Insider 10-26-2016

In this concept art Insider, I’ll be discussing the visual development process for Una the Skyhunter. First we’ll start with our written description of her:

Una the Skyhunter is the second incarnation of Una the Falconer, this time as a full warlock. In addition to her affinity with birds and flying warbeasts, she has also developed powerful wind magic. The original version of Una is a fairly complex model, both in terms of the design of her costume and her pose. We will want something equally impressive for this new model.

The updated version of Una is two years older and a bit more experienced. However, we would still like to keep her on the younger side. She is a blackclad, and they tend to age more slowly than ordinary people, plus she looked quite young in the original model.

In this version she is directing her wind magic with her staff instead of using it as a perch for her avian companions. Una’s kinship with winged creatures should still be reflected in her appearance, but she does not actually need any birds incorporated into her model design. We will definitely continue to develop the feather motif of her original design. She should keep her cloak and body armor, though the detailing on these items could change.

We could explore splitting her cloak up the middle and having it fan out like a pair of wings—not too literally, mind you, but as a subtle nod to her special connection with birds. Since her staff is no longer primarily a perch, we could redesign it to look slightly more like a weapon, or we could keep it the same (although it would definitely look different without birds on it).

Concept artist Andrea Uderzo’s first sketches were varied enough to give me plenty to work with. I worked up Rough 5 using the parts I liked from the other roughs while removing a bunch of little extraneous details.

The corner of her cloak could certainly feature some metal on it to weigh it down, but I thought we should ditch all the screws and rivets. As much as I liked the cloak and feather motif of the rough sketches, I felt the extra feathers were a bit much, so I eliminated one row of feathers from the bottom.

Both the belt and hip armor from Rough 1 and the longer loincloth from Rough 4 were winners. I then took the shoulders and head from Rough 1 and both the shin and chest protector from Rough 2. I also opted to ditch the high heels, since Una would be using her staff as a weapon—and combat heels drive me nuts.

I really liked Rough 3’s exposed hair (not the whipping-in-the-wind look), but that might have taken her a bit too far away from the typical blackclad image, so we knew we’d go with head gear.

Matt Wilson’s concern was that she exuded a real Valkyrie vibe with the winged helm/hood. So, I requested that we explore an alternative hood concept that would project forward and evoke the shape of a hawk—not too literally, though that was the general idea.

Andrea then worked up these roughs, which still resembled Viking gear a bit too much, so I suggested a change in direction: designing an Aztecan-inspired headdress that looked less like a helmet.

That did the trick! Andrea worked up these quick sketches, and we were off to the races.

Here’s my mash-up:

Now Andrea was cleared to proceed to final line art, where we’d also come up with Una’s pose. Although we’d toned down some of the details, we had to keep in mind a couple of underlying concerns when looking at this model:

  • There was a ton going on with this design already, and more layers of stuff meant more stuff to paint.
  • If we went with the bigger designs, then it would make evolving the character further more difficult.

Of the pose sketches, I particularly loved Poses 2 and 4, and the group agreed. From there, I completed a quick color pass for our studio painter and illustrators to work from—and we had our final.

We ended up deciding to go with only one pose per warlock for this round of new models, although originally we had considered having a potential variant pose. Nevertheless, I absolutely love the final results for Una the Skyhunter, and sculptor Doug Hamilton absolutely knocked it out of the park when translating the concept art into 3-D reality!