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All the conceptual work I've ever done for my own stories has always been in pencil form. I've been pretty good with getting my ideas down on paper up to this point... which is why I was so upset by my failed attempts to draw what I saw in my head with my new design for the castle in The Chronicles of Ademar.
The old designs looked more like a German-inspired castle (or, as one friend put it, "a hotel in the middle of a forest"), with the interior having a plain brick-and-carpet design (if anyone remembers those old test pages I did a couple years ago with Lily killing the two bounty hunters... damn, was it really that long ago? Wow..). I've gone through several phases of redesigns to try and make things better -- including a brief, misguided attempt to make the characters human -- but I think I'm finally on the right track.
Seeing as the characters are animals, they wouldn't live in human environments. Adding to this the fact that the kingdom in the story has rejected technology in favor of nature, it definitely didn't make sense to have the royal family living in a cliche brick castle. Thinking on these lines, I had an image of a monolithic symbol of their embrace of nature: a giant hollowed-out tree.
(spoilered for the sheer vertical size of these images)
This is the first time I've tried to build a maquette without a visual reference. What started off as a single tree gradually became a twisted merging of four or five separate trees, all wrapping around each other with a hollowed center that was transformed into the living quarters for the royal family. The scale for this is HUGE, with the main entrance (seen on the ground level in one of the photos) being a grand entrance hall. This is meant to be a fortress as much as a castle, with watch towers facing all four directions.
This maquette is still unbaked and I still have plans to add extra details (like additional vines/roots) before painting. I also am going to add trees/foliage to all of the fenced-in areas of the platforms on the branches after painting. I'll base my illustrations on this model once it's done, so if anyone has any critiques or ideas (I'm not a very good sculptor, so I know it doesn't look as refined as it could), I definitely want to hear them.