Vorax

This is one of my earliest digital paintings. I meant to post it earlier but sort of forgot about it, then I realized I haven’t posted in a while because some super exciting things have been happening (I will post more on that in the near future) and life in general has been busy lately. It has also been quite warm in the apartment, and summer heat poses a problem that is unique to digital painting. That big screen gets warm, and when I’m already sweating to my seat the last thing I want to do is to lean over a hot screen for hours at a time. Even on a cool day I paint wearing a glove with the fingers cut off so I can more comfortably slide my hand around on the screen without it sticking.

I don’t love this painting actually, I think the detail is good and I am happy with how the skin texture came out, but overall I think it’s actually a bit boring. The composition is not as interesting as it could have been. The subject is too centered and there is too much dead space in the upper half. The lighting is also a bit off so the creature doesn’t quite merge into the environment. I still have a lot to learn about lighting and shadow, and here I think it really shows that I was just starting out. I was more focused on painting accurately than painting well. I have been trying to learn how to loosen up and consider reference photos as guidelines rather than detailed instructions.

Since this scene took place in a naturally dark environment (underground), I think it would have been cooler if it felt as though the viewer suddenly encountered this monster creeping out of the shadows in a dark tunnel, perhaps with a flashlight or lantern kind of effect. Some pale shafts of light coming down from above, or more of those glowing plants might have been cool too. One thing I do remember from painting this was that after spending many days on the Vorax itself, I was eager to be finished and definitely rushed the background. I am now learning to like painting environments and enjoy the whole process rather than just focusing on the subject and treating the rest of it like a necessary evil.

vorax final

The vorax is an aggressive carnivore from Ryzom. This particular one is found near a teleporter in a place called Prime Roots, which is an underground zone with many dangerous, high level predators like this one. The teleporter provides a small safe zone, but I had to go just outside that area to get screenshots of these guys, which means my poor character was killed many times for the sake of this artwork!

One thing I love about Ryzom is how original the creatures are. I don’t play the game anymore, but I still miss exploring it and discovering all these interesting animals. There are no bears or deer in this game, only wildly unique and imaginative new plants and animals with special traits and characteristics.

We are soon putting the apartment up for sale, which means most of our stuff has to come out so we can make it look like we live in Ikea. It means our life will be turned upside down for a while and I probably won’t be posting any new art for at least a few weeks (or I might have a lot since we will have no stuff and I’m bored, who knows). I might dig up some old sketches or something while packing, so there could be posts here and there if I get the time and inspiration 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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Teg Avatar

This is the final piece in the series of avatars I’ve made for Flypso. That means we have decided, at least tentatively, what all five races will be. I’ve written notes, some history, and many scraps of ideas for each one. My least favourite of them all has to be the Teg.

Teg Avatar

Tegs are the desert race. Hulking, tanky, rhino-like creatures. They are at home among vast expanses of desolate wasteland, where they build their settlements underground. They wear heavy armour and use brute force to prove a point. The word “teg” comes from scientific terminology referring to plates or armour. Natural selection has favoured individuals with hard, bony plates on their faces and mountainous form. The Tegs have a violent history of war and destruction, and nearly wiped themselves out before establishing law and civilized society.

I dislike this race for a number of reasons which I won’t get into now, but Tux requested it, and in order to maintain balance and appeal to a range of players it seemed like a good idea to include a tough heavy armour type, and a race that would specialize in “heavy” crafting using stone and metals. This is not intended to be a combat focused war type game, so rather than drawing a snarling face and threatening pose, I tried to show intelligent looking eyes, and a friendly or neutral expression. Tegs are aggressive by nature, but that doesn’t mean they never calm down. More exciting paintings will probably come later on but for now the point was just to make a basic, neutral avatar.

Painting this rough skin type was very challenging. There is no easy way to do it, as far as I can tell. With things like feathers, fur, and sometimes scales, it’s possible to draw out a pattern and gradually vary that pattern, then finish it with shading etc. It’s tedious, but at least it’s repetitious and not too complicated. With this rhino skin though, that was very different. If you look closely at a rhino or elephant’s skin it doesn’t seem to follow much of a pattern, but at the same time it kind of does, and it’s very difficult to replicate that effect. The cracks tend to be deeper in some areas and more shallow, almost non-existent, in others. If you look closely at your own skin, especially around the knuckles, you can see what I mean. Try to follow some of the lines, then look at the lines that intersect those lines. It seems like a nice easy grid, but it’s actually pretty random.

Coming up with the Teg design was a lot different than the other races. I didn’t have a clear idea of what they should look like until I had sketched out a number of possibilities.

Here are a few sketches of early ideas that lost out in the end:

Originally the only criteria was just “desert/underground/cave dwelling people”. Initially I considered making a reptilian race similar to Argonians, but couldn’t come up with a design that didn’t seem cliche or silly looking. Then I thought more about existing burrowing creatures, and came up with what basically amounts to a weird mutant rat:

EPSON MFP image

This one was never really considered at all, and Tux really wanted it to be tankier so I did something similar, but with some inspiration from ankylosaurus:

 

You can see from the level of detail that I was starting to get somewhere. I liked the plated facial armour, but wasn’t sure about the body type. Since this was going to be a burrowing race, I added shovel hands and some spikes on the forearms that could be used to chop and loosen tough soil. We were talking about special abilities, like the Hy’lox maybe being able to see infrared, so I tossed some movement sensing antennae on the heels. I don’t think those will be included in the final design since the Tegs themselves are pretty big and thundery, it just seems a bit illogical.

Finally, I scrapped the whole rodent idea and looked towards large ungulates like rhinos, and outlined a different body plan:

EPSON MFP image

I’m still undecided on the shovel hands and arm spikes. I kind of like them, but Tux didn’t seem too sure. All he wants to talk about is user accounts and login systems *yawn*.

At this stage I was fairly certain of what I wanted to do, so I did another fairly quick pencil sketch of the face, outlining how the plates would lay, and then moved over to the computer to paint the final image.

EPSON MFP image

It kind of sucked to spend time working on a character I didn’t find interesting or appealing and I had to drag myself through it. I guess that’s just part of being an artist for more than just my own entertainment. However I am still more or less happy with how it came out and the concept started to grow on me as it came to life.

So that’s it for these, for now. Next I will be trying my hand at painting some scenes for Flypso, while also working on the next installment in the soil life series.

 

 

The Dreaded Human

Our game could have included only invented races as Ryzom does, but we decided that for our particular idea it would make sense to include humans too. The problem is, once you’ve been inventing these cool looking creatures with interesting features and abilities, humans start to look pretty dull and ordinary. Besides our big brains and useful thumbs, we don’t have a whole lot to compete with even within the natural world here on Earth. Without our built environment, tools, and technology, most of us are fairly helpless in the wilderness, and we aren’t exactly awesome looking either.

When designing a game it’s important to have balance. We can’t have one race that is way better than the others, just like we can’t have one lame race that nobody would ever want to play. For us, that lame race is the humans. I needed to think of ways the humans could remain human, but still keep up and compete with the others. It took some thought, but eventually I realized our strong point. Humans are special because we are not specialized. We are versatile, adaptable, and resourceful. Whereas the amphibious Hy’lox requires a humid environment and would struggle in the desert, and the Arborean excels in the forest but is inhibited without trees, humans can live quite happily in just about any circumstances. The human is a jack of all trades with the option to specialize however they see fit.

It turned out that painting a human avatar was easier and a lot less miserable than I was expecting. The human eye is quite interesting, and the face poses a unique challenge in that we are so deeply familiar with it that extremely subtle changes can create readable emotions. For the avatar I needed a face that was as neutral as possible and this was quite a learning experience.

I decided to start with a female for no particular reason, I just needed to pick one and I am female so I went with that. I’ll also do a male eventually, which will carry with it the challenge of deciding how to make noticeable gender differences for at least some of the other races too.

Human avatar female new bkg

I feel that I still need a lot of practice with understanding light and shadow, and it’ll be interesting when I try to paint a character with more textured skin, messy hair, etc. This is the most simplistic painting of a human I could get away with for this, but it works and I didn’t want to spend too much time on it with so many other exciting things to work on.

That’s four out of five races complete, last will be the desert people.

Creating the Hy’lox

hylox avatar final new bkg

At first it was difficult to picture an aquatic race that didn’t look hideous or cliche. I wanted them to be likeable and civilized, not some kind of frilly slimy monster. I think most people would agree that salamanders are pretty cute and I don’t recall having seen too many salamander inspired humanoid races before, so that seemed like a good choice. The smooth amphibian skin was nice and simple to paint. The only things I found really challenging here were deciding on a colour scheme and making sure I didn’t accidentally make a Murloc out of it.

EPSON MFP image

At this point I actually only have this one pencil drawing of the Hy’lox. I don’t even have any rough sketches, and I honestly don’t even remember drawing this because it went so quick and I was in a frenzy of ideas that day. The legs are a bit off but otherwise I think the body is more or less how I wanted it. It has the elongated body and weak arms of salamanders, and I looked at some pictures of lionfish for ideas on the facial stripes and venomous spines. In the avatar I went with blotchy spots on the face instead, but these will have many different kinds of markings so there will be some with stripes in the future.

The Hy’lox is how I envision a civilized race that evolved along the amphibian line. The name comes from “Hyloxalus” which is a genus of poison dart frogs.

This amphibious race evolved in the steamy swamps and temperate marshlands of their home planet. They excel in botany and can make highly effective poisons and medicine. While their soft, weak bodies would leave them helpless in close physical combat, they prefer to avoid violence and tend to be a peaceful, diplomatic people. However, they have formidable natural and technological defenses at their disposal in the event that diplomacy fails. Their natural abilities include stealth, camouflage, paralyzing venom, and sticky substances that allow them to confuse, stun, or slow their enemies. If they cannot deter or escape from their attackers, the Hy’lox are well equipped with chemical weapons and explosives to efficiently disable or eliminate the threat.

Creating the Arborean

Arborean final.png

The Arborean was the first, and easiest playable race I designed for Flypso. They are the “elves” of the flypso universe. Quick, agile, sophisticated, deeply protective of the forest, compassionate and caring but somewhat snobbish, etc.

However, it was the most challenging in some ways. I wanted a tree dwelling mammal with a primate body, but I didn’t want it to look too human. I gave it bat ears and a tail, a panda nose, and fox facial structure, but then it ended up looking like a cat person. I added little horns but they didn’t make much difference.

I decided to accept that it looks like a humanoid cat, and move on. I thought it would be fun to paint the fur, but that ended up being so tedious I finally broke down and started using some fur brushes to speed up the process. I prefer to do things manually without the use of fancy photoshop tricks and brushes that basically do all the work for you, but I realized that even with fur brushes I really still needed to know what I was doing, so I was comforted by that. There comes a point where you have to value your time, especially when you are bursting with ideas that want out. I studied the faces of foxes, pandas, and hyenas to get a better understanding of which fur goes in what direction and to understand how to create depth and dimension. I really struggled to give the white muzzle any dimension since it is in such stark contrast to the rest of the face, and I am still not completely satisfied with the stripes, although the markings will vary from one Arborean to the next.

Here is the first sketch of the Arborean concept, which actually started out as a mindless unfinished doodle of a random animal (I drew the armour outline much later), and had absolutely nothing to do with Flypso.

EPSON MFP image

When I started thinking about playable races, the idea for the Arborean came first, and when I opened the sketchbook to find an empty page, I noticed this doodle again, and realized this could easily be adapted to use for Flypso.

I sketched a full body concept and experimented a bit with what their light leather armour might look like. The proportions came out a bit weird looking because I was roughly basing this off of spider monkeys, but the problem I think is mostly because the knees are too low, and there is something wrong with the forearms. I think the forearms look like they are curved forward or something weird like that. It’ll take some practice to get this one to look natural but I think it can work.

EPSON MFP image

I wanted to get some practice with facial fur patterns so I started drawing the face in more detail, still with pencil on paper. Eventually I got tired of this method and moved over to the Cintiq to get going on the colour version, using this unfinished drawing as a reference.

EPSON MFP image

Shalalalalaah

Shalah finished DA

I thought I should explain that strange creature on the home page. It’s not a mutated woolly mammoth, in case you were wondering.

The Shalah is a gigantic fluffy herbivore found on Atys. It’s peaceful and harmless when left alone but won’t hesitate to dismember you if you decide to poke it with a sharp object. Experienced homins (players) will sometimes gather in groups to hunt them with the battlecry: “Shalalalallalalalaah!”

It comes from the game Ryzom, which is a beautiful online game and happens to be where I met Tux. Tux was the one who inspired me to pick up my art tools and embrace my abilities, and I originally painted that shalah for a Ryzom player website he was working on at the time. It was one of the first things I painted digitally using the Cintiq, and was based on some reference screenshots I took in the game.

Around Christmas that year there was an in-game art contest where they added fan art to a little advent calendar. Each day you could open a box to collect a small prize and to see a player’s art, so I submitted a christmas version of the Shalah painting and it won a spot in the calendar 😀

Shalah atysmas.png

In case you’re interested, Ryzom was recently released on Steam, or it can be downloaded directly from their website.

Creating the Ornithite

My first game development task was to come up with four unique playable races. I decided to work with an evolution theme, imagining what kind of civilized people might have evolved on earth from different branches of the animal kingdom, had it not been primates.

One of my favourite races that came out of this process was the Ornithite, evolved from the bird/dinosaur branch.

I started with a fairly hideous pencil sketch and some brainstorming.

EPSON MFP image

I drew a few more sketches to continue brainstorming and refining the idea, taking inspiration from velociraptors, secretary birds, parrots, owls, eagles, and the prehistoric flying reptile, archeopteryx.

 

When I started to feel comfortable with the Ornithite concept, I spent a bit more time with a mechanical pencil and drew a detailed side profile.

EPSON MFP image

 

Here I took a lot of inspiration from the secretary bird for the body shape, while also looking at modern birds of prey for the feet. I also looked at the structure of ostrich legs because while this creature can fly, I imagine as a civilized race they would also spend a good amount of time walking around on the ground interacting with each other. It was challenging to put hands on their wings in a way that would look anatomically feasible and not too awkward or ridiculous, but we agreed that it was important for them to have hands with fingers in order to do things like crafting. I decided that they should have reptilian lips instead of beaks mainly because it would make them look a little more humanoid and it will be easier to show facial expressions later on. 

At this point the race was beginning to develop some personality and I also started working on writing up a detailed description of them including sketching out some of their  special abilities and racial traits.

When I was satisfied with this, I moved over to the Cintiq and did a detailed digital avatar that we can use in the game. Painting feathers was a daunting new experience for me, but it turned out to be nowhere near as difficult (but exactly as tedious) as I was expecting. I had fun learning how to draw different kinds of feathers and understanding which types of feathers should go where. Sometimes when I paint for a while I feel like I go into some kind of trance, and my hand sort of just does its thing. That experience is super cool and something I cannot force or call up on demand. Sometimes it doesn’t work and nothing I do looks right, but when it does happen I just welcome it and enjoy the results 🙂

Ornithite Avatar final new bkg

Eventually I’d like to do more of these with lots of different colours and patterns in the feathers, different shapes of the ornamental feathers, etc.. and players should definitely have some ability to customize the way their Ornithite looks. This will all come in time 🙂