Behind The Art of Mark IV – Pt 2

In Part 1 we chatted to Ariel about where she got her inspiration for the characters for Colourless, today we're continuing to look at her process. And take a peak at some concepts for another Mark IV project: Sentinel Code, book one of The Alchemists' Bane. Enjoy!

[Dan] I recall that when you started drawing, way back when, most of what you did was copying cartoon characters, etc. It was a while before you started getting adventurous and creating your own art.

[Ariel] Yeah, it did take me a bit. I have a huge imagination, but actually using it is hard. Though I found the cartooning and illustration course I did really helped. Because it kind of taught you how to actually put your ideas down onto paper. Just doing all the exercises and things was really good practice.

When creating characters, sometimes it takes a bit to find that face, to find that element of the character that I can see, but I’m having trouble putting onto the paper. Once I’ve drawn it, it’s actually pretty easy sailing.

Above are sketched concepts for Alchemist Guild coats and Sentinel coats for Mikhail and Klara from The Alchemists' Bane series. Included are also some vest designs. We wanted to have a solid idea of the fashion and styles of the world of Serovnya. 

[Dan] So in Part 1 I asked what part of concepting was your favourite, but what about what was the hardest thing with creating the characters?

[Ariel] Do Character Turn Arounds count? That’s definitely hard. I’m not looking forward to doing it for the other characters. I think trying to see a character in 3D is the hardest part for me. Trying to imagine what the back of their head looks like, what they look like from the side, from the back. I can’t really visual a person in 3D, so that makes it a bit hard to try and draw them in 3D.

I think that will change as I get more practice, and as I learn more anatomy. I’m already a bit better because I’ve been practicing just the basic skeletal structure and stuff. Once I actually know what’s underneath a person that process will become easier. I’m sort of learning backwards; deconstructing people then reconstructing.

Gabriel was in some ways the easiest, because I love drawing cute things. I just pictured him like a dog. He’s a faithful companion. I could picture him there with his little tail, bouncing around and stuff. He was easier to visualise than the others. The Turn Around again, was really hard. Trying to see the goat in 3D.

More vest concepts for Mikhail and Klara. 

[Dan] Is there any aspect of concepting characters that you dread?

[Ariel] I don’t dread it, but one of the harder parts is actually starting the drawing process. Once I’ve drawn from the photo references it’s then a bit scary when I have to come up with a character myself that you guys will like.

I don’t have a lot of faith in myself to start with, I think, “How on earth am I going to put this on paper?” And then the first few attempts are usually quite scary and I don’t show you guys. Just have to have some faith in myself that they will get better. I will crack it, I will be able to come up with something cool.

And drawing feet. I hate drawing feet.

Coloured coat and vest concepts for Klara and Mikhail.

[Dan] What are your favourite tools when concepting?

[Ariel] My 2B pencil and my eraser. Though I try not to use my eraser too much, because I try not to worry whether it looks perfect and just keep going. Hmm. It’s kind of two tools really, I like using my pencil to start with and then my iPad and a sketch app I have.

Once I’ve got the initial sketch down, I love hopping on my iPad, downloading my sketch into the app and just playing with all the different colours and making it look… I dunno, real.

Before and after of colouring a concept. 

[Dan] What’s the name of the app?

[Ariel] Tayasui Sketches*. It’s free to start with, but is a really basic app. You pay a few dollars to get all the really cool extras, and you can do so much more with the tools then. It’s only a few dollars and you can do awesome things.

*Mark IV is in no way affiliated with Tayasui, it’s just a cool product that we like.

Mikhail, a man of many faces.

[Dan] How long is the process of character creation? From research to final concept?

[Ariel] At the moment I probably spend maybe two-three days doing all the research. I do continue researching as I draw the character, too, because I think of different ideas, different ways that they could look.

In a couple of days I can come up with some basic sketches, then fine tuning probably takes two-three weeks.

It takes me a while to get to a stage where I’m happy with it. Usually I don’t work on the same thing day after day, I’ll be doing other things in between so that draws out the process a bit. 

Klara Koskova face concepts.

[Dan] What advice would you have for someone who wants to get into concepting?

[Ariel] I think the best thing to start with is get a really good sense of anatomy. Study human anatomy, animal anatomy, anything. Experiment with that, really understand what makes a person, or an animal, or whatever. That will help a lot with actually creating the characters.

I started without really knowing my anatomy very well, and that did make it a lot harder. But now I find as I’ve been practicing my anatomy and I’m creating characters it’s just happening a lot faster. I can actually put down on paper what’s in my head. So yeah, I think that’s definitely the best place to start.

[Dan] And final question: if you could go back in time to when you began concepting for Mark IV and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

[Ariel] Probably don’t be afraid to just sketch. Just go crazy. Don’t get stuck on one little sketch and trying to make that perfect before moving onto another little sketch and trying to make that perfect. Don’t try to get the character looking right from the word go. Just sketch like crazy, sketch whatever comes to mind.

Start off loose then tighten it. I tend to start off too tight and then I get stuck in “this is how it looks, and I’m just going to keep drawing the character like this” and I don’t experiment enough with the character.

[Dan] Well, thank you very much, Ariel! It was great getting to quiz you on your creative process, and see some of the cool artwork you've been hard at work on. 

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed this second look behind the scenes at Mark IV. We'll see you next time.