I thought it would be nice to go through the process that led up to my final piece in this collaboration.
First was choosing from the characters available. I like armor and knights. So I chose Marth. I’m a gamer, but I have never owned a Smash Bros game or played it much since the very first one. Only recently did I really know that Marth was from Fire Emblem. Shout out to Smashley for getting me interested.
So my initial step was to get acquainted with the character. I studied different pictures and versions of Marth and did some doodles which you can see above.
But I didn’t like how my doodles were coming out. I didn’t like the intense anime that made Marth look too effeminate. I don’t have a problem with a feminine looking character, regardless of their gender. However, I didn’t want to bring a simple copy to the table. That’s not what I like in a fanart. I buy art because of the artist’s style and interpretation and this anime style just wasn’t me anymore. So, being true to myself I realized I should approach the character drawing the same way I start my own characters. Not shown here is the idea of picking a head shape, and basic forms in an almost cartoon method. I like to break it down in the way I was shown by my teachers who encouraged that type of viewing and construction to help me learn and move forward as an artist who was previously clueless.
The next step, shown above, was to come up with the pose. Initially, when I chose my tile in the background, I was going to play with that moment when a character is K.O.ed and flying off the edge of the screen. This created another problem, though. It might work in the full picture, but it wasn’t going to stand out or even make sense as a single print on its own (which was my misinterpretation at the time. I still want the single image to use for my own stuff). So now I saw that it would have to be a character feature piece, like a poster. So I watched gameplay videos with the character and familiarized myself with his moves, motions, and powers. Then I drew out thumbnails for poses, thinking through what would fulfill the needs for the unique use of the image. As you scroll down the images, I think it’s clear to see my transforming thoughts.
The pose I decided on seemed powerful, interesting, and held a pretty good silhouette. Then came drawing out the construction sketch. See below.
I purposely left out the facial features and hair. I was intent on adhering to some of the best advice I’ve been told by the numerous teachers from my college life and beyond into podcasts. The advice goes like this:
Work from the general to the specific.
Getting bogged down noodling on a small spot isn’t going to advance the piece. In fact, all that detail work will likely get swallowed up and overlooked by the audience in the end. That goes directly against another golden rule, or piece of advice, which is:
Work smarter, not harder.
As a freelance illustrator, I am working commercially. Therefore, time matters. You have to be smart with your choices, and how you create certain aspects. The overall image matters more than the tiniest of details, especially when designing.
You can also see that I changed the idea of the silhouette to show more of the character, and make him more dynamic and visually interesting. Again, thanks to the golden rules of my personal process.
Next, I took my construction onto my lightbox and filled in some detail and thoughts. Then it was on to the scanner and into photoshop. There I began adjusting and completing the rest of the underdrawing. Hence the two colors seen above. Animation blue and red!
Initial lineart came next. Digital tools are great because you can flip the image back and forth to ensure it is balanced and that the anatomy is correct. As an artist, you can get so used to seeing your work, that it looks fine. But anyone in the audience might feel off about it, but not know why. It’s the anatomy and the balance. You can avoid a lot of that frustration by flipping the image. It looks perfect one way, but then you flip it and the odd parts stick right out. A mirror image is new enough that your brain absorbs it as a brand new image, not the one you’ve been staring at for hours already and have memorized. Speaking of mirror images, you can do this with your traditional art by using a mirror. Hold your image up to a mirror and the same will become apparent. If you’re really in a bind, hold your work up to a light and look at it from the back. I feel that digital tools are the easiest way to take advantage of this phenomena.
As for the lines. I know this doesn’t have to be the final image. I know what’s needed to polish it in the end. So to get past the nerves, I just throw down my lines to get started. I’m still thinking through problems as I go.
A few versions later, I’m beginning to tidy up the lines. I’ve also cut pieces and adjusted the sizing, making the head fit properly for the size of the limbs and issues like that. I am still problem-solving the cape as well. You can also see that I’ve decided to go with different costume parts. The tails of his tabard were messing with the silhouette and became too cumbersome, taking away from the effectiveness of the image.
The boots also came off as ridiculously overstyled. Not so much for the style of his genre, but for my style, which is a little more western by influence, it was. The wrapped material and the metal plate over the arch of his feet was just going to confuse a viewer. We see humanoids and we want to look at the face. All that detail on the boots was a distraction. In my mind, delicate embellishments could achieve just as much for what I wanted to convey.
And here’s the final lineart. Some adjustments were made in the next process of coloring, but this is mostly it. That’s it for today. Next time I’ll go through some of the steps of the painting process to add color to get to the final image.