of reference photos, I found it very difficult to get the perspective right.
My dragon, in the beginning, was meant to be much more like a lizard
rather than a typical high-fantasy dragon. I wanted it to look a bit
cute and curious, peeking upwards to see the commotion that this woman
was causing. As I started working on it, I figured that the idea wasn't
going to be communicated clearly to my audience.
I almost nearly scrapped the painting at this point. I was so frustrated with my lack of ability in drawing dragons, perspective, rocky cliffs, etc, that I wanted to just give up and work on something I felt more comfortable with. However, my boyfriend saw some potential and somehow convinced me to keep trying with it. That weekend, I put on some favorite music and just splattered some color and changes to the painting without following any perspective rules or guidelines.
Suddenly, I felt an emotional connection to the piece that wasn't there before. I felt like I had something a little more dynamic to work with. The story at this point developed, which changed the curious dragon to a more threatening one, who is dangling/climbing up the rocky cliff to snarl at the Lancer, all-the-while protecting a small nest of eggs hidden behind a waterfall.
I didn't know whether or not I wanted the dragon to have wings. On one hand, I liked the idea of not having wings because it kept with my original vision of a more lizard-like dragon... while the thought of having wings felt like it would make it visually more clear that it was a dragon. I consulted with my boyfriend who agreed that yes... yes, I should definitely have wings.
The next steps were trying to figure out how to fit those darn wings into the painting. NOTHING I did looked good. My dragon anatomy is so inept and unforgiving that even through doing some studies (that I, to be honest, didn't spend much time on), I couldn't get them to flow right with the composition or look accurate.
Here is one of the attempts I made (there were too many to count). In the end, I really liked this pose, but decided not to go with it because of how unbalanced it made me feel in the composition. I loved how the wings were dynamic and pointing towards the character, but it made the left side of the painting feel very heavy and a bit... like it was too much. I also didn't like the wings covering up so much of the arms and legs of the dragon.
I still don't feel that I picked the best solution for the wings, but I felt that I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and that I just needed to pick something and move on from it. After all, I didn't really expect to be able to paint a perfect dragon my very first time. There will be other opportunities!
I've been wanting to update my portfolio website with new character art that reflects my current skills (most of the stuff I have right now a couple of years old). My goal is to challenge myself with each new character; I would really like to make sure that I attempt to paint something that I've either struggled with in the past, or have never attempted at all. I also want to try and do something inventive with each one. I have a lot of strange and bizarre dreams, but I often don't incorporate them into my paintings. I think if there was at least 1 unique thing about a character design, it would help pull them out of general stereotypes or designs that have been overdone.
With this Seer, I wanted to take an angelic-being concept that I have done in the past and create another ranking. The first one I did a few years ago was in a painting called "Summoning Dusk", where the Seer is basically on field duty and transforming day into night. The second concepts I created were of a higher ranking - Seraphs. Instead of 1 pair of wings, they had 6, and wore decorative head pieces that covered their eyes so that they may focus their mental abilities to predict & change time and fate.
This current Seer is a leader. I knew I didn't want her to have wings because she is meant to stay stationed and Sees through 3 faces (the 3rd isn't depicted in the image). She has the ability to conjure planets and galaxies to determine the fate of all through time and space.
You can see the 3 versions in this image:
1 ) For the creation of the Seer, I started with some pretty rough thumbnail sketches. I tried several poses (which I didn't save), but settled on this one because there was something I liked about the pose and the flow of her dress.
2 ) I chose the dress design that I thought fit best. I really grew attached to the three cloth pieces covering her chest; I thought it reflected the 3 faces that she has (although I am now wishing I had painted a third).
3 ) I began rendering out the sketch in black & white, making sure I had a good idea of my value's before pursuing color.
4 ) The finished version. There was some steps in between that I saved which I may post later. I tend to feel exhausted after finishing any painting, and digging through steps to put them altogether often comes at a later time. :)
This entry was really postponed for a while. I had meant to sit down and take the time to put it all together about a week after finishing my latest artwork, "The Storyteller." However, I think it burned me out because I spent months on this painting (on and off) - which is not something I'm particularly proud of admitting! I would go through days of loving it, taking a few days off, and coming back and redoing everything. I was never satisfied with the direction it was going.
I struggled a lot with it.
The main issues I had were 1) Perspective, 2) Lots of characters, and 3) Texture. Lighting was also a very important factor that I wanted to get right, but I didn't seem to have as hard of a time with it as the other three. Working on this taught me a lot of the things that I need to personally work on. Looking at it now from a critical standpoint, I wish I had chosen a more dynamic perspective with maybe the Storyteller looming above the horizon line and the audience scattered around.
I'm still very happy with how it turned out!
I've never challenged myself to this extent before, and I knew that I wasn't going to give up on it without a long and frustrating battle. It was too important because I wanted it to be the introductory illustration to a personal story that I'm writing.
All that being said, I would very much love to share the process it took to get to the finished piece.
My original sketch. I knew I wanted a circular fountain, some sort of town square or courtyard, a bunch of onlookers (mainly children), and the lute.
I started putting in some values to understand my composition a bit better.
I wanted it to feel cheerful and inviting.
My first attempt with color. You'll notice that I changed the steeple in the background to something resembling a castle. I also tried to control the composition a bit by adding the building on the right, hoping that the angle would draw your eye inwards. Yeah, I need to improve at storytelling with composition. (cringe)
Still trying to figure out the background and the colors.
After several unsatisfied attempts at the background, I finally settled on these colors and this layout. I felt that it looked bright and soft, which is the look I was aiming for.
While trying to render the buildings in the background, I became increasingly frustrated with the perspective. Something was just not right. Sighing to myself, I opened a free 3D program and used the little modeling knowledge I had to craft together a proper fountain and a background town. I would use this as the base for my illustration.
Starting to paint over the models and figuring out the look and expression of the characters. I tried to diversify them a bit - keeping them in the realm of fantasy.
There were many hours spent rendering and listening to music at this point.
Playing with lighting!
This was the last step before the final. Everything was pretty much how I wanted it. The only thing missing from this were some more tweaks to the lighting and adding in subtle texture.
Phew. Thanks for sticking with this!
Lastly, I've included a couple of closeups of the key characters.