Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

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Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by LordBob » October 9th, 2015, 7:30 pm

Hello Wesnoth. Remember that project I mentioned when I came back this summer? Well, it was long in the making but at last we're ready to update Under the Burning Suns.

A lot of discussion and preliminary sketching have taken place privately while Jetrel and Zookeeper prepared the revamping of the desert elves faction. Needless to say, the result of their effort should be both interesting to play and visually pleasing. In the course of this commission, the desert elves will get their own set of generic portraits, along with brand new ones for the campaign heroes. Specifically, I will produce the following set:

Campaign characters
- Kaleh
- Nym
- Eloh + angered variant
- Garak
- Zul
- Keratur
- Elyssa + red/silver variants

Generic desert elves
- Beast rider lvl 1-3
- Beast rider leadership branch lvl 2-3
- Fighter lvl 1-3
- Fighter skirmisher branch lvl 2-3
- Mounted scout lvl 1-3
- Mounted scout bowman branch lvl 2-3
- Shaman lvl 1-3
- Shaman sun branch lvl 2-3
- Shaman moon branch lvl 2-3

Note that the names and stats for the desert elves aren't finalized, so I don't think my accomplices will make them public yet. The unit line up, however, is stable enough that we can start producing some artwork for them.
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by LordBob » October 9th, 2015, 7:36 pm

Double post because I want to reserve the first one for the finished gallery

Visually we will be taking a very different path from the regular wood elves here, since the UtBS setting grants a lot of freedom. First round of sketches: Kaleh, Garak, Zhul, and Eloh. They should give a good idea of where we're headed.

On a side note, I am painfully aware that the goddess is currently as ugly as they get. I will work hard on refining her face.
Attachments
UtBS_Kaleh.jpg
UtBS_garak.jpg
UtBS_zhul.jpg
UtBS_eloh.jpg
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Jetrel » October 10th, 2015, 4:44 am

My one and only reservation - purely a matter of personal taste, lies in the hairstyle on Kaleh and Garak - I'm not a big fan of the "hair folded behind the ears" hairstyle. I think compositionally, something in front of the ears would look nice (whether it be jewelry, or hair, or something else). A few options that come to mind for me include 1] hair-attached jewelry, attached to the forelocks (bone, ivory, silver, or beads) 2] something draped down from a tie around the 'crown' of the head 3] something actually clipped to the ears (contrary to most earrings; there are quite a few designs that clip "on top of" the ears, rather than being hung from the bottom lobe). So there are a number of ideas, for that - as I said before this is really a matter of personal taste, and you're free to ignore it at your discretion. :)

Otherwise this basically nailed a bullseye for these, as far as I'm concerned. Knocked it out of the park. :D
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by vultraz » October 10th, 2015, 6:46 am

I don't have much to add except to say these are absolutely stunning. :D I especially like Eloh's design (besides the face, of course ;) ). You've really given her an elegant look without going too over-the-top. One little critique, though: I think her neck is just a tad too long.

Otherwise: absolutely FANTASTIC work. Can't wait to see the final results. :)
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Jetrel » October 10th, 2015, 6:47 am

Since a few people might be wondering:
Some of you may be thinking "whoa, these guys aren't white anymore". No, they're not. We've very deliberately chosen to change this.

A serious issue with a lot of fantasy that follows in the tolkienesque tradition is one of homogenous eurocentrism. There is nothing wrong with a celebration of medieval/antiquarian 'white european' culture, and our existing, core content will always be unchanged in this regard (the specific nation of Wesnoth in our setting is populated by an overwhelming majority of people following that ethnic/cultural archetype). We like that - or we wouldn't have made it as such.

However, our world in our setting absolutely should not be. We've had discussions about this in the past, but one of the main aesthetic attractions of 'fantasy' as a genre is discovery - of new and interesting things, usually cultures, places, and peoples, magical or mundane. The real world provides us with an enormous range of ingredients and motifs we can use to build new imaginary cultures with, and it's completely insane to limit ourselves to just one small subset of that. This is the pragmatic argument, set aside from the "elephant in the room" issue of inclusiveness, racism, and all that - which are very serious issues (and are other very strong reasons for this change, but which I don't need to harp on).

We are intent on expanding wesnoth's cultural setting to include cultures and ethnicities based on things outside of western fantasy - whenever things take place outside "the country of wesnoth". A perfect example of this is the Khalifate faction that has been built up over the past few years. Since we were redoing the art for UtBS, which is set in a ludicrously non-european setting (a desert), it made complete sense for this to be a place for us to spread our wings a bit and broaden our world's cultural geography.


This is an executive decision, and any complaints about it are not welcome. Please refrain from derailing any discussion about these portraits with it.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » October 11th, 2015, 2:06 am

I haven't actually played this campaign yet, but I like the idea of the desert elves, and these portraits look really quite nice. The first two (Kaleh/Garak?) in particular.

And regarding the skin colour, I fully support the change.
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by doofus-01 » October 11th, 2015, 4:16 am

First, I need to say how glad I am to see continued contribution by LordBob! (Sorry, I'll wipe the unseemly drool up off the floor on my way out.)

Second: The pigmentation makes sense and is cool, but aside from pointy ears, what makes these folks elves? Will they have some "heritage" of the earlier elves? I had vague recollections of kitty describing what she thought of when drawing the baseline elves, this is the link I could come up with:
http://forum.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?p=284226#p284226

If that general idea is at all relevant, shouldn't they have some connection to desert flora? Not sure what that would be, brush or cactus would be New World candidates.
(If there is a new terrain needed, it could be done.)
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by zookeeper » October 11th, 2015, 8:51 am

doofus-01 wrote:If that general idea is at all relevant, shouldn't they have some connection to desert flora? Not sure what that would be, brush or cactus would be New World candidates.
(If there is a new terrain needed, it could be done.)
Answering the other points is really up to LordBob and Jetrel, but regarding this, the nature connection aspect is (still) entirely contained to the shaman line, which has three branches: druid, sun, moon. The druid line represents what's still left of the flora-oriented tradition, but will be somewhat handicapped (won't sprout wings, for instance) due to the fact that there just isn't that much flora left and thus there's less for them to tap into. They still have that tradition because they likely depend on it for sustenance more than ever, but in terms of raw magical powers, they've somewhat atrophied along with the plant life. To compensate for the loss, the sun- and moon-oriented lines have learned to develop a connection with the extreme sun/moon/day/night/heat/cold conditions of the natural world and to draw power from that instead.

Stats-wise, the druid line will probably keep the thorns attack. Whether they'll have entangle or something similar, I'm not yet sure. Regardless, "thorns" obviously fit a desert just fine, and even "entangle" shouldn't feel weird if we decide to use that without specifically desertifying the names.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Whiskeyjack » October 11th, 2015, 11:31 am

Regarding the pigmentation change, I´m fully in support of this. A few quick brainstorming points:

- will the campaign story get reworked as well? Currently the elves have a Wesmere heritage IIRC. The change can have a multitude of reasons in the setting, if that stays: Magic, the Fall, centuries in the deserts (genetical developement/tanning), mixing with some group of desert elves.
- Not nessecarily a problem, but it could send the wrong signals if the pigmented desert elves worship a white goddess (even if she turns out to be a false one). "Eloh" should have the power to appear to her worshippers with the same visual features they themselves have. Depending on her intentions this might or might not be in her interest. If the Wesmere connection stays, it might actually be in her interest to leave the connection to the old elves, if that knowledge has survived.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by zookeeper » October 11th, 2015, 11:43 am

Whiskeyjack wrote:- will the campaign story get reworked as well?
No, not really, aside from whatever little details might need to be tweaked to accommodate some of the unit changes.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Jetrel » October 11th, 2015, 11:57 am

doofus-01 wrote:First, I need to say how glad I am to see continued contribution by LordBob! (Sorry, I'll wipe the unseemly drool up off the floor on my way out.)

Second: The pigmentation makes sense and is cool, but aside from pointy ears, what makes these folks elves? Will they have some "heritage" of the earlier elves? I had vague recollections of kitty describing what she thought of when drawing the baseline elves, this is the link I could come up with:
http://forum.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?p=284226#p284226

If that general idea is at all relevant, shouldn't they have some connection to desert flora? Not sure what that would be, brush or cactus would be New World candidates.
(If there is a new terrain needed, it could be done.)
It's worth pointing out that at least three major fantasy archetypes keep showing up across basically all real-world culture groups:
  • "little people" - probably inspired by genetic dwarfism, which tends to show up everywhere, in tiny percentages. Because they're different, it's almost always assumed that there's something supernatural going on, for the same reason people IRL used to believe people with dwarfism had magic powers, or luck.
  • "the fair folk" - almost all major cultural groups have something that fits the archetype of humans-without-problems, who are beautiful, and don't die of old age, and are naturally talented at everything, and have that spiritual connection to the physical world around them that we all wish we had, etc).
  • "beastly/monster people" - human-like things which are misshapen and (usually) unusually strong.
I think you know which one elves slot into.


Basically "fair folk" in any mythology come down to what we humans wish we were like, but don't get to be because life is unfair. Sometimes it's just about things which are a genetic lottery; we all wish we were attractive, we all wish we could be talented at anything we set our minds to (rather than having to spend years of practice learning to do something like playing piano, or drawing, which always feel like you should be able to do them just by sitting down and trying - as you can with many other activities in life - or at least they certainly felt that way when we were children, and quite a few adults forget this). We all wish we didn't get old... or sick. We all wish we were tall, and strong - but we wish we could be that without the slight grotesquerie of being hulking.

Sometimes, though, it's down to things that aren't fair not because they're things we missed some lottery-of-birth on, but because they're things we're wired to want, and we don't get to have because they're not possible with the way our world is built. I think it's safe to say that almost everybody wishes, more than anything, that their deep desire for something could actually have the power to self-fulfill - that wanting something bad enough would actually have a power in and of itself to change the world. You look at the magic in Star Wars, and the magic in Harry Potter, and they're basically operating on that principle - they're driven by direct will and desire; the same thing's almost always true of any 'fair folk' archetype; the world warps itself to cater to their feelings, because they're a reflection/personification of our own wishes for ourselves.

Same thing goes for the whole "connection to nature" and all that - we've put that on the fair folk because it's a thing we've hurt for the lack of, and pined for, ourselves. Nature, if you've been in it and around it, always feels like a club you're not invited to be a member of. If you've ever been around a wild animal, it kind of hurts your feelings that the animal is afraid of you, and that you can't make a connection with it like you would with a dog. It makes you feel like a bit of a monster - what could be so wrong, so evil about you, that creatures recoil from you in fear? You look at any wild creature, like a deer, or a bird - wouldn't it be sweet if you could just pat it on the head? Wouldn't it be sweet if you could actually empathize with things, and actually connect feelings/emotions between yourself and something else?

The same goes for trees, and even for rocks and rivers and all that - they move, they build, they grow - there's this whole secret world of stuff going on there - with our modern, clinical, scientific worldview, of course, we know there isn't actually some hidden, unseen world building this stuff up, it's actually just molecules that are shaped to naturally accrete things; it's robbed of all of its mystery. None of these things are conscious. But wouldn't it be crazy if it *was* because of some hidden world we couldn't see? Wouldn't it be amazing if every corner of nature had it's own little hidden world of sapient, unseen-and-immaterial creatures driving things, living in their own cultures, with all of the great dramas and romances of their world being something waiting to be discovered? The idea of fair folk is cashing in on that wish - that there could be people who can actually see this hidden world, and engage with its inhabitants.

It's the sapience part that's really the thing we wish was there - it's a lonely world, we're in; we're looking for other thinking beings, other minds to share the walk of life with. Sadly, most of our natural world is filled with dead, inert material (soil, stone), or is dead material that happens to be arranged in biological nanomachines that build more of the same (plants, and many lower strata of the animal kingdom). We want it to have a mind, to have a -soul-. All of it. Even the rocks, and the earth. That everything would have a mind, and be a companion to us on the journey of life - not a human mind, certainly, but at least something. The great emptiness and deadness of the real world, as science has laid it bare to us, has really been one of the great epistemological disappointments of human existence.
'To the end of the journey - in the end,' said Gandalf. 'We cannot look too far ahead. Let us be glad that the first stage is safely over. I think we will rest here, not only today but tonight as well. There is a wholesome air about Hollin. Much evil must befall a country before it wholly forgets the Elves, if once they dwelt there.'
'That is true,' said Legolas. `But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.'
The only visually odd feature of elves, the pointed ears, is in typical mythology an animal feature; they're often in older fairy-tales, pre-tolkien, actually furred ears on many different varieties of fair folk, meant to literally be the ear of an animal (like a deer, or a fox); they're meant to symbolize that the creature involved has a supernatural connection to the animal/natural world - kind of like a green thumb symbolizes a "supernatural affinity with plants". You see examples of this in works like Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun". In some treatments, the role-players of "fair folk" have other animal features instead; like horns, or bird eyes, or claws. It's a symbol that's slipped into common genre usage, but that's all it is.

If I was being cynical, I could deride "the idea of fair folk" in mythology as being some sort of childish security blanket or power fantasy, something juvenile which is simply dreamed up as a make-believe escapism to comfort us when life isn't fair. But they're actually a very useful philosophical question - life isn't fair, and we wish things could be better, but ... what IS better? What does "better" mean? The fair folk are a speculation on that idea which goes all the way back to ancient times. Like all speculative fiction, parts of it may be forever irrelevant, but as we enter an era where stuff like genetic modification becomes a reality, a few thousand years of cultural speculation and preparation for the notion of "better humans" is pretty helpful to have on hand.


So what makes these guys elves? All of that.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by zookeeper » October 11th, 2015, 12:10 pm

Image
In addition to (or despite of?) being their elder keeper of lore, she's probably leaning more towards the traditional earthy druid role (and thus is probably stuck with the druid branch). So, it'd be good if there was something to reinforce that, here's a few possible ideas for later detailing: a leaf or flower sprouting from her staff; a pouch of soil with something growing in it; a toad, butterfly, snail, caterpillar or something like that inconspicuously perched somewhere.

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Lord-Knightmare » October 11th, 2015, 5:05 pm

Wow, those WIPs look spellbinding :shock: !
The one for Eloh though...She resembles the Wispmother from TESV: Skyrim. :hmm:

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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by LordBob » October 11th, 2015, 9:00 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback and warm feelings. :) A few comments while you wait for the next batch of pictures:
  • I will fiddle with hairstyles and jewelry to try and make Kaleh and Garak visually more interesting
  • And add some druidic hints to Zhul's outfit. I especially like the possibility of a pouch of soil and her staff growing leaves
  • Eloh's skin is a tricky subject. The original portrait had her with pure white clothing and I liked that notion that she should feel like a being of light, hence my pick of a very pale complexion. Furthermore, I want her to look unmistakably inhuman (well, inelvish technically ^_^ ) - I was half in a mind to give her a silvery skin, and maybe I should go for that in order to avoid any possible misleadings. Either way, I will try a few variations.
  • Jetrel wrote:A cool essay on the nature of elves :eng:
    On a more pragmatic note, to answer Doofus, visually speaking the desert elves will inherit from their ancestry:
    - the ears of course
    - the pupil-less grey eyes
    - a pronounced taste for vegetal patterns and curvy shapes

    Aside from this, it was agreed upon during the preliminary phase that enough time and space and world-changing disasters separated those elves from the Wesmere people to warrant a complete change of appearance. Cacti could be a cool feature, I'll think about it
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Re: Lordbob's commissionned work: UtBS

Post by Aldarisvet » October 11th, 2015, 9:43 pm

I like these portraits. They look like native americans. Well, everyone like native amercians... Mayne Reid, Fenimore Cooper, yes? Especially Garack looks like some NA chief.
Still, of course they are not native americans. NA are pagans, and in UtBS islamic connotations are so strong, that in fact we have two desert monotheistic nations now - Khalifate and Desert Elves.
Eloh = female Allah, thats so obvious, as other strong things about faith from UtBS. Strangely and conversly, we do not even now anything about the religion of wesnothians (as I know from my very incomplete experience). Do wesnothians worships the only and one god? Probably this question is deliberately avoided for good.
I personally think that some changes for making Desert Elves more like NA, well, partly like mexican NA, there are deserts in Mexico, yes... that changes would be good... eh.. for some 'balance'. And I myself from Russia btw.
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