Creating An Original Character With Paranoid Miniatures

September 2, 2015 by deltagamegirl22

While at Salute this past year, I had the opportunity to chat with the great crew at the Paranoid Miniatures stand. They were promoting their WIP horror miniature game, Mythos, and had brought with them an absolutely amazing book of art for the game, as well as their first model. The Sea Queen is one of the beautiful miniatures that was brought to life from the stunning art by the very talented, Shane Cook.

Sea Queen art

As you follow along with this process get your thinking caps on as you could be in with a chance of winning Dawn’s character for your own miniature collection. More details on this are at the bottom of the article!

An Idea Is Sparked!

After our nice chat at Salute, I was given the honor of an amazing opportunity to work with the artist for Mythos, Shane Cook, and explore character creation and development through the artist. Shane offered the chance to develop a character from scratch with him – and what an immensely fun process it’s been! I thought we would show you how this process went from start to finish so you could see what the creative genius of an artist, like Shane, looks like.

When Shane first contacted me, he provided me with a list of questions to help gauge where I was coming from in terms of how I was envisioning my character:

  • Gender: Male, Female, Ambiguous gelatinous blob
  • Genre: Sci Fi, Horror, Fantasy, etc…
  • Race: Monster, Human, Elf, etc…
  • Class: Paladin, Warrior, Detective, Captain, etc…
  • Weapon: Axe, Gun, Bazooka, Quincy arrows shot from the heart, etc…

I mulled over these questions for a day or so and came up with an idea that I was excited about. I would like a…

Female, Steampunk/Horror, Human, Witch, with some sort of broom that serves as her magical staff and knives for close combat.

Shane responded right away with a, “Wicked!”, and off we went! In just a few days, I already received my first set of initial sketches from Shane to see several different angles he considered while brainstorming on my initial directions.

Jezebel initial concepts

The Process Begins

To say that I was blown away would’ve been an under-statement. I can’t even say that I had any idea in my head of what I thought my steampunk witch would look like when I gave the initial instructions but I was so excited to see her coming to life in this artwork. I honestly couldn’t even believe how different she could look! Shane sent his thoughts along with the sketches…

  1. Probably the most even mix of everything, sexiness, horror and steampunk (fig 9).
  2. More horror oriented and my personal favourite. There’s some nice ideas to play around with concerning bio-mechanical bits (fig 8).
  3. Steampunky as all hell, with a bit of a different twist on a witch (being albino or something) (fig 6).
  4. I tapped into The Grudge for inspiration here – horror movies are gold dust for this stuff. As far as the sketch goes, I was just trying to get a feel for the character.
  5. Weapon/Broom concept. I know it’s kind of simple.  I originally intended a body length, flanged mace that I thought would mimic the shape of the broom but this is more elegant. Still though, it’s a starting point so don’t worry about scrapping the idea for a better one.
  6. I like the Hannibal style face mask here. By blocking facial expressions you can get into the uncanny valley design wise, which is great for anything that’s supposed to be creepy (fig 6).
  7. I think out of all of them this concept looks like she has the most story behind her. I got his itching to find out what her deal is – she’s not particularly scary though (fig 7).
  8. We have to have a hag in there. Very influenced by Miyazaki too, it seems (fig 8 )
  9. First concept out of the gate. I really like the chin on this lass. It’s like cosmetics don’t work the same in this world (whatever it is). You can have a slab of metal on your face and still be beautiful (fig 9).

So it seemed I had more thinking to do. I mulled over the ideas and started taking notes on what I thought about each of the options and how they made me feel. 7b was probably my favourite, in terms of capturing someone who is really rather pretty, but cannot be trusted.

I LOVED the concept of the weapon/broom/staff in 5a. It wasn’t at all what I conjured in my head and yet it was PERFECT!  I also thought the hag in 8b was super interesting. I could really see her connected to 7b. I almost felt like the 7b is the magical outward appearance that people see because of the witch’s magic, and 8b is what she looks like without the aid of magic. Vanity! So, overall my thoughts were as follows…

Jezebel favorite initial concepts

  1. Felt too Elfy to me.
  2. Felt like an evil Princess Leia.
  3. I really liked the steampunky outfit, but I wasn’t a fan of the masked look.
  4. It’s The Grudge (which I love), but I don’t want to repeat her.
  5. Was awesome!
  6. Felt too Orakei from LOTR.
  7. (a) Looked like more of a warrior than I envisioned for a witch.
  8. (b) Was an awesome hag! Like I said above – she felt like the reality of this witch, but vanity and magic pretties her up a little.
  9. So cool! I definitely loved the vacant eyes- super creepy.

The next step was for Shane to focus predominantly on 7 and 8 and he’d try to add any little nuances that I might have mentioned – for instance the idea of 7 being 8′s newer, younger form. He said this was really interesting and he’d try to add something that will hint to that like rheumy eyes, some rejuvenating device or something that might come to mind later.

The Witch Comes To Life

He then asked perhaps the most interesting question of all. “Do you have a name for her?” A name?! Oh my gosh, I honestly hadn’t thought about it yet. I found this really interesting. Should you choose a name and then make your character shape to fit the name, or do you see what your character looks like and then choose a name that fits?

After struggling with this for a bit, and making peace with the fact that I was trying too hard, it just came to me – Jezebel. Somehow the name and biblical reference seemed to capture the darkness of witchcraft and spoke to the vanity of her appearance. So in just one more sketch from Shane, Jezebel was realized.

Jezebel named sketch

Shane included these thoughts on the elements in the picture…

“The amulet is a device that regulates the flow of magic through her body, too little and she regresses back to an old crone, too much and she sacrifices her life force for the power. These can be manipulated via some sort of dial.

Her arm, though strong, is less of a weapon and more of a marvel of delicate engineering and maybe some sort of key for an arcane purpose.

The two knives she has are stilettos, a thin dull edged blade used primarily for stabbing assassination.

With the colour palette I tried to keep the traditional witch theme going with the black and greens while using the gold/copper/brass to emphasise the steampunk aspect.

Her overall look had to take on a bit of a change while incorporating the corset and knives but I tried to keep the mechanic vibe that she had in the sketch, almost like her machine tinkering led her down the path to discovering the arcane.”

The moment I saw Jezebel at this point, is when my mind kicked into super over-drive and I started putting a story for her together in my head. Shane’s idea of the amulet was the perfect connection to the vanity aspect I had touched on from the very beginning!  It’s like the longer I looked at the picture, the more little details I noticed.

One of my favorites, was the shoulder of the mechanical arm. Now I could be hallucinating, but it almost looked like a monkey’s head with the arm coming from the monkey’s mouth! I asked Shane if this was intentional, which he assured me it wasn’t’, but sometimes the unintentional details are the ones that really put things over the top. This was one of those details for me.

As a huge Wizard of Oz fan, it’s like the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys got a nod in this witch character! Perfect! I was still desperately wanting to see the “broom” as part of Jezebel, and with her story running through my mind, I pictured her chained to her broom some how – bound to her magic, if you will. I shared that thought with Shane as well, which he loved, and soon he sent me a few variations of the basic concept, playing with colours and creative details.

Jezabel color variants

She looked amazing! I was immediately drawn to number 4, but I loved the long glove on number 3. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would look like in the hag form too. I really needed to see the “broom.” I asked Shane if we could explore the hag concept, though admittedly, I wasn’t sure I would want to go that direction.

He assured me that we could always back track if I wasn’t feeling the changes, and so, to answer my curiosity, Shane was more than willing to transform Jezebel into her hag form – WITH the “broom!”

Jezabel_old

WOW! That is one fantastically, twisted, old hag! Alright, as I predicted, though I artistically loved the look of the hag, I didn’t want her to be how the final piece would look. The pose, however, was amazing and that “broom” was absolutely unreal!

Again, never in my mind was that what I thought I meant by a broom when we first spoke about my witch, and yet it is perfect – and after seeing it, I couldn’t imagine it as anything else.

Just look at the attention Shane pays to details – the occult tattoos are a fantastic touch. So from here, we knew how Jezebel needed to look and Shane went to work on the finished product. There was also the matter of a final pose, so Shane sent several sketchy options to see if there was a particular stance that I wanted to see.

Shane pointed out that when it comes to poses, you do really need to be careful about what you are trying to accomplish with the pose. Movement in a pose can definitely make it very dynamic and interesting, but it can also cause it to lose some of the details in your concept, like clothing details, etc.

This was another really great point I hadn’t thought about before, and I found myself leaning towards the initial stance of the hag, with her foot resting on one of the “broom” legs.

Jezebel sketchy poses2

In a period of only two weeks (which still blows my mind!), Shane was able to breathe life into my character, Jezebel, and I couldn’t be more impressed! Without further delay, I’d like to introduce you to Jezebel…

jezebel final with name

Stunning, isn’t she? As I mentioned earlier, it was very easy to get caught up in character exploration as I desperately wanted to know more about Jezebel. In doing so, I even wrote a story about her and how she came to be witch! Also, yes, I am looking into having her made as a miniature. She would definitely look incredible as a proxy in Malifaux! More to come on that when I get things squared away…

jezebel_background

Now that you’ve had the opportunity to follow me on my creative journey with Shane, we thought it’d be great to also show you how the process looks through the eyes of Shane…

The Creative Process

Step 1 – This is the initial sketch for Jezebel. The idea is to keep the details to a minimum, try to show the intention for the pose and a bit of her character. Keeping the drawing loose helps to get the image in your head to paper as fast as possible without getting bogged down by details and rendering.

Shane1

Step 2 – After the initial sketch is approved I decreased the opacity on the initial sketch layer and on a new one re-drew the line art to sort out any perspective and anatomical issues. This stage helps me to get a better idea of the curves and contours of the character’s body. While this is a more refined version than the initial sketch, the focus is on Jezebel’s form rather than design details, as such it is still a preliminary stage.

Shane2

Step 3 – Again decreasing the opacity on the previous layer and creating a new one I re-drew the line art a second time and this time with a better idea of her form I drew in the smaller details. The design already fleshed out in the concept phase was applied to the subject and on another layer I filled it in with a mid-range gray as a base to work on. This also acts as a quickly selectable mask that I use throughout the process.

Shane3

Step 4 – Referencing the concept art I applied colour to an Overlay layer on top of the line art; this keeps the colours the same mid-range as before.

Shane4

Step 5 – The first thing I would need to do here is decide on a light source so I could add cohesive contrast to the character, though with concepts I work on a template file created previously that has a gradient already defining it so I can get right to painting. With the colors already laid down, I work on the values. First on a new Overlay layer, I add some basic lights and darks; then on a new Normal layer and frequently using the colour picker tighten up the values and details.

Shane5

Step 6 – Most noteworthy here is that I added hair to stop Jezebel from looking like Peter Weller without his mask in Robocop. It’s also the stage in which I make any tweaks that the image need before I move onto the final render.

Shane6

The Witch Lives!

In my many conversations with Shane, he said something about character development and creation that really resonated with me. He describes this kind of work…

“it’s like a controlled schizophrenia, throwing yourself into different personalities and the like.

…and what an interesting way to think about it. You truly have to keep your mind open to consider all the possibilities or you may miss something fantastic. Tunnel vision can really blind creative expression.

Jezebel steampunk highlights

Win Jezebel For Yourself!

After putting so much thought into getting Jezebel just right, I couldn’t let her story end on paper – so I’ve lined up a well known company to finish her journey into a miniature! To be in with a chance of winning a copy of her for yourself Comment Below and let’s have some great dialogue about Jezebel and what game you’d like to use her for, and ONE lucky Beasts of War member will receive their very own Jezebel miniature once she’s finished!

To recap let us know…

  • WHAT you think of the character…
  • WHAT tabletop game you would use her in…
  • Anything else about the model you’d like to share (scale, your own thoughts on her character etc)

So this is where I leave you for now. I’d really like to thank Paranoid Miniatures for connecting me with Shane, and allowing me this opportunity for such a unique and interesting look into developing art for a character.

In what game would you like to use the steampunk witch, Jezebel?

"When Shane first contacted me, he provided me with a list of questions to help gauge where I was coming from in terms of how I was envisioning my character..."

"In a period of only two weeks (which still blows my mind!), Shane was able to breathe life into my character, Jezebel, and I couldn’t be more impressed!"