Welcome to what will hopefully become a recurring series here at the Dragonloft blog!
First off, our goal with the art in Hellenica is to make the world feel grand and full of vitality, while staying true to the comfortable anime stylings of the JRPG genre.
In the interest of failing fast to learn from our mistakes, we wanted to try illustrating one of our most complicated characters first, so we chose Nephele, our adventure-seeking temple mechanic.
In her day-to-day life, Nephele keeps the steam machines in one of Apollo's many temples running smoothly. This puts her at the intersection of steampunk and ancient Greece and makes her a perfect early case study. In terms of personality, she's the exuberant, always-curious, and ever-noble mechanic of the party whose only knowledge of adventure is what she's heard of Odysseus and Perseus. She's the perfect combination of naive and book smart for making things interesting in an adventure.
Personality in mind and a ton of collected reference later, we starting talking with our character artist, Cotton, to see what he could do for us!
In my mind, I pictured Nephele somewhere between Edward from Cowboy Bebop and Rikku from Final Fantasy X. Starting with that image, we went broad with a bunch of ideas. At this point, we weren't focusing on the pose or expression of the character; we were just trying to nail down the details of her styling and accoutrements.
Some things stuck out right away. Tricornes read a little too 'pirate' to me, and Victor felt the midriff ruffles were too Victorian (ha) for our time period. Now, I know what you're thinking: "These people had the ingenuity to harness steam power and create complex, futuristic machines, but they can't envision a ruffle?" If at all possible, we like to stay historically accurate, and we pay special attention to the visual details of our game to ensure that we're reinforcing our unique setting.
That said, there was a lot to love about this exploration. The big, chunky goggles and oversized tool pockets really felt steampunk, along with all the gear work and grommets. As for the ancient Greek side of things, we really gravitated towards the thin sandals and flowing tunics.
After picking and choosing some key elements, Cotton developed this detail sketch. Some new features to note: the vine-like bangle on the wrist, the more obviously Greek sandals, and the added volume and detail in the tunic.
At this point, he mocked up a few poses and moved on to coloring.
We wanted Nephele to look right at home with the steam machines that she is so fond of, so Cotton suggested some warm brass, metallic, and orange tones for her hair and clothing. To add some contrast and visual interest, we chose to color her eyes a bright blue. With that and a few tell-tale grease smudges, she was ready.
I hope you enjoyed the walkthrough. Let me know how these posts may be improved or added upon in the comments below, and I'll try to work your feedback into the next character update!