Yesterday I shared with you the latest character designed for our Elf range, and I've been pretty happy with how you welcomed our Forest Troll (name still to be decided, as always...)!
For many reasons, this character can be considered the cornerstone of our Elf range, speaking about its core design and lore (two things that are strictly related, in our creative approach). As always, before going on with my challenging wall of texts, written in potato English, let's see the sculpt in details!
If you read the first post about our Elf range, you already know the creative guide-lines behind this project and we can say that this troll really summarizes the essence of our Elves and links all the breadcrumbs of design that we've spread during this journey into the Elvish domains. When I imagine new characters, and above all new whole archetypes, I always try to start from an idea able to conglomerate all the various directions that will put out from it: poetically speaking, it's like finding the right seed able to generate a tree solid enough to hold the weight of many ramifications. If your father-tree is not solid enough, it's likely that it will fall under the weight of the many ideas you try to put on it, creating a design that looks stretched, or not coherent or just "too busy" or confused.
Sometimes I find the right seed, some other time, sadly, the tree is not as solid as I wanted it to be: in general, however, I think that this is the best creative approach to create something "alive".
With our Elf range, I wanted to create something unique but, allow me to be brutally honest with you, something that could be also familiar enough to attract a wider audience: it's cool to explore undiscovered lands, but if you have not a big name and a solid reputation behind, it's also difficult to encourage customers to exit their comfort zone.
As you may imagine, it's not easy at all to combine "classic" with "new" and I struggled a lot, believe me, to find the right direction for my Elves!
I then had this idea to combine two worlds that rarely communicate and that we use (logically) to imagine them as separate: the European/Scandinavian fantasy (that, at least in my mind, coincides with two names: Froud and Bonner) and the more exotic Asian/Polynesian folklore.
In my mind, I wanted to start from a classic, familiar, European archetype and refresh it by adding some oriental/exotic spice: should I succeed, I would create something interesting for sure, but I deeply feared the "pineapple pizza syndrome" (making a disaster, combining two good things in a horrible, sacrilegious, way).
Once decided (finally!) the main root, I needed the father-seed able to merge all these ideas in a solid, coherent way. With the Second Government range, I started from a historical/political approach to define it but somewhat I think I've failed to express all its potentials; with Elves, I decided instead to start from a religious point of view, identifying a strong subject able to hold the weight of the whole range: trolls!
Trolls are probably one of the most iconic figures of the fantasy literature and European folklore, in specific Scandinavian trolls, a concept that I'm really attached to!
Moreover, we can somehow find a Japanese counterpart of trolls, at least keeping an open mind: Oni!
I decided, then, that Trolls would have been the harmonizing element of the Elf range: but how?!
I couldn't simply make a troll with a katana!
So, as written above, I inserted them at first as a narrative element, a kind of recurring theme able to influence the range in an indirect way: I started to shape around my Elves a kind of Shinto religion theme, placing Trolls at the centre of this culture.
In fact, I thought it was an obvious way to approach the Elvish religion: Elves are always associated with nature and are generally described as mystical creatures that live in a kind of spiritual dimension of our world, so I thought that an immanent religion, inspired to Shintoism, would suit nicely to them.
Moreover, this religious theme would help me to take the best from the concept of European "fairy people" (in fact, Elves are only one of the many creatures that inhabit the European culture!) and the Japanese folklore (that, similarly, have thousands of kami, yokai and spirits in general!) in a harmonious and coherent way (well, hopefully!).
From that point, I tried (and I'm trying!) to present you this concept gradually, in order not to confuse you wit too many aesthetics and notions: at first, I wanted to focus your attention on the main characters of the project, the Elves themselves, so we worked on base-concepts like Archers and Warriors in order to give you a kind of basic knowledge of the art direction.
I presented you the core characters and I took advantage of them so you got used to this new, particular, style: the "Gelfling" look immediately anchored the design to the classic Froud's style, but their dress and armours were the very first step to take you into this new path.
Trolls made their appearance since the very first Elf character, although indirectly: we see them on the armour decorations and on the many totems that lie on our Elves' bases!
I wanted to suggest this connection between Elves and Trolls, in a tribal/animistic way: just like many human cultures saluted and worshipped their deities depicting them with statues and objects, the Elves use to shape objects inspired to the spirits and creatures that they worship, too.
With the Elf Summoner, I gave to you a more detailed view about how Elves deal with magic, visually expanding their unique relationship with nature and explaining how magic and nature itself are strictly connected.
At that point, you were "ready" to understand this character that, as stated before, represents the point of union of our Elves' lore!
We designed this character not only to create a fascinating miniature that (hopefully!) may delight painters and collectors, but also to give a meaning to the whole range itself.
Now you can better understand the design of our Elves, you can give a place to the many details that we sculpted on them, and I think that with this centrepiece the whole range gains that "solid tree" that I've searched for so long.
The character composition is quite easy to understand: I wanted to design a mystical being worthy of being worshipped by other creatures, and I wanted to clearly underline its symbiosis with nature and its fairy essence. As I did with Elves, also here I've started with a pretty classic European design, trying to renew it with Japanese spices. The rocks and vegetation merged with the Troll's body immediately link it with the Summoner design, suggesting that this creature is something more than a simple monster: is part of nature itself!
I gave it a quite relaxed, dare to say ascetic, pose, inspired to gorillas: I thought that these creatures share something in common, in fact! I always imagined gorillas as the wise guardians of the forest: they are indeed powerful and fearsome, but they also look pretty ascetic. I wanted the same vibe for my Troll: it's obvious to think about it as a strong and dangerous creature, if enraged, but I wanted not to make it too evident with an aggressive pose. I wanted with this character to suggest you a more spiritual view: think about it as it's peacefully laying on a glade, enjoying the breeze on a sunny day.
Last but not least, I added a little tribute to Miyazaki-sensei in the form of Kodama spirits. To underline the mystical essence of this Troll, in fact, I wanted to add many magic creatures to the scene, and I was in search of something with a cute/funny look, but above all very easy and fast to sculpt (in that way, Valerio can sculpt many of them, without wasting too much time!). Kodama spirits were an easy answer: they are cute, funny and a bit weird, they add an immediate Japanese vibe to the scene, but above all they are extremely easy to sculpt! Of course, expect also a full set of Kodama as a campaign stretch goal: I love these guys and I realized, while I tried to find ideas for the scenic base of the Goiko Demon Hunter, that there are too few "Japanese style" scenic accessories, out there!
So, here we are with a new character (and such a character!) added to our range.
I confess I've been really happy with the reaction of the community, only the KS campaign will tell if we really hit the target, but at least for now it seems that you're liking what we are doing, and this is so motivating for us.
The next characters will close the Archers' range: Valerio will sculpt the leader of the group (I think she's a promising concept) and another Elf with a bow, just to complete the core characters of this collection.
Moreover, we will sculpt another "mystical" character, this time not a monstrous creature but a "normal" Elf Summoner that will be the modern version of one of our very first sculpts (that never hit the market!).
We have still a lot of arrows in our quiver!