This was something I had been wanting to make for years. It, honestly, had to have been at least 3 years ago when I started this whole illustration.
I had been wanting to work on some character concepts for a long time but wasn’t really sure how I wanted to tackle it. I knew I wanted to create a collection of intriguing characters who all told a very original and interesting story without any words to help tell it. Art pieces that spoke volumes about who they were and where they came from just through visual language and graphic cues.
So to shorten it down: I was having a conversation with a fellow co-worker who specializes in cultural/archaeological work and I noticed some pictures he had on his desk of Apache Crown Dancers. Even without any color or reference or cues, the image was very striking in its cultural identity and the deeper religious tones it hinted at. I picked it up and was inspired by both the immediate visual weight it held and by how rich of a story it started to whisper. I relished in the fact that I could look at the picture and be completely confused and bewildered about everything about them and yet still not want to find out the answers. So many gaps I wanted to fill in on my own. What was their customary garb meant to represent? What kind of lands did they roam? Questions about culture and tradition, what their diet consisted of, even their relationship with their children and elders.
Who were these dudes?
I’ll admit, the inner child wriggled up inside me. I wanted to create my own mythic story for them.
It wasn’t until years later that I finally decided on how I wanted to approach the project and, in turn, settled on the mindset that the pieces would be part of a larger collection. Something akin to my childhood sketches, I wanted to create a collection of peculiar people and creatures…all of whom we don’t quite recognize at first. Upon further inspection though, these characters can visually guide us into their world, helping us answer those questions…and maybe asking bigger ones.
Here you can see some of the initial artwork I played around with before I got to the final design. I’m very pleased with the outcome and can’t wait to start creating more!