Behind The Art of Mark IV – Pt 1

Today we have a chat with Mark IV's lead concept artist, Ariel Van Werkhoven, about her work on Colourless. Join us on the journey and take glimpse at all the work that goes into creating the characters you see on this site!

[Dan] So, Ariel, let's start with some general questions, then we can move to some specifics about each character. How do you find inspiration for the characters?

[Ariel] Pinterest. To start, I create boards for faces, beards, hair, anything. I will spend hours on Pinterest just getting a huge stockpile of visual references. I will look up character concepting, or character illustrations. All different illustration types and styles. I’ll find other artists and pin them, too, so I get an idea of how other artists draw certain things. Then I work from there.

[Dan] Do you have anything specific in mind before you start the research process?

[Ariel] Well, for these Colourless I had the basic descriptions from you guys. So I did look up specifics: particular actors, styles of fashion, and whatever else came to mind from the character descriptions. Watching literally a thousand plus films has helped to give me an idea of how different characters look in different roles.

[Dan] What was your inspiration for Ubel?

[Ariel] Well, I wanted to make an ultimate bad guy. So I looked at other examples of bad guys from movies and things, people who fitted the basic description of Ubel: Tall, thin, pale. I looked at Silva, from Skyfall, and at Disney villains, like Jafar.

I also used photo references of snakes and pythons to get an idea of evil looking mouths. In the end I didn’t use the snake mouth because it looked too much like the Joker, as you can see in the first slide above. But it sort of helped get that evil look and I worked from there, making it more uniquely evil for us.

[Dan] And for Joshua?

[Ariel] I can’t remember who it was that I used exactly. I think Viggo Mortensen was in there because he had a really nice beard. I did the same process of looking up Hollywood actors to get facial and beard references. To start with he kind of looked like Ubel. I was basically drawing a good version of Ubel, but because he’s from a different place to Ubel, I had to change his appearance. I made him a bit more well-built, filled in his cheeks more.

[Dan] What was your inspiration for Aylward?

[Ariel] Basically the same sort of process as Ubel. I had this pretty good idea in my head that he was just a solid sort of fellow; really honest and open. So I looked up characters in movies that fit that description to get an idea of what that actually looked like. Then I just drew from those references.

[Dan] What does the process of creation look like once you actually start drawing?

[Ariel] I like to start drawing the face first, getting that down. When I began concepting Colourless I wasn’t very good at drawing anatomy, so drawing the whole person would just take too much time to start with. First thing I do is draw other actors, models, whatever, from the photo references just to get a feel of what the different faces look like and how to actually draw them.

Then I’ll start making up my own characters from that. I’ll use someone’s nose, someone else’s ears, chin, etc, and put it all together. From there I show it to you guys and get your feedback and start fine tuning it. I just keep tweaking until I come up with something everyone is happy with. Once I get the face sorted, I move onto what they’re actually wearing, what they’re carrying, their body build, etc.

[Dan] What was your inspiration for Gabriel?

[Ariel] To start with he was actually going to be a bigger goat. A skinny bigger goat. So I was looking all the photos of different goats, especially mountain goats. I drew a few goats like that and then came across a picture of a pygmy goat, and I knew we had to have a pygmy goat because they’re just adorable. I just got stuck on that and that was it. I was going to do a pygmy goat even if you guys didn’t want a pygmy goat.

[Dan] What was the thing you enjoyed most about the process of creating each character?

[Ariel] I think the research that comes before the actual drawing. Even now when you ask that question I start thinking about it. I get really inspired by everything that’s out there; I’m excited by the opportunity to look up new artists, new characters, new styles.

For Ubel my favourite part was creating his outfit. I love designing what they wear, and he was wearing a cool coat. So I got to design a trench coat, which I was very excited about. I love it when you give them cool outfits because then I get to design them.

[Dan] Well, thank you very much for your time today, Ariel! I really enjoyed getting to find out more about your process. We'll see you next time!