My 'Observation to Imagination' class at VCU consisted of a semester-long assignment where we were to pick from a selection of well-known movies and re-frame the story for an entirely new genre and audience. Additionally, the professor wanted to push us to work from observation as much as possible and use someone we knew to help inspire both the visual and narrative traits of the new character.
Character Sheet: Pre- Transformation
With the movie "Jennifer's Body" as a starting point, the first change was the setting from an early 2000's America to an ancient, Celtic inspired environment. I cast my sister, Amanda Donahue, as the leading character and changed the leading role from popular high schooler Jennifer, to the rising leader of a royal family named Cliodhna.
Some early sketches helped to decide on a costume silhouette, and from there it was possible to get reference photos with Amanda relatively close to the final design. As an added detail, a 'poison ring' that Amanda already had became a significant aspect to the character. The ring itself as a symbol of her royal status and the Celtic design as a recurring motif.
The character sheet began as a graphite drawing on toned paper and was transferred and finished digitally in Adobe Photoshop.
Character Sheet: Post- Transformation
The second phase of the design mirrors the original storyline as the main character is forced through a supernatural transformation against their will. In the movie, Jennifer describes herself in this new form as a god. While the character is now shunned from her old world, she is undoubtedly more powerful than ever. Cliodhna's 'monstrous' form makes reference to features of Celtic gods and demons such as the Glaistig (a cursed noblewoman with goat features), the Green man (inspired the leaf markings on the face), and Cliodhna the goddess of banshees who inspired the character’s name. Amanda and I also spoke about these monster traits in our initial interview, I wanted the design to be something that she could see herself embodying.
(Note the second sketchbook spread where I made four different sketches trying to imagine a way for the character to hide the wings under a cloak in an effort to blend in, then I remembered she had two sets of horns on her head that would make any blending in very difficult.)
Key Art Illustration
A key art illustration, to showcase the character and entice viewers into their story, was the final project stage. This piece introduces the character of "Needy", or Nighinn in my story. She is loyal and protective of the main character and I see her as Cliodhna's knight. This scene is Cliodhna giving her family ring over to Nighinn, a symbol of her leaving her old life behind as she has lost her place in it. I wanted to play with the classic image of the knight kneeling before their queen, (specifically “The Accolade" by Edmund Leighton 1901). The physical size of the characters as well as their poses communicate the emotional turmoil of the composition. Cliodhna is statuesque and regal, containing her sorrow, and Nighinn is reverent but heartbroken.
The thumbnailing process helped to find the best way to show that classic pose with a unique perspective, almost as if the viewer had happened upon the scene. I used myself as a photo reference to achieve the correct angle and pose. From there it was a process of building on, and refining the details of the characters and the landscape. This was an entirely digital piece.
A birthday/ thank you gift for Amanda for all of her help with this project. Done with watercolor, color pencil, and ink. (Featuring Valentino as Amanda's familiar)