This journal details the decisions I made and links to sketches of my process for the making of my contest entry into the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 contest which was held by DA and SquareEnix in February 2014. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please do write them in the comments and I'll get back to you.
I've decided to write a journal because not everyone wants to see this under the posted DA, and my explanations can be lengthy. It's an explanation!
Here is the actual piece itself (when the contest is over, I'll add a link to this journal, but right now I'm just terrified that if I edit the submission in any way, I'll change the date stamp and disqualify myself!):
Here are the links to my brainstorming pages (all in my sketches folder in my gallery):
sketch designs 1:
sketch designs 2:
sketch designs 3:
You can even see my process here with these thumbnails without really clicking on them. I start out planning with writing my basic ideas down. Then I sketch images that come to mind related to the ones that interest me. Because the format of this entry was so long, I began designing poses and layouts that could only work with that shape from the beginning. All standing poses were simply for me to figure out how the outfit would work.
I chose the concept centering on a sun and moon, realizing quickly that it can become "Mother Nature" and "Father Time". Mother Nature is nurturing and life giving, so it was represented perfectly as the shield as a sun. Father Time as a person always walks around with a reaper, so the moon-based weapon having a circular shape really complimented the crescent moon, and fit in numbers to represent both time in general and the Roman numerals for Final Fantasy 13. 13 is also often a number representing death, so it all went to together very nicely as a concept. I pondered making the weapon a giant axe, but I decided that a fully circular weapon was more unique. I also designed the hole in the weapon to be the exact same size as the circle of the shield - when not in use, they fit together perfectly. I almost used this concept as the background image! But I really wanted to show Lightning in action and large on the screen, so that won out. Maybe I'll put the fully colored pieces together in a completed drawing someday because it's quite beautiful and powerful without someone holding them, but to also understand that they aren't just decorations, they're weapons.
The weapon and shield were my strongest concepts. It was the outfit that got me. I'm not good at armor, and on a very quick deadline for a contest piece, no wasn't the time to try and submit next to artists who's armor is their forte. That's why in the end she didn't have a shoulder piece which held a half-cape (See in the bottom of sketches 1), which lead to a half-skirt. I *really* liked this design! But I couldn't get it to work in a logical way. I know Lightning is a magical video game character, but everything I do is still grounded in logic. I wanted to design something that could actually be worn and made, so I couldn't create "floating" pieces or accessories that are just...there. I also knew for sure that I wanted one shoulder to be completely exposed. I think it's because my original designs had her more covered up with her capes/skirts, and it would show off her feminine side. I also very much liked that her feminine arm would be the one holding the weapon.
The mosaic patterns came somehow subconsciously with the sun-and-moon design. I think I had Greek imagery in mind the whole time. I created a brush that would randomly change brightness, saturation, and slightly hue, then colored in the tiles quickly. I didn't even have time to go back and add highlights/shines, so I hope that it's somehow portrayed by simply light and dark and the light outlines.
The color scheme is pretty close to what I had in mind from the beginning. Not a lot of color because the weaponry was the focal point, and even the weapons became much brighter than what I had in mind. This happened because I wanted to keep the art as a whole pretty flat. From the beginning I wanted something that was mostly flat and beautiful, not 3D realistic. So the weapons were much more saturated and colorful than what I had in mind. I was also able to represent the crystals on the weapons using screening, but I was in such a tremendous hurry (40 minutes before deadline) when making the moon's crystal edge that I didn't see how lopsided it had actually become until it was too late. I had spent so much time drawing the original circle as perfectly as possible, but the computer coloring kind of ruined it.
My hand and arm had almost stopped listening to me by that point.
I also didn't have enough time to create the exact background that I had wanted: a beautiful cosmos. Since there aren't stars represented directly on her outfit other than the star-burst crystal on her chest (which is from where all lines in her outfit radiate), I wanted her to be spinning out of the stars. It also really grounds the whole concept of her being "the creator" of all things. Alas, all I could do was put in the clouds/fog (which I DID want and had planned on) to separate the side outfit designs with the background, then darken the edges.
Technique notes: I drew with pencil, scanned them in and cleaned them up (enlarged her head which was too small on paper!
), and arranged and colored them using Sketchbook Pro. Again, I thought about using Photoshop to color and use some new brushes, but now wasn't the time to try something you're not good at. For all three poses, I took photos of myself.
When I finished drawing the front-facing pose, I traced the outline, flipped it, and retraced it to make sure that the back-facing pose would have the same silhouette. Because I don't have a light table, I stacked up some DVDs, took apart an 8x10" photo frame, and put a headlamp underneath it all to improvise just for this one step - which really helped save me some time *and* ensured accuracy.
Thank you very much for reading about my process! Here are some more links:
Final pencil work for the main background:
Final pencil work for the side poses: