The making of Nayanna Winterlance
So in order to not let my blog gather altogether too much dust, I was struggling what to post.. and then I realized I had never really gone through my creative processes before. I’d post WIPs on Tumblr and Instagram, but not really explained my reasoning behind the steps, or talked about my self-perceived shortcomings and learning points.
So if you’re in the mood for checking out how one of my latest drawings came to be, here’s the WHOLE story. Grab a cup of tea of coffee and get comfortable, because I am about to ramble a bit.
Or just look at the pictures, that’s also fine. 😉
1. Concept – reference gathering, back story, daydreaming
Nayanna Winterlance is a character I cooked up for our Dungeons&Dragons campaign. Considering our party composition at the time I know we needed a tank-y kind of person, so I went for a fighter – and lo and behold, the Eldritch Knight archetype caught my attention. That already gave me quite a bit of inspiration in regards to what kind of a person Nayanna would be, and all I needed to do was to fill in the details about her prior experience as a guard and a military academy student. I added a small twist about her not actually being able to cast magic (since that was the case for a few levels) and her family not being super keen on magic in general.
I wanted to combine the metal and leather-clad fighter with something regal and a tiny bit supernatural to an extent, and so I went on an idea gathering spree. Here is a small outtake of the references I found relevant to my idea of what Nayanna would wear.
While I was going through Pinterest and picking apart various references, I was asking myself: what was practical? Nayanna was, above all, a guard and a protector whose armor needed to be functional and not get in the way on the battlefield. She also needed to wear the colors of her organization, but also have a clear indication of rank and her family allegiance on her person somewhere.
She is also a book worm, so glasses were a must, as was a long, black braid.
Also, while I was working on the concept I realized that this was Nayanna as she was right now – as a level 5 character, who had some experience but not very much, and so wouldn’t have had access to legendary kind of armor just yet. I was just fine with this idea, and knew that this gave me space to further evolve her design as our campaign went along. I figured a lot of it would be based on the same colors I had used, and especially showing her rank and organization was going to be a THING ™ in the future as well… mostly because that’s how she is.
It was time to get down to work! I knew I wanted to emphasize the glasses she had on, as well as her long braid to make her silhouette more recognizable.
In the second batch I started adding separating lines and simply refining the silhouettes further.
3. Inverting silhouettes, adding interesting detailing
4. Choosing my favorites, combining and refining it further
5. Line art, tones, color tests
So I knew I wanted to pose her mostly facing directly at the viewer so I could easily make a back view as well. I wanted the design to have interesting on the back of her jacket as well.
Initially I wanted to include the coattail type element, but ended up leaving it out as it had no logical place to be. I also added introductory tones to get an idea for the contrast between the different elements in her armor.
I knew I wanted Nayanna to have black hair and blue eyes, so I definitely wanted the jacket to accentuate that.
The blue one called out to me the most, but I knew I had to tone down the silver – otherwise she would totally look like Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist!
After the rough colors were done, it was time for me to start properly painting!
I began my process in Corel Painter and had a real blast learning how to deal with metal. Later on I swapped to Photoshop for more detailed work, as I had difficulties getting the kind of look I wanted for the leather. I popped back and forth a few times depending what kind of effect I was going for. Organic blending with its own mind happened in Painter, pixel-nudgery in Photoshop. I took my time, looking up reference for the different materials, and simply having fun in the process! While painting I also worked to correct some errors I discovered – like the hands being too small, and the design of the leg plates – and kept going at it until I was satisfied.
This piece has been worth every hour I poured into it. I am so happy with it, and find myself coming back to stare at it regularly. Especially now that it is the main piece of my portfolio, I am really happy with how I am advancing and learning things as an artist.