This image is the design of a Role-Playing character; a Warrior Wizard. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, "Role-Playing character”, a Role-Playing character is a character in a game with which the participant assumes the roles of the character and collaboratively creates stories. Participants determine the actions of their characters based upon their characterisation, and the actions either succeed or fail, according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Normally it is a great help if you can work out the mood of your character, using images that can describe it. In this case, the character will not be animated or modelled in 3D, and so it is simply a couple of images to physically describe the character and his personality.
The concept of this old man is a Wizard prepared for hands-on battle. A spell that has been cast upon him means that he must manipulate a yarn that grows from his arms, under his shirtsleeves. With this spell, he can take objects and use them as weapons, or whatever he needs, making him as strong as a knight, but remaining a wizard who is able to conjure up other spells. With this magical yarn, he is holding an extremely heavy stone-made axe. He also wears a red monocle which enables him to see living beings through any obstacle within a limited distance. The colour of the monocle would be the colour in which he perceives everything alive. He doesn't wear armour because it would be very difficult to reach him, because the yarn that he creates can be shaped to use as a shield. In the Role-Play, he belongs to a religious sector that adores the perishable, which is why, on his shoulder, is a symbol that represents a silver, skeleton hand.
I wanted the image to have the spirit of a painting made on canvas, and I wanted to give it a little solemnity and represent a fantasy world which this character belongs to. This sort of world of wizards and warriors used to be represented in ancient times. For this piece, I didn't start with a sketch, but started painting an old man's face. My first idea was to do a wizard that looked like the hermit figure of the Tarot. But instead of holding a lantern, I wanted him to hold a sort of weapon which looks like he uses it to illuminate his way. I changed this idea very quickly when I decided to give him a more obvious action character look. If I don't have a very clear idea of a character's look, I just paint, and whilst I'm creating shapes I discover some guidelines that can suggest to me something which can move the design forwards (Fig.01-02).
With a clear idea, I started to drop rough shapes, and the basic palette of colours, onto the canvas. I wanted him to hold a brightly coloured axe with a simple, black handle. This time the idea was to use a warm palette full of browns and blacks that would contrast with the silver materials of the axe, and some decoration on his clothing. I had a look at some reference images and I liked the way that they represented the hair colours; instead of being grey, I add a desaturated green for a beard with two long dreadlocks, and one cut dreadlock. At this point, I had added the colour of the monocle; it needed a different colour so I chose a red colour that would give more attention to the face. I added some blue colour to the semi-dark areas, and places where there wouldn't be much detail, to give more depth and colour variation to the image. I wanted the background to be bright and desaturated, but quite simple; something that fit in with my idea of a portrait, and gave more importance to the character in the scene (Fig.03).
Playing with Colours
This is very useful to give surfaces more complexity, and to simulate some of the shading that appears a lot in Fine Art. The practice is to grab a colour that has been used, and keeping the same amount of saturation and black on the colour, change just the tone of the colour; if it was blue you would therefore change it to red, but you would keep the rest the same (Saturation and Black). If the image that results from that process gets desaturated, it would look like almost a blank, grey colour. This is a great way to give variation and subtle detail to the picture without altering the contrast and the setup of the dark and light (Fig.04).