I really appreciated getting to finally draw a Dragonborn. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed depicting reptilian things. Designing and rendering scales rolling over a lumpy head borders on meditative and is very relaxing.
Ryan’s description was very straight-forward and to the point, something I enjoy. There was about half a page worth of info describing his gear, outfit, history and personality which is exactly what I need for these. You could say a good checklist for the things you need to know when designing characters is: what are they, what’s inside them, and what do they bring with them? Just like people in real life, (good (well-fleshed out)) characters are affected by their past and prepare for their future. What happens to someone growing up will affect their personality and behavior and will be reflected in how they present themselves. There’s no formula, but their current state will make more and more sense as you learn more and more about them, and to me that’s the essence of character design. Everyone’s favorite characters feel like real people, real people have depth, if you can make a character look like they have depth it’ll help sell them as good characters, and if you build their appearance to compliment who they are then the objective will be accomplished and you won’t be a snake oil salesman.
As far as anatomy goes his skeleton is about 85% human. His legs from the knee down are essentially those of a tyrannosaurus rex and his skull is largely a modified hybrid of an iguana and a theropod dinosaur but with omnivore teeth. Scales are really enjoyable to draw especially the kind you see on toes and fingers (the rectangular ones) and the ones that go over the face. I’ve always thought of iguanas and horned toads as the epitome of how those sorts of scales should be based. There’s so much rhythm and visual interest there. Plus they serve as a perfect reminder of why varied and researched scales are they correct way to go. The alternative is guess-work and uniform scales that look like someone came in with a chain link fence stencil and just put “scale” texture on something.
He wears a leather jerken, which is sort of a medieval tunic jacket thing, and since Ryan kept it vague enough it allowed me to take that basic framework and modify it to fit the character. It grew out of the simplicity. As long as it could pass as that general term it satisfied the description, but as long as I could make it look like something this character would wear (based on his race, class, etc) then I would be satisfied.
The tarnished chainmail overtop was also described with similarly basic terms, so I had what felt like easy expectations from Ryan, which takes the legitimate stress off, but then I had to go and make sure it was interesting and fit the character, which is stressful but it’s an enjoyable kind of stress. I wanted something large and monolithic, to help him seem more imposing, but added the lames of metal to help make it seem more fitting as armor, but also brought back the scale motif, something I think Dragonborn would be fond of as an issue of racial pride.
He wears a hunter green cloak when travelling so I wanted to include that. I made it ratty and full of holes to better match his tarnished armor. It also shows he’s travelling a lot and is a man of action.
His forearms and shins were also clad in leather and metal, and he carries an old and well-worn greatsword as his primary weapon, as well as a longsword on his back and a shield. In his free hand he’s often seen carrying a wooden amulet of Wee Jas. To me it’s important that anything artistically crafted in a fictional world look like it was feasibly done so. That’s a matter of available materials, tools, skill level, level of development, economy, training and so on. If you have a wanted poster in a game it can’t look like a 90’s comic book artist drew it. It should look like someone in a Western medieval fantasy world’s police station made it. The skill level, mediums used and style choice (and I’m sure many more factors) would all need to be represented appropriated.
Anyway, I look forward to many more creaturely characters in the future. This was a great joy for me.