Of Characters and Concept Designs: The Artistic World of Aeterna

The sun is bright, the wind is cold, and the strange Sarah creature has entered into Week #2 of NaNoWriMo. Surprisingly, all of her primary psychological functions are still mostly intact.

Key Word = Mostly.

Aeterna hit 80,000 words a couple days ago, and that in itself is enough to blow all my psychological functions to pieces. I remember with fond nostalgia the days when the entire book was a mere thirty pages. At the time, I thought I’d written a tome.

HA.

I’m only a chapter past the midpoint and it’s already this big.

I feel like a proud parent.

Anyway, in honor of having written more than 10k this week and reaching 80k altogether, I’ve decided that the Aeterna art dump is way overdue. I’ve been teasing its release since what, August? That’s a long time to keep you people waiting.

So, with no further ado, welcome to the weird and random doodles of a half-finished book: Concept art, character sketches, and… more character sketches, because all I know how to draw is people.

A truly ironic skill for such a reclusive introvert.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my book (probably most of you), you can head over to the page dedicated to Aeterna coolness and read the synopsis.

Like, seriously, go do it. It’s a good synopsis.

 

Liriel

It seems only proper to start out with the girl herself. Guys, this is Liriel, my most prestigious main character. She belongs to an immortal race of creatures known as the Aeterna, who are forest dwellers by nature and cautious recluses by habit. Liriel is the kind of person who would be dubbed a tattle-tale by little kids and boring by big ones. I, however, choose to think of her as “austere.”

She may or may not have inherited some massive emotional deadness from her author.

Just sayin’.

 

Lotch face sketch

Zhis is my widdle Lotch bean. A bedraggled human guttersnipe and firefly enthusiast. Liriel finds her…

The word “annoying” doesn’t seem strong enough, but I’m just gonna go with it. Liriel finds her annoying.

Liriel has very poor taste.

 

Aeterna ear concept

CONCEPT ART! I love this kind of stuff. Now on to a random and brief culture lesson, lest I be deemed a heathen:

An Aeterna’s ears are more sensitive to pain than any other part of their body, and because of this, piercings have become a large part of their culture. They’re excruciating to obtain — it takes almost five years for the last remnant of pain to subside — and were originally regarded as a ceremonial symbol of strength only fit for warriors. Apart from basic prestige, certain types of earrings are worn to show rank, such as the king’s. Instead of a crown, he has that wingy looking contraption as pictured above. I thought it would be fun to break away from the typical conception of jewelry in fantasy and try something a little more bizarre, and this was the result.

Of course, the tradition, which was originally born out of honor, has gradually spiraled into silliness and peer-pressure, most commonly among the Aeterna youth. (The more earrings an Aeterna has, the more brave and resilient he appears to be, etc.) And we must take a moment to acknowledge the few brave souls who refuse to wear any at all, namely–

 

Emolas pastel sketch

EMOLAS!!!

Looking a bit pale and haggard, poor guy.

Emolas is a dandelion in the barren wasteland of my book. The drop of sunlight in a dark world. The golden boy. The lonely soul. The tragic optimist. The shunner of society. The societally shunned.

The klutz.

I could go on like this, but I think we’ve already established that he’s my favorite.

 

Sley face sketch

IT’S MY BOY!!!

*and we all take a moment to wonder why I like this guy so much*

Ehehehehe, yes, this is Sley. Also human. Also troublesome. A bit mentally unstable. The words “deranged”, “miserable”, and “murderous” come to mind, but in my defense, he is a mercenary. Would you expect anything less from a mercenary?

I think not.

 

Sley costume concept

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of blending Wild West culture into a Fantasy world, and Sley bore the brunt of that crazy idea — becoming a strange blend of cowboy, Spaniard, and Prince Caspian, all wrapped into one melodramatic mercenary mind.

The fact that this mish-mash of stereotypes somehow works is still the greatest mystery of my writing career.

 

Liriel and Aven sketch

Here we witness Liriel being mildly annoyed with her cousin, who can be mildly annoying. Guys, meet Aven. A relatively new addition to my cast, and a strong supporter of everything, as long as it isn’t boring. Liriel calls him an obnoxious chirp.

(To be fair, he called her an intolerable gloom, so who’s really at fault here?)

(The answer is Liriel. Liriel is always at fault for everything always.)

 

Aven costume concept

And here is the official Aven concept designs. The Aeterna are pretty scrappy — the kind of people who are rarely encounter threats, but always ready for them when they come — and as such, I always pictured a somewhat paradoxical appearance; you have these little round-faced munchkins with colorful hair and cute ears, who also happen to be bristling with enough weapons that Fili himself would be proud. And because Aven is a captain, I gave myself free license to go as overboard into the Epic department as I wanted to.

In my defense, he totally deserves it. I love this dude.

 

young Emolas sketch

“I would like to be thought of as average,” he said, but even though he smiled, there was tragedy in his eyes — the sad reluctance of knowing that ‘average’ was the one misfortune he was never meant to suffer.

Here is a younger version of Emolas, in much need of a haircut.

 

Aeterna forest painting

Foresty, woodsy folk that they are, I thought it would be nice to have some sort of something with them in their natural habitat. Halfway through the painting, I got bored and decided to make it autumn instead of summer.

This resulted in a troposphere that was SUPPOSED to be leaves but ended up looking more like blood splatters.

 

Emolas costume concept

Some Emolas concept art, featuring my incoherent scribbles and obvious remarks, such as– “Carries sword on back.”

Like, no, actually, the thing that looks suspiciously like a sword hilt is actually an oversized popsicle stick he lugs around for no reason.

Sheesh.

Emolas, being very much the philosophic loner, didn’t warrant over-the-top gear like Aven’s. In fact, I always imagined this character wearing what would be considered “last year’s fashion”. He’s practical, he’s passionate, and as for everything else — well, he doesn’t give a rip.

 

Liril and Emolas

And finally, a lovely sketch of Liriel looking mildly happy and Emolas looking majorly oblivious. Originally, I planned a whole series of these. They would be called, “Bonds: A Sequence of Relationships.” In THEORY, they would showcase Liriel’s various and sundry relationships with the various and sundry members of my cast, and be a nice study on her range of facial expressions. (Basically, annoyed and mad, because those are the only emotions she’s prone to.)

I got as far as Aven and Emolas and that was the end of it.

 


 

Now, before I wrap this up, I thought it would be fitting to share some of my old concept art — the stuff I drew a couple years ago, back during Draft #1 when I was still naive enough to think this book would only be 30 pages long.

*weary snickering*

A brief warning is necessary before we continue: Folks, be forewarned that the image you are about to view will probably blow your mind and turn your thought process to little pieces of char. It’s that good. Possibly the best thing I’ve ever drawn in my young life.

Are you ready?

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present…

2

My goggle-eyed fish child.

*stares nostalgically into the sunset* Ah yes, back in the days when Liriel was a mere Elf ripoff, her hair wasn’t silver, and her personality nonexistent. It’s hard to believe my character was EVER as horrible as that First Draft nightmare. It’s even harder to believe that there was a time when I lauded the above drawing as the best thing I’d ever accomplished in my entire artistic career.

Yeah.

I like to think I’ve gotten just a tiny better.

So anyway, there you have it, folks. Art, rambling, a bit of history — all the fun stuff. What do you think? Which drawing was your favorite? Would you be interested in more of this stuff sometime in the future?

If humans breathed carbon dioxide and omitted oxygen, would we be called plants?

Talk to me, people.

~Sarah

43 thoughts on “Of Characters and Concept Designs: The Artistic World of Aeterna

  1. *makes undignified squeaking noises* *composes self* Sorry, that was my… pet squirrel.

    This is awesome! I love concept art, and I’m already in love with your characters — especially since any character who can annoy the emotionally dead character is all good by me. 😀 Must be the vindictive side of INTJness. You must post part of your story! (JUST A LITTLE SNIPPET, PLEASE?!?!?!?! *starts humming that’s all I ask of you from PoTo* Just enough to make us want even more and make us continue to irritate you by begging. *nods wisely*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. FYI, about 90% of my cast have that strange and mysterious ability to annoy the Emotionally Dead One, so you’ll probably enjoy this quite a bit. XD As for snippets…. *fills the room with foreboding and foreshadowing chuckles*

      *wanders off looking for your pet squirrel so i can pet it*

      Like

  2. Oh my word. I live for these concept art things. Your art and your writing have both improved to drastic extents my dear. XD

    EMOLAS THO.

    Like

  3. Wow. Just wow.. I’m failing to find a better word because my mind has been utterly blown.
    Wowowowowowow. Amazing Sarah. I loooooooove it!!!

    Like

  4. AWWW all the lonely people. *sniffle* I think the young Emolas is my favorite, but LOTCH. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ They're all awesome.

    Question: HOW do you get characters' faces to look the same from picture to picture? I've always wondered how comic strip people and the like manage to get their cast looking so perfectly the same in every billionth picture. It's like… mindblowing. Is there a science to it or is it just intuitive?

    Like

      1. *nervous giggling* Problems… ehehehe, yeah, well. Welcome to fiction. XD

        Ehhhh… I think it’s a little bit of science, big bit of practice, and a whole ton of knowing your characters. Back in the day, I couldn’t make my people sketches look the same if my life depended on it, but surprise surprise, the more I practiced, the better I got. Plus, I slowly stopped looking at drawings as a whole and instead zeroed in on the little aspects that come together to CREATE the whole. Like… Liriel has a long, pointed face. So every time I draw her, instead of thinking about the overall look of her character, I just make sure to give her a long pointed face. The same goes for her other features. And somehow, miraculously, she turns out always looking the same.

        *fingerguns* So yeah. That probably didn’t make any sense, but believe it or not, I DO have a system. Sort of.

        Like

  5. OOOOHHHH such beautifulness!!! *wishes ever so sincerely that i could art so i wouldn’t have to commission people to do it for me*

    Seriously, you’re so blessed that you’re able to draw the characters in your mind. That’s one of my struggles with writing. I have this amazing conceptualization of a character, but I haven’t the foggiest idea how to get it out on paper. -_-
    *frustrated sighing*

    Like

    1. Uuurgh, that’s so irksome. I can sympathize; oftentimes something will look SO cool and epic in my head, but my hands just refuse to draw it the way I see it. I think creative people are cursed to imagine things they’ll never be able to show others…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Sarah!

    You know what fascinated me the most? The amount of character you can reveal just by looking at a person’s ears. Ears are not usually the first thing I think of when I think of world building or character building. I LOVED that addition. You went WAY beyond pointy-ear syndrome and created a ton of depth.

    I noticed Liriel has several piercings and earrings, but no chains, which seem to be a vanity thing for the Aeterna, and I LOVED the character of Emolas showing through by him having those piercings, but choosing not to show them off in any way. So he can take the pain, but he doesn’t have to have recognition for it, which makes me like him a ton, by the way.

    Lotch was adorable, but I think my favorite drawing/painting was the one with what you call blood splatters and I call beautiful. Though, if the Aeterna’s hair change with the season, I think both Liriel and Emolas are a bit out of date, but that might have been on purpose considering their characters. Liriel is ready for winter and the colorless existence it brings, and Emolas is still remembering Summer. Even if it wasn’t intentional, I LOVE IT!

    Those were just my thoughts reading and looking through.

    Thanks for sharing, and I would definitely love more, especially the concept art. That stuff was fascinating!

    ~Akir

    Like

    1. *geeks out* Okay, I love you. You figured this stuff out just from their ears asdfghjkldkjgkdh I have done my job well.

      *in which Akir makes the strange Sarah creature unnaturally happy by saying almost nothing*

      *pulls her dignity together* Anyway. Erm, yeah, the hair thing. You’re not wrong. (Though back when I painted it — which was sometime last year, come to think of it — I hadn’t quite figured out that the colors CHANGE depending on the time of year, so… yeah, happy coincidence there.) All will be explained in the book. *foreboding cackle*

      (Also, your comment got sent to spam for some strange reason… I’m glad I cleaned out my spam folder when I did or I might not have noticed it until way too late. *shakes head* Rude WordPress.)

      Like

  7. Ok, this comment is WAY overdue. I have been following and LOVING this blog for a very long time. I normally don’t go for personal blogs like this, but oh my word, your every post is so so so awesome, that this is my favorite (and I literally mean very favorite) blog I’ve read. But being the introvert that I am (I’m an INTJ too, actually), I have preferred so far to read and enjoy (i.e., stalk) your posts from the secrecy of my inbox and leave the adoring comments to all your many other fans. (I do read a lot of the comments because, you know, procrastination . . . . And hence the term “stalk.”)

    But anyways, today, I finally clicked over to read about Aeterna. Oh my word, I love your idea so much! That world building is so well done and original, and your character collages are so pretty!

    I can totally relate to Liriel having trouble with emotions. I have to remind myself a little too often that emotions are not a bad thing XD. And then Emolas and Aven . . . actually, all your characters are just totally awesome. I love that you know them well enough to make fun of their flaws XP . #AuthorLife right there.

    And SLEY. That is so ingenious why has no one ever put a cowboy into a fantasy novel before!!?? He sounds like the coolest character. I’m in the middle of plotting a historical fantasy right now, set in the late middle ages (or somewhere close to that, depending on the time of day and what book I’m in the middle of reading), but I’m mixing in the 1920’s culture (ergo, the fantasy). So I have a medieval bootlegger cop as my villain. *crazed grin* So I love stereotype mashups.

    Ah, I have spent way longer than I should have on this comment, so I’ll make the rest of it short:

    Your art is FANTASTIC. (I failed at a chalk pastel portrait of my MC. It looked close enough to a (mutant) human, but nothing like Kayla :/ )

    You are awesome!

    And keep writing!

    Joy,
    Savannah Lea Morello

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HELLOOOO!!! Stalk no more! Your comment seriously made my day. I’ve been cackling at my screen on and off for for literally ten minutes. As a hesitant commenter myself (#IntrovertsUnite #CommentsWillVirusYourComputerAndBlowUpTheWorld) I totally feel ya there, but I’m so glad you finally departed from the lonely little world of stalkerdom and ventured to join the insanity!

      A VILLAINOUS MEDIEVAL BOOTLEGGER COP. In FANTASY. That right there is sheer brilliance. Sley approves. I absolutely LOVE stereotype mashups and genre crossovers. They’re… just… so… FUN.

      (Also, you win the award of being the first person to correctly decipher what medium I used on that Emolas painting. (Or any painting, really…) *highfives* I like you.)

      Anyway, thanks again for commenting and all the lovely words! This little miserly dragon appreciates them muchly. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  8. AGH I love your concept art!! The earrings. The characters. All of it is so cool! I have often thought that it would be cool to blend a bit of wild west culture into a fantasy story, I’m glad you’re doing it!!! I can’t wait to hear more about Aeterna. 😉

    Like

    1. Thaaaaank youuu!! And don’t you worry, by the time I’m done with this book, you’ll probably be SICK of hearing me talk about it. XD (Is it unprofessional to ramble about one’s unfinished book on a blog? Probably. Do I care? No.) And yes, the Wild West is just too interesting to keep its influences out of my story. I couldn’t resist.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. One thing I love about your art posts is that they always inspire me to draw and make me want to be better at it. I LOVE your concept art sketches, especially the earrings one. I’m already fangirlling about Aeterna…. *grins sheepishly* It’s going to be EPIC.

    Like

  10. I LOVE IT ALL SO MUCH
    I do have a question though… you said their hair change colors with the seasons, and then you said Liriel’s hair is silver. Does it not change color then, and if so why is she different?

    Like

    1. You… are astute. And all shall be revealed. In due time. In the book. When I publish it. Thirty years from now.

      In the immortal worlds of Gollum… “Patience! Patience my love.” 😁

      Like

  11. You are so creative!!! I never would have been able to think up characters like that! Let alone a species like that! I cannot wait to read the book when it’s published.

    Like

  12. Oh my goodness. That was awesome, Sarah! I loved all of it, and I’m very jealous of your ability to do this thing called “concept art” that manages to elude me no matter what I do. Yes, I would love to see more drawings of yours like this. I think my favorites were where you broke down their outfits and weapons and stuff.

    And yes, I think we should then be called plants.

    Like

    1. PRACTICE. PRAAAAAAAACTICE. AND PRACTICE SOME MORE. It can’t elude you for long with such determination being flung at it’s face. 😉

      But hey, thanks. Such praise from the rare and tight-lipped species known as INTJ is always a bright spot for my day.

      Like

  13. Hey, Sarah!!! So this is Karis from youth group stalking your blog. 😉

    You’re doing NaNo!!!! That’s so exciting; I was going to ask you if you were because over half of my writing and Goodreads friends are this month.

    I love seeing a glimpse into the character and unique story plot and world building you have going on in this book. 🙂 And the artwork is great! I love it! I can’t wait to chat more with you about your writing and about all things books and writing related. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HEEEEY, it’s you!! Welcome here — I was hoping you’d show up. 😉

      Yep, I’m doing nano. It’s… uh…. fun…? (NOT.) But I have written more in two weeks than I generally do in a month, so it’s serving it’s purpose. 😏 And YES, I too am so looking forward to chatting more. I want to pick your brain again about bookishness and beta-reading and all the lovely geeky things. 😉

      Like

      1. Yep! I’m here! 🙂

        Aww… I know how tough it is from chatting with my friends about it, but I’m glad it’s motivating you to write and keeping you accountable. I’ve actually been praying for the NaNoers this month at the youth group, and it’s funny how in a way I’ve been praying for you before you even started coming to the church.

        It’s going to be a lot of fun talking with you about those things in person!!!! I’m really looking forward to it. 😉

        Like

  14. Since this page clearly doesn’t have enough comments…here was my reaction.

    *stares*

    *stares*

    *gurgles*

    *collapses into a hopeless heap that is solidly convinced it cannot write*

    Barring Fish-Eyes, who I politely didn’t scrutinize very closely, everything on this page is perfect.

    No, don’t read that incorrectly. When I say perfect, I don’t mean decent, pretty good, would investigate further if I had nothing else to do. I mean that the RIGHTNESS of the whole thing is so immediately and gloriously apparent that I would, without further ado, place all of it in my all-time favorite art/writing list and buy a copy of Aeterna without looking at the price tag.

    Very few things come across to me this way. You’ve simply nailed it, and now I’m plotting how to trick you into giving me the book. What’re my chances..?

    Like

  15. Your art seriously makes me want cry……………….!!!!!!!!! These drawing are so amazing they made me fall out of my chair…. (not literally, but who cares? XD) Whyyyy would you do this to me, making my art look like mudddddd????? Jk, jk. 😛 You should seriously post lots of art posts so I can die all over again haha cuz I just love dying over your art!

    Like

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