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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sketch Diary: Persephone Queen of the Underworld

Recent days of self-critique have had me determined to push my fundamental skills even more this year.  To that effect, CGhub's CharacterForge challenges have proved a really fun and loose way to play around with a predetermined concept for my own whims (while also giving me the incentive of a deadline).  The latest CharacterForge challenge was to design Persephone Queen of the Underworld.

There was just enough physical description given that I had a few concrete elements to work with while the rest was left up to my imagination.  The kidnapping of Persephone and the turning of the seasons has always been a myth near and dear to my heart, so I couldn't resist trying this out!  It began with thumbnailing to work in the Challenge's requirement that the image be laid out as a book cover.



Choosing a thumbnail was a tough call for me, as each one of them has something I like!  I love the dangerous gaze of the first image with the focus on character details like jewelry and her outfit.  The 2nd  has a wonderful up and down flow and an air of queenly presence the others don't.  It boiled down to whether I wanted to go with a Persephone who was still mourning over her confinement to the Underworld or perhaps a Persephone more adjusted to her role as a queen, which, in the end, I felt worked better if she was to be entitled "Queen of the Underworld" in this composition.

I ended up going with thumbnail 4 for it's compositional flow and the balance of a somber character who still demands some power and presence, as she does with her regal clothing and the ability to nurture a seed of life in the darkest places.  She hasn't given up hope and obediently awaits the day she will bring Spring back to the world of the living.

I also chose the thumbnail I did because I wanted to push myself away from my usual composition habits, which generally cut the character off at the thighs. I very rarely do full figures so it was time for a change!

The next step was to figure out exactly what I wanted to dress this venerable lady in.  I got the creative juices flowing looking up fashions by Alexander McQueen and a cursory google search of catwalk fashions inspired by Greek mythology, which turned up some interesting stuff!  The 2nd dress in this group really caught my eye with the trailing gauzy fabric.  I knew then I needed LOTS of trailing gauzy fabric for that mystical smokey touch!

Image via Top and Trends Fashion Design.

I already had the basic color scheme and physical features defined by the thumbnails and Challenge description so I decided to use a more fleshed out base rather than a simple nondescript figure (which is commonly referred to as a croquis template, in fashion design terms).


I only had time to do three of these, due to time constraints.  I leaned towards the wrapped bodice style of Greek clothing with sashes and tattered edges to get across the feel of a character who has a sense of decay about her, due to her surroundings, which contrasts with her ability to remain pure and beautiful in the dank Underworld.  Again, something I like about all of them!  Eventually went with the middle because it felt like it had the most presence and flow.  There's also something intriguing about the first dress, which I may have to revisit later (modern day corporate mogul Persephone, perhaps?).

Then began the fevered late night movie marathon to keep me awake while I worked, since I only had three days to finish!  On my 'girl goes to underworld' inspiration playlist:

- Legend - Girl kidnapped by giant lonely red devil for touching a unicorn (another childhood fave).
- Pan's Labyrinth - Girl has magical adventures while living in an oppressive household. At one point journeys into the underworld realm of the Pale Man (my favorite scene!).
- Labyrinth - Girl ventures into the world of the Labyrinth to save her brother and defeat the Goblin King, who is oddly enamored with her.  Love this movie ever since  I was a kid! It's Jim Henson at his best.

Five cups of coffee and two Cadbury bars later, we have progress!

Adobe Photoshop CS2, Wacom Cintiq 12WX.


She's still in need of critique so I can clean her up for my portfolio. Feel free to comment on DeviantART or at WiPNation! I'd value any input on how to make her the best image she can be.

If you're part of CGhub, go vote for me in the challenge if you like my entry! 
(Voting thread should be up soon.)
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