Hi guys! This is an older artwork and post, but I'm sharing it because I decided to tokenize it on NFT showroom (and it's one of my all time best posts) ^_^
This art took me roughly 12h to finish during 3 drawing sessions. I have very little character design experience as I usually prefer to draw creatures or environments. However, going outside of the comfort zone can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience.
First, I started with a rough sketch of the mermaid in a simple pose. I was quite unhappy with my pencil sketch design, as it felt uninteresting, so while inking I experimented with ideas a bit. I started adding more rough, sharp lines that led me to the dark mermaid idea. I chose to work digitally afterwards, because digital art allows for fast experimentation and easier design changes. For example, I tried a few tail variations until I settled on the most dynamic one. Also I changed the pearl in the hand into a heart and a dagger in the other, because it felt more dark and mysterious that way.
So my idea now is that this mermaid is a descendant of Atlantians, who were formerly human. Atlantis is a lost city only known in legends. They were cursed because of failed magic and now they can only live underwater. They have longer life spans, but not immortal. Also the dark magic somewhat twisted them physically, making them into dark creatures. Most of them live in the depths because they cannot stand the light.
Atlantis is a fictional island mentioned within an allegory on the hubris of nations in Plato's works Timaeus and Critias, where it represents the antagonist naval power that besieges "Ancient Athens", the pseudo-historic embodiment of Plato's ideal state in The Republic. The story concludes with Atlantis falling out of favor with the deities and submerging into the Atlantic Ocean.
The longest step was defining all of the ideas. Initially I planned to have lots of symbols on the tail, but I scrapped that as they were hard to see in full screen. When working on a design it’s best to have easy to see and understand details. I decided to keep the coral ornament on the head and I even added another coral as a hair piece. This coral is decorative and makes her appear more a regal, possibly royalty. At the same time, it’s not too fancy, which could mean that it’s a simple accessory.
I chose the long alien like head, because it reminded me of one of the Indiana Jones movies. I wanted her to feel like she is from an ancient civilizations, Atlantis in fact. This is also the reason I settled on the strong blue colors, like in the Atlantis cartoon from my childhood. The heart and dagger is reminiscent of the Aztec human sacrifice ritual, the heart-extraction. Mayans also had sacrifices but theirs were more blood related.
Aztec sacrifice wiki; [Mayan sacrifice wiki]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice_in_Maya_culture)
Even though the design is meant to be dark and eerie, I decided early on that her tail would be a strong saturated color and skin very pale and sickly. The strong color is meant to emphasize her beauty while her skin makes her feel less human.
Here you can see several quick color tests that I did along the way, to see if other colors will fit better. The hair around the head was too big and far, it felt odd. Next that her balance was off and suggested to add some fins which I did and I really like. I also rotated the torso a little bit, to give the pose more stability.
Afterwards I tried lowering the opacity and drawing a clean finished artwork, but the drawing felt too stiff and sterile. So I actually ended up using the original sketch, but making a cleaned up version.
For the coloring phase I started by selecting the background areas with a wand tool and turning them black. This is much faster than outlining the very organic outline of the mermaid. Instead I selected the empty space in the background and filled it with 1 base color.
After the base layer I worked with many masks adding various colors on separate layers. I kept the shading relatively simple, base, lights and shadows. After that I blended everything a bit for a more realistic smoother look. For the torso I found some reference which I used to create a more realistic rendering. There is a lot more rendering that could be done, but I estimate that if I wanted to remove the black outlines, it would take me at least 4 more hours.
The following is my process gif with more additional steps and easier preview of the whole process.
Thank you for reading and I hope you guys enjoyed it!