I’m also a webcomics writer and illustrator, with a focus on science fiction, character and creature design, and world building techniques. Occasionally, I’ll be posting insights into the creative process as I prepare for the 2016 debut of my webcomic, Embers of Sozon. This post has also been cross-posted on LinkedIn and on Medium.
What’s the most out-of-place thing you’ve seen lately? For me, it was the surprise of seeing a fully-decorated, discarded, brown Christmas tree laying on the sidewalk curb.
Ignoring the clear fire hazard — and the oddity that someone in my neighborhood displayed a dead Christmas tree in their apartment for 10 months — the experience of seeing the dead tree was akin to being offered a pumpkin spice latte in April. It threw my whole sense of time into momentary turmoil.
However, the image of the tree, branches, and shiny foil stuck with me when an opportunity arose to finish a concept for one of the characters in my webcomic, Plesq.
Plesq is a member of a race of aliens called ord. Ord do not grow hair on their heads, which, from a visual design perspective, leads to a certain amount of “sameness” in character silhouettes. Hair and hairstyles are important visual indicators we humans use to differentiate people, and they’re also tools I’ve disallowed myself in the visual development of ord — therefore, my ensuring that hats and headwear between ord characters were distinctive became paramount in their conceptual design.
In one of the final designs for Plesq, I used the image of the discarded tree to give Plesq a crown of branches and shining points of light. In the interest of world building, I was able to extend the concept further, coming up with a justification that her crown was based on an organism native to her world called a rab. The rab is a fungus-like organism that uses bioluminescent “blossoms” to attract flying creatures as a mechanism to spread its spores.
When I was in art school, I was sometimes reminded that artists should not only seek inspiration in the extraordinary, but also in more ordinary things. If creative ideas can begin from refuse on the sidewalk, imagine what can be done with what inspires awe and wonder.