Steady Resolve Sketch Process
The initial challenge of working on a game like L5R is that there’s years of back-story, source material, and images. Fortunately for me the Art Director team for L5R, Steve Argyle and Adrian Burton, have put together an elaborate style guide, and image inspiration library. I started off by focusing on the lore behind the Spider clan, samurai, and zombies.
Even with my narrowed focus of study, there was a lot to absorb. One of the neat parts is that zombies are created by enchanting porcelain masks with necromantic powers. The evildoer then places the mask on the corpse, causing the corpse to rise and do their bidding!
Once I thought I had handle on things, I did some thumbnails and worked out my first sketch. I sent it off to long time L5R artist (and friend), Drew Baker, for some feedback, and boy did I get it!
Zombie positions were interesting, particularly cool to see a figure facing away from camera. In illustration it is often the case that everyone is seen from the front.
Samurai pose was typical, guy yelling holding sword. Samurai armor did not look historical enough. I should also shoot some reference of people in masks to masks look more real.
Drew’s thoughts were right on, and a BIG help. Thanks Drew!
With that in mind I worked up some more sketches, specifically focusing on the Samurai’s pose. According to the art description, he should look like he’s been fighting, but just got his second wind.
The idea I was the most drawn toward, was that the samurai had been hit by one of the zombies, now lying dead at his feet. Mentally he is aware that the touch of death is upon him, and he might be at his end. Instead of giving up, he digs in and decides he is going to kill every last damn zombie if it’s the last thing he ever does.
I sent the sketch off to Steve and Adrian and got their approval. I then shot reference (a big thanks to my buddy Seth for enduring ridiculous costumes and poses). Here is the final drawing:
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