Aellas was a wood elf that was orphaned when a band of orcs murdered his family. They were crafstmen who thus worshipped Gond. He was found by a human military officer and then grew up amongst them. There he developed immense skill as a warrior, eventually favoring the bow, and grew immensely strong bonds with his fellow soldiers. After being asked to betray his troop of scouts he fled into the wilderness where he acts as a chaotic source of good for those in need.
He’s a wood elf raised by humans, so there isn’t much justification for any stereotypical wood elf-styled fashion. Though when someone chooses their player’s race it’s safe to assume they imagine that character embodying aspects of that character beyond, well, their body. There are certain expectations. Thankfully, being military, being an archer, and being a scout and someone who’s trying to hide he luckily landed in the appropriate green and brown section of the color wheel. A great way to bring the two back together without betraying the character.
Part of the description included long-obeyed grooming and maintenance rituals still being in effect. He polishes his boots and shaves every day. With this in mind he’s clean-shaven (though while cleaner than I’d prefer in a medieval setting, I could find no reference to wood elves having beards) with a short-cropped military style hair cut, and his officer boots, while old and well-worn, are kept fairly well. They’ve been in his service for possible many, many decades, so even though they might be falling apart they can at least be smooth and cared for.
He has asymmetrical leather armor with a sash pattern down his chest. I imagine it would be comfortable armor for an archer but would also look proper when covered in medals and a fruit salad. The slab of leather on his one side is meant to serve as an impact-dampening curtain to reduce the damage from enemy arrows. It would also help him in his role as scout as it would serve in silhouette disruption, bettering his camouflage.
The cravat is meant to be more than just practical. A high collar helps someone look more mature and proper, and the cable-knit look rarely works for villains.
While wood elves can live past 700 years old, it can be difficult to find an appropriate way to display maturity or age on their faces. At 250 years old, Aellas has seen some time but he’s still got a long way to go. There needs to be some age to the face, at least for the viewer’s sake, So rather than age lines I gave him deep-set check wrinkles and heavier eye-lids as if he’s weary of the world. Crows feet, bags under the eyes and obvious nasolabial folds, while very common in real life, would add too much age in the wrong way. Any detail you add to an illustration is enhanced by its very existence in the image. Any detail that’s included is there for a reason and is seen as a declaration of something. So be careful with what details you add. As a way to help add age and time to him without mucking up his face I added rust to his chainmail. I’d hope that it speaks to him being both outdoors and outdoors for a long, long time.
His fingers are in a little bit of rough shape. Cold hands turning pink and a bandage on one finger and a bruised thumb. The damage was there as a note of his family history as a craftsman. I’ve known a lot of engineers and carpenters who would routinely have been dark blood blisters under their fingernails. He might be from a family of elven craftsmen but he left them too young to be too proficient. I also imagined him making his own bows out in the woods. Something he’d be fairly good at, and he’d be willing to lose his bow and make another one, either from over-use or in combat.
His arrows all have different flights. This was done because I imagine him making arrows of whatever he can find, or them being specialized based on the flights. I don’t know if archers ever think this way or if it’s valid at all but I thought it could be interesting. At the very least it gave me the idea for varying arrows. They could also be plucked from the quivers of fallen enemies.
His sword was discovered and may still have more adventures to get him into and out of.
15 minute painting video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPIu6z…
60 minute painting video with commentary: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmCXSA…
Zook is a forest gnome bersker. He was raised by a family of humans and was teased growing up. He fell into the wrong crowd and later realized he was becoming exactly like the sort of people who hurt him as a boy. He broke off on his own, ebbing towards his softer side and enjoying helping others. While still a vigilante of sorts he values lending his habits to the forces of good over the alternatives.
His weapons of choice are the snapped-off ends of spears which he uses like downward-facing daggers. On his hips are some actual daggers with a gnomishly flowery motif. Being raised by humans I doubt he would deviate much from the customs of his family, but it’s nice to include those sorts of details. When people create gnome characters they’re often thinking of them as being gnomish.
He’s described as wearing simple, studded leather armor, but since he is quite small and frail, being a gnome, it’s left loose and open with many strips and spikes, something that would give visual mass and motion and make him more intimidating in combat. He jumps up on people and stabs them and I think having more moving parts on him than just his limbs would make it less clear what’s a limb to grab, and therefore stop some of the stabbing, or a flap of leather. As a berserker there’s a lot to say for the value of high energy movement. Going along with the foresty theme, as well as his literal nature of being a little thing that climbs larger things I gave him some lumberjack-style ankle spikes. They’re used for quickly and reliably scaling trees and I thought something like that would be a great help to Zook.
His pants have reinforced knees because I picture him being very active. Someone more regal or formal would likely have simpler knees since they’re not getting scuffed about. But I also included some vent holes for freshness’ sake.
On his face is a woad-like war paint like what the Celts and Picts would wear into battle. It’s there for intimidation and maybe obfuscation but with a name like “The Badger” it just makes sense to daub it on like the distinctive marks on a real badger’s face.
15 minute painting video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft6eEZ…
60 minute painting video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSulgI…
Sir William Amaranth Nigellius, or Amaranth for short, is a goliath who grew up with his mother as the only giants in a human and dwarf city. He was raised inside the temple of Sune and was schooled in the ways of beauty and sensuality. He serves much like a paladin, hating and slaying monsters for being so affronting to his sensibilities.
His armor is allowed to be so skimpy since Amaranth and his allies believe that scars are things of beauty and honor and should be put on display. I felt armor like this would accommodate that opinion. It’s based on 18th century English silverware, I wanted it to be ornate and fancy and expensive looking. More about decoration than protection, with even a dainty little porcelain brooch with a garden scene that I hoped would make it feel even more blatant.
The tutu and leggings are there as a feminine touch, hinting that Amaranth’s visions and ideals of beauty aren’t limited to either gender. I was hoping that the crisscrossing ribbons around his legs would represent the dwarven influence on the fashion of where he’s from, though I’ll freely admit that’s a detail I’d never expect anyone to notice that. It’s simply one of those things that can help you as a concept artist to put your foot down on a design and get things worked out. It’s fitting and it’s based on something about the character. That’s just about all you need!
The handles of his sword wrap around his fingers quite a bit to keep his fingers safe. Scars or not, fingers are sensitive and manicures are easily ruined. Amaranth spends much time grooming himself and being groomed. Which is why I gave him night-on-overly-combed hair.
The handles and grips of his sword are lined with deep red velvet, along with his armor. I figured if he’s going to be wearing them, and with apparently nothing underneath, they should at least be easy on his skin, if not also pleasureable.
On his hip he carries a religious symbol of Sun: a golden mirror, always at the ready.His proportions were fun to do. One of the reasons why I’ve been wanting to draw a goliath. Not only am I of the opinion that giants (and most other fantasy creatures) look better with long arms, but I think it would be fitting for giant races. I imagine them working well as pendulums while walking, or shifting weight around in combat and maneuvering more easily, but also to get to the ground faster so if they fall they’re won’t hit the floor as hard.
15 minute painting video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_6Rzr…
60 minute painting video with commentary: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc30dD…
Justin’s Shinok the Crucible was a neat character. I rediscovered how much I love drawing reptilian things in the previous week’s character and was relieved I got to do another one again so soon. Though not a conventional dragon-esque race, I felt he still fit in a Fantasy setting fairly well so I was happy to move forward.
My primary concern was the anatomy. Creaturely races are my favorite because of the challenge of resolving their anatomical issues. Shinok was a great opportunity for this because he was really a blend of four different body types: Human, Pterodon, Theropod and Avian.
When incorporating wings it’s best to put at least moderate effort into attaching them. If they have arms that are wings (rather than arms and wings) then you’ve got an easy path laid ahead of you. But if you’ve got all 6 limbs going on it’s going to be a challenge. Once you’ve looked up how a bird’s double-pectorals line up you’ll see what I mean, not to mention the nightmare that is the shoulder blades. Those are hard enough when there’s only two. I fall on the side of “it’s not SUPER critical to get something anatomically accurate”, because unless you’re a zoologist you’re probably never going to get there. I think there’s a lot to be said about lumps and bumps and arrangements of anatomical features on a character that showed you tried being plenty. If the thought is visible then you’ve done your job.
On his wings and feet I gave him shorter fingers. Pterodactyls were more often than not cliff dwellers that would climb up and jump off to glide and they often had short, stumpy little fingers. It just makes it much easier to hang and climb for longer and further that way, so I figured some aspect of that would carry over into his species.
His armor is designed to be flexible and light, so it’s segmented and perforated. It’s really there mostly for stopping slashing attacks. Plus, with it being gold (he is royalty after all) it wouldn’t be as suitable for flying if it was solid.
His race can breath fire, so I gave him vents on the side of his snout for an air-intake. Nostrils might not be big enough, plus it’s a unique look. I have used this design in my professional work so this isn’t the first place it’s been seen but I’ve always been fond of it. And besides, a large creature like, flapping and flying and fighting would need to be able to take in a lot of air.
The rods in the quiver between his legs get heated up and hurled towards his enemies as molten bolts, and his people are talented glass workers because of this ability, so he has little glass beads inlaid in his armor here and there, which was Justin’s idea, and I thought it was a very wise call.
He has golden rune “stones” on his belt in the sacred symbol of his people, the triangle. The runes are done in a cuneiform that his race could write with their talons pushed into clay.
His cape is covered with the weapons of his fallen enemies he’s gathered, but I rolled it up into two ropes and tied it up behind his head so it didn’t interfere with his wings. The feathers act as distinguishing plumage. Like a crown that won’t fall off or weigh him down.
He was a challenging and rewarding character to do. I hope he serves as an encouragement to people with less-than-conventional characters to join in.
For 2016 I'm running a free weekly character art lottery on Twitter. Every Sunday I announce what hashtag to tweet by the end of Monday to enter. Then I'll draw your original fantasy characters free of charge for you and I'll upload 2 videos of the process. One quick 15 minute one, and another a 60 minute version where I talk about the ideas that went into the design, the artistic processes I used and concept art/character design as a whole as it pertains to your character. Come join in!
During the day I'm an art director, concept artist and illustrator living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.