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Emperor of the Taghali Forest

It had been a long time since I entered a 'Character of the Week' contest on I had just recently finished my internship at SIXMOREVODKA and I wanted to test out what skills and techniques I had picked up to see if there had been a noticeable improvement.

This contests topic was to create an Elvish emperor, one who could be seen as both a beloved ruler, but one that could also have whispers of dictatorship. I had originally started wanting to create a more regal looking emperor, but as I drew more I realized how I actually liked the idea of a power hungry warring elf who was willing to crush his enemies mercilessly. And so I started looking more into barbarians and warriors.

It was quite tough trying to marry these two concepts together. A refined ruler, and a bloodthirsty killer. Especially with elvish motifs being so sleek and beautiful. I began looking at the Sylvari of Guild Wars 2 and the Wood elves of Tolkien. I wanted him to look feral and animalistic, and so things like  the horns became prominent due to their imposing nature and regal look.

Once I had a design I liked I began tweaking it somewhat, in order to determine that I had the right combination of items to have the blend of motifs I was looking for. It was also here where I began having to really consider the details of things. And it was one of the earlier face sketches I really had to focus on. I wanted something odd, but not too far from human to look odd. With some more research into Fae and Satyrs I defined his face as somewhat goat-like with a protruding forehead.

Now it was time to line art the design and really nail the idea I had. During this I'll also explain a process I was taught more of during my time at SIXMOREVODKA. See, in order to keep objects clean initially, it's a good idea to have each material, or group of objects (depending on your preference) separated into their own layers. Below you can see more starting to block out the line art with a bright colour, so as to distinguish the edges easily from the line art.

You then separate the materials. Here I show which metals I'd like to have their own layers and use masks to do this non-destructively.

And here is a look at the version of the elf after I have finished my blocking. As you can see, objects like the hair have no such blocking, mostly due to the translucent nature of such objects. With this done I can now begin my value pass.

I think it's important to say that this stage of the process does not have to be perfect. It's important to have the general idea of what you're trying to achieve. But I've personally found that trying to create a perfect value image can often cause time delays and rendering issues. This is mostly due to the fact that there will be a lot of additional lighting and colouring going into the later processes. You may not know what exact colours you want, and these experimentations will naturally result in different values. And the additional lighting can easily create an over/under-exposed image.

This is something I am still learning today, and if you look back further into my old work you will find striking examples of when lighting and colours have gone wrong. And it's usually at this stage that mistakes were made.

Suffice it to say, it is probably best to have a reasonable idea of what you want before you dive in. Really consider it, but in the end adjustments will be made. So try not to get caught up in making it perfect either.

 Now it's time to splash on the colours. I will admit that I had originally intended this to have a more autumn-y colour scheme, with more oranges and browns. But upon re-reading the brief I found that green was supposed to be this characters primary colour. (Let this be a lesson! Always re-read the brief!)

 With the clean copy of this character down now it's time to start making adjustments, adding dirt etc. You'll notice how the lower half of this character suddenly becomes darker in an attempt to draw the viewers eyes toward the focal area of the head.

This is double-y important for this design in particular, as the metal waist designs create arrows that tell the viewer to look down. Originally this caused a lot of distraction to the eye and I decided to wash it out as much as I could without impacting the design to focus the eye.

And finally I showed this to a few people to get their opinions. You can find yourself either seeing things no one else can see, or blind to issues if you have been looking at a painting of your own for too long. So if you have someone available, always try to get a fresh pair of eyes onto your painting, they will see things you will not. In this case it was the height of his left leg, and the fragility of the antler crown attaching to his head.

With these issues fixed we now just throw in some last lighting and detail effects and call it done. I present the Emperor of the Taghali Forest.


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