More ONLY SUPERHUMAN art: Psyche
Last year, I posted the design sketches I’d done for Emerald Blair, the lead character in Only Superhuman. These were illustrations I did years earlier, mostly 2002-3, before I wrote the book. Well, I also did sketches of Psyche Thorne, the other leading lady in the book, but I never got around to coloring them and I didn’t want to post them until I did. Which is something I only managed to do recently.
I hesitate to post these at all, since Psyche is supposed to be a woman of staggering beauty and allure, and maybe that’s something best left to the individual reader’s imagination. Also it’s questionable that my limited artistic abilities can come close to capturing that beauty, even with the excellent real-life exemplars I used as references. But Psyche’s looks are also somewhat unusual, an amalgam of ethnicities, so it may be hard for some readers to imagine what I had in mind. (I’m reminded of how many readers of The Hunger Games were surprised that Rue was black in the film, even though she was specifically described as dark-skinned the first three or four times she appeared in the book. Sometimes readers overlook elements of a physical description.) Besides, I went to all the trouble of finishing the drawings, so I might as well share them.
So here are my illustrations of Psyche Thorne, which, while far from perfect, give a reasonable indication of what I envisioned.
(click to enlarge)
I based Psyche’s face on several women of different ethnicities that I found to be otherwise similar in appearance and exceptionally beautiful. Mostly she’s a blend of two friends of mine from college, one a strawberry-blond Caucasian, the other African-American, but otherwise strikingly similar in appearance. I also used a photo of Kristin Kreuk to get some Asian influence in there, mainly in the eyes and nose, though I don’t think it comes across as well as I’d hoped. And she’s maybe a bit more chubby-faced than what I had in mind, though I think that’s mainly a shading issue with the cheeks. I am happy with the expression, though; it captures the blend of warmth and naughtiness I was going for.
I wasn’t very happy with the colored-pencil work I did. It was hard to get smooth texture, something that was more of a problem with Psyche’s rich complexion than with Emry’s pale one, and the colors I had available didn’t match the skin and hair tones I was going for very well. So I did a lot of work in the computer to fix it — superimposing translucent layers of solid color that better matched what I wanted, and softening and blurring the pencil lines as much as I could without losing the shading detail. It’s not perfect, but I think it came out reasonably well, considering.
So for the second, full-length drawing, I decided to do the coloring entirely in the computer, something I have very little experience with. I had a few false starts, but I finally got a handle on it, I think. This depicts Psyche in the outfit she wore for her big introductory scene in Chapter 7.
(click to enlarge)
The shading isn’t as nuanced as I could achieve in pencil, but I think it gets the idea across reasonably well. And I like the translucent effect the paint program let me achieve with the outer dress layer. Easier than trying to create that effect in colored pencil would’ve been.
If her pose and proportions look a little exaggerated, rest assured I based it all on photo reference. I chose a slinky, provocative pose to fit the character and the outfit. She’s angled a little to the viewer’s left, which makes her waist look narrower than it is. Also, she’s a full 6 feet tall, which makes her seem skinnier in proportion. I wanted her to be tall, slim and leggy in contrast to Emerald Blair’s mesomorphic physique. Emry’s build is inspired by tennis star Serena Williams, while Psyche’s owes more to Maria Sharapova.
I don’t know if I’ll do any more character art for Only Superhuman. Again, these are sketches I did years ago, when I had more free time for drawing, and I’m rather out of practice. But I wouldn’t be averse to seeing fan art, if anyone were interested.