Nations and shape language

been working on this for a while now. Since there are a variety of people groups and nations in the story, I am doing my best to work on making each nation have shapes (roughly) specific to them. not last airbender level or anything where “this country only wears red clothes”, but still. it’s a hard balance to keep in mind. at the very least, distinct clothing and silhouette elements that represent one nation I’ve been trying to keep separate from other nations.

Up to this point the comic has only covered a single nation, Allano. In hindsight, I probably should have limited the variety of their clothing, but you live and learn. That said, I am consolidating the core ‘essence’ of what the allanos wear and trying to differentiate it with the other groups. i’ve dabbled with the designs of other nations here and there but the past little bit I’ve really been trying to make a concerted effort to make things decently distinct.

In real life of course there is a lot of trends that carry on over the border, but sometimes it is necessary to limit that just so the audience can tell where the heck this character is supposed to be from. at the end of the day it is a loose guide and I won’t lose too much sleep if it isn’t an airtight system.

my main strategy is using designs I like the best on places where I will spend the most time and filling out the rest from there. everything is heavily subject to change as always. I choose to hold off on giving away too many details to avoid spoiling anything interesting later 😉

mens suits are a proven cure for insomnia

i understand that this blog is becoming a fashion one more with each passing day but what are you gonna do I suppose.

mens suits suck.

they are the same thing over and over again with nearly no variety. in my opinion the design isn’t even that appealing. I understand that something neutral and minimal can be classy in the right circumstance. still, there has got to be some more variety before I lose my mind. at least women in the west can get away with more pizzazz.

man even just tiny little stripes or blocks of color can add a ton. and while I know that is what neckties are for, i have a very deep, personal, and petty vendetta against ties. ties were locked up in the dungeon where they belong for this exercise.

and while I hardly think that “new is always better” in anything, I swear that suits haven’t changed much at all since the colonial period. look at like rembrandt paintings or whoever. what we have today is basically the same thing. featureless black mass of cloth with a few points of contrast around the neck and sleeves.

I’m sure this is heresy to many, but if we had to settle on a design for hundreds of years, couldn’t we have settled on something good?

whatever. I’m not advocating that every business executive needs to start parading around in a tie-dye hippie wonderland, but surely we could play around a little bit with mens’ suits. I understand having a muted main color and simple shapes. start small to aid the easily-startled. but let’s at least get some slight variety in here so I can feel a little less like a bystander from Mr. Roboto.

i’m hardly saying that all of these designs are winners. they are concept doodles like anything else. need to experiment to throw away the bad elements and keep the good. but goodness I feel like even these few designs have more interest than 99% of the suits I’ve seen in my life. and this is just scratching the surface, you could go way more creative than this. I was playing it safe to make something I think a businessman could in theory wear today in an the ocean of peer pressure.

i can only hope that one day western suits can look as good as this.

(quiet clothes?) LOUD CLOTHES???

how classy should we go?

how loud? how casual? again, design trends are pretty independent of when or where you live. some fashion trends could easily have happened centuries before or after they did in real life.

even if i sit on these designs for years on end without using them there is no definitive end date for the comic at this point. even I have no idea where it could end up in 20 years.

and without spoiling too many future ideas, this comic could very well end up exploring many more places and times than what has been shown so far. even if some of these outfits aren’t appropriate for the moment, they very well could be at a later date.

Otigo Trappings

as always, playing with things to see what i like and what i don’t. in real life people wouldn’t dress like they do in the fire nation (“we all have to wear red!”), but it definitely helps the reader. you have to be a little heavy handed sometimes to drive a point home.

these are some ideas i have for the Otigo people. at this point they will not be the main focus but will impact other nations in the area through their actions and culture. they are a loose group of many disparate tribes and i was dabbling with how to make the body shapes and outfits distinct but not too different (they are all part of one people group). at this point i’m leaning towards reducing the diversity even though I like most of the outfits in a vacuum. ideally i want the reader to be able to fairly easily recognize any of these characters as from the otigo area. for that purpose they’re not there yet. how close should they be to each other? that is the question.

the voice of the character

Back when i was laying the groundwork for the comic I worried about having to follow a small cast of characters for years on end and was worried that I might get burnt out on them before long. one of the strengths of the quasi-anthology format I came up with for motherland is that it lets me flip around between new characters often. if I like one I can come back to them in the future, and if I feel satisfied with a character’s arc I can leave it there. it lets me dabble. i like to dabble.

most of the time when i do a story i just have a very rough outline of what happens. i more or less make it up as I go, filling in sections here and there and letting the story sort of take its own path. I’m sure that ‘winging it’ would make some creators cringe but it gives me life. i spend less time worrying about who i want the characters to be and just go along for the ride for who they are. i sort of treat them like if I was meeting a real person.

as a result, when i am working on the visual design of a character, the design may not match up with who they seem to be turning out to be personality or arc-wise. Su for instance i knew from the start was going to be one of the main players for ch4 and she originally was going to have the design shown on the upper-left. but the more i got to ‘know’ su, the more some elements felt out of place. i ended up with the headdress shown on the upper right after some iterations because it felt much truer to something that a very shy introvert might wear. i did like the first headdress design, so i ended up using it on the older sister. but it felt too ‘confident’ for su.

that is just a tiny example, but for my process it is a frequent occurrence. the design of the character influences who i imagine they might be, and vice versa. they feed into each other. i really enjoy the process. not every artist necessarily thinks that way.

a lot of times i’ll just doodle face or body shapes and mill over ‘who could this be’? a lot of character designs i’ve come up with over the years came about as a result of this process. a lot of it is barely intentional. i’ve always thought that I was stronger at ‘putting together a puzzle’ than i am at designing according to a strict concept. people ask me if i draw what i see in my head. i do to a degree, but it is more that I can turn shapes into other shapes and make an image or a statement from elements of what i see rather than have a clear concept in mind from the start. i play and listen a heck of a lot more than i plan.

i like the characters showing me who they are, so to speak. i’ve come to realize in recent months that understanding is one of my main driving forces in life, whether that’s people or concepts or anything else. i want to know and help others know and that is a huge reason why i pay attention to people and their motivations. this doodling process that i do is just one way that i use this desire and hope to share it with others. i enjoy the artistic process, but it is more of a means to an end for me. however, it one of the best facilitators for me to understand others and help others understand – regardless of if those others are real or fictional.

At a glance

I find silhouettes and shapes just as important as detail. Silhouettes can be tough for me to integrate into the background and still make it look good. always learning.

I find a lot of these have interesting shapes which can help differentiate characters. the types of clothes a character wears is just as important as their body shape and body language, since it helps the audience recognize them. it is their ‘brand’, if you will. it also makes certain poses more or less difficult to draw. 😉

what are half of these outfits? i have no idea. the story of my life: we can take it further.

Clothes makes the man

I really do like drawing and designing clothes. which is kind of odd since I don’t care at all how I dress in real life.

playing with shapes, playing with ideas, the norm. trying to make believable designs that I could see someone wearing in real life, even if they are not necessarily practical. these are intended for the renes, though I may end up stealing elements to use for other nations. the renes in particular do not like showing skin. part of that is their colder environment, but i would hazard a guess that their climate and their particulars of modesty play into each other over time. I think that tended to happen in real life.

patterns add some flavor, but they can be a little difficult and tedious to do in B&W without breaking silhouettes or muddying the body language. if I ever use designs in the comic I have to do B&W versions to make sure they work. but right now the shapes and the silhouette are more important.

Relative practicality

when you are not bound by the practical considerations of manual labor and movement, things get weird pretty fast.

I find that in history the choices of the wealthy or powerful pretty much revolve around “what is impossible for the poor” to do. For example, in many times and cultures, being overweight was/is a sign of wealth and status because you can afford to eat well. In today’s western world, cheap unhealthy food is so readily available that many poor people are actually overweight. It actually takes more time and effort to avoid poor eating habits and physical lethargy. Working Joe may not have time to go to the gym. The amount of sun tan one has is a similar situation, where in ancient days you were wealthy if you could afford to sit inside and have your peons farm for you (or whatever) in order to flaunt your paleness. Today since so many work indoors at office jobs or what have you, it almost is the opposite situation where you are only tan if you specifically have the time to go outside. Of course these are generalizations, but I think there is still truth to them. In my experience it is consistent with human nature.

And as most people do not prefer hard manual labor, those undesirable jobs are often the jobs that the undesirables get. The point being, the wealthy are not subject to as many limitations as the poor. Since human nature says that the grass is always greener and that value is determined by circumstance, sometimes the only factor in what the wealthy do is what the poor cannot.

point in case: you would not want to wear any of these if you are feeding the pigs or have to chop a tree. Even apart from the expense of their materials, the sheer range of movement that is limited would be a deal breaker if your priority is to do your job. still fun to draw nonetheless.

but, since the grass is still always greener, the poor often try to emulate what the wealthy do, causing a silly cycle. People are people wherever you go.


sometimes it’s the little things.

so say you got these big ol antelope ears that probably help you hear pretty good but also would get in the way with a lot of day to day activities. you don’t want any exposed skin in the rain or snow or when beekeeping or whatever. or heaven forbid, having a vulnerable and necessary piece of your physiology exposed during combat. I’m almost kinda surprised the death toll from tripping and falling while wearing some of those medieval helmets weren’t higher for how much they blocked your vision and hearing, but people must have thought the protection was worth it to have done it for so long. To some degree I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this as some designs of armor I’ve already shown in the comic exposes the ears and their frills. There isn’t necessarily a correct answer to this. for me it’s mainly striking a balance between being practical for their world without having it look too silly for our notions. in-universe the explanation is probably they value using their senses more than the extra edge of protection. that said, they would still likely protect their appendages more than I’ve shown if it was real but I haven’t quite come up with a middle ground that I am happy with between ‘efficient’ and ‘cool’. I guess that’s part of the challenge.

that said, enjoy some earnets. they come in many shapes and degrees of the in-vogue just like people would wear in real life. i’m sure men and women would have different styles and there is probably endless controversy about the minutia of design and exposure that doesn’t really matter in the end.
do they have a name? probably.