Artist Q&A

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Fan­tasy tropes with a twist, gar­ish colours, fu­tur­is­tic cities, mixed emo­tions and more.

I want to go against fan­tasy archetypes. What ap­proach would you rec­om­mend?

Mairead Ker­s­ley, North­ern Ire­land


Lee­sha replies

Subverting tropes and expectations for a fan­tasy crea­ture or char­ac­ter is a great way to cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing de­pic­tion of your sub­ject. While there’s some­thing re­as­sur­ing and fa­mil­iar about tropes in any con­text, it’s some­what more dif­fi­cult to de­sign a sub­ject in a cre­ative way, when that sub­ject has been de­signed a mil­lion times be­fore.

Fan­tasy as a genre has an ex­ten­sive list of tropes! All you have to do to sub­vert them is sit down and think about op­po­sites. For this ar­ti­cle, my ap­proach is to write out a fan­tasy bes­tiary, and cat­e­gorise them into good, evil and neu­tral. Af­ter that it be­comes pretty easy to choose which sub­ject you want to de­pict against type.

Colour and light­ing can strongly sup­port your nar­ra­tive as well as the tone of your piece. Want to paint a typ­i­cally evil crea­ture as friendly or cute? Use bright, sat­u­rated colours. Warm light­ing and cool shad­ows works well for this. Look­ing for ways to make a good char­ac­ter look evil or fore­bod­ing? Try fea­tur­ing some de­sat­u­rated colours and gritty tex­tures.

There are many ways to get cre­ative with your sub­ver­sions. I avoid the pre­dictable evil ‘black’ uni­corn and in­stead choose a muted, rusty colour scheme for my beast.

Use a Color Dodge layer to paint high­lights with a gritty, tex­tured brush. Be sure to first dou­ble-click the layer and then de­s­e­lect Trans­parency Shapes Layer. Can you see the dif­fer­ence?

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