Spectrum Sketches

As I tidied up my desk this week, I found myself flipping through the pages of my 8.5×5.5 sketchbook. It’s the one that contains a lot of cover sketches, concepts, and character chibis I’ve drawn for the Snakesblood Saga. But it also contains a lot of the rough concepts for Spectrum Legacy, some of which are things I later developed into more finished art. I’ve shared a portion of it here before, but not in sketch format, so I thought it might be fun to have a peek inside and talk a little about each piece.

Let’s get started with the first Spectrum-related sketch in the book: The artifacts.

I don’t usually get ideas right the first time, but these changed very little between the sketch and what I ultimately traced onto watercolor paper and painted. The finished versions were a lot larger than these tiny little sketches. Back when I painted these, I actually recorded it, and also spoke about each one on my blog. For your convenience, I’ll link to them, so you can see the painting if you desire. From left to right, they’re the Molten Dagger, the Vale Hymnflute, and the Captured Spring.

These were one of my first forays into working with watercolor (well, using gouache as watercolor with wet-on-wet techniques) and were super fun, but they were also one of the earliest parts of concept development for the series. I knew I wanted there to be two things: Magic artifacts, and magic abilities represented by color. It’s the reason the main artifact is the Spectrum Blade. Its power is a small portion of each other element, each color of magic. But that’s obviously explained more in-depth in the books.

On the very next page was this early sketch of Zaide and Resia.

I have no idea why I was in a more anime mood when I did the Spectrum sketches. Maybe because I’d been working on art for Snakesblood for so long that I was burned out on realistic painting and wanted to do something a little softer? Dunno.

This was another one I transferred to nicer paper, though I used colored pencil on it instead of paint. It’s also unfortunately one of those pieces where I liked the sketch a lot better than the finished illustration. It happens, sometimes.

One interesting tidbit about this sketch here though is Zaide’s ear. In the books, his left ear is truncated, having had the pointed tip cut off in some accident he doesn’t recall. This sketch was done before I’d decided to take that path in the story, which is amusing to me because it ends up being an important piece of symbolism later on!

A few pages later, we find the first concept for Tula.

Like everything else so far, I filmed the process of finishing this as a painting. Looking at it now, I can hardly believe how much this character’s direction changed! Aside from her garb and some of the colors, the Tula on the cover of Paragon of Fire seems totally different… but she’s still smiling, so I think that counts for something. She’s a peppy character, innocent and also not at all, and having her smiling on the cover of book 2 meant a lot to me. Of course, I think Michelle did a much better job portraying her than I did, but hey. I’m not the professional artist, here. I just do these for fun!

Now we’re getting into the stuff I haven’t shared in any form before, and that’s pretty neat.

If you’ve already read Spectrum Blade, you might have a guess as to who this very roughly sketched fellow might be. As you can see, having Andriun swathed in fur-lined garments has always been important, just like his spear. There are a couple elements here I still really like, such as having his coat split all the way to the hip so he has a lot of mobility in his legs, having claws on his boots to help him walk on the ice, and of course, you can see he’s holding an ice pick. Andriun will be on the cover of book 3, and I really look forward to seeing how he comes together for it.

And of course, there’s Lark, the last of the main 5.

Perhaps to be expected, but Lark ultimately has been the hardest to nail down as far as appearance and design goes. I gave her a high-collared but sleeveless shirt, which I planned to use to show a bit of muscle definition in her arms and make it clear she was someone who could hold her own, despite her regal and refined–and somewhat aloof–personality. Originally, I had some concerns that her physical appearance would be too similar to that of Tula, since they both have high ponytails. In color, they’re easy to tell apart, but I think Lark is a little more fine-featured than Tula is, so I think it’s easy enough to distinguish them in the black and white sketches. This one might be fun to paint at some point. Maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I don’t know.

Lastly, there were some attempts at chibis.

And man, they are not as graceful as the ones I did for the Snakesblood characters. I was able to save Zaide back in January, when I turned this sketch into a sticker to go with his book. I don’t think there’s any saving that rough idea for Tula, though, no matter how much I like the idea of her shading her eyes but also making a winky face because… Tula. She’s something else, I tell you.

That’s all that was in the sketchbook, though. At least, for this series. Maybe I should spend a little more time doodling?

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