The Realm Ethereal has been a project where my main intent was to create all new, all original characters. I knew one thing for sure when I started working on this project back in 2018: just keep doing it. I am and always will be first and foremost, a comic book creator. I was inspired to draw because of the comic books I first got my hands on when I was in the fourth grade. I’ve never really stepped fully away from comic books. Even now as I am creating digital paintings, I still have an eye with creating my own new comic book series based on these Realm Ethereal characters.
In order to create comic books, you need three things really: a story, art, and characters. Many times before, I would start in on the story and I always had characters. But, with The Realm Ethereal, I actually put the design of the characters and world building aspects before I wrote and drew any comic book stories. I basically took my typical approach to making comic books (as a solo creator/writer/artist) and turned it upside down.
Instead of launching into drawing comic book pages and before even trying to write a story, I started creating and designing these characters. I would put myself through an exercise of creating and also thinking about who these characters were. I tried to envision what kind of worlds they inhabited, what they wore, what their physical appearances looked like. The only thing I had were names I came up with. And, in the case of the Ethereals, symbols. Other than that, I tried not to overthink the process. My approach was to let these characters tell me what the story is.
I didn’t really know what this approach would yield. The only thing I did and focused on was: just keep doing it. And today, as I type this blog post, I am sitting with 24 different illustrations of characters I have been slowly, but surely, stocking in my stable of character designs for future stories. If this is any kind a metric, I like the fact that having these many fleshed-out character designs gives me multiple avenues for telling stories. And that excites me!
As for this character creation time line, I created this as a way to really gather my thoughts and impressions as I look back on these characters I’ve been steadily creating over the last two years. I would equate this to some kind of abbreviated, on the spot diary summing up the last two years of my work in this Realm Ethereal.
This character creation time line is also another way for me to further lay down some ideas of who these characters are and where I could potentially go with them. The process of writing about these characters, in any way, shape, or form is an important step as I plan comic book stories going forward. My plan is to expand this colorful mix of characters into a magical fantasy realm where I can tell entertaining stories. The character creation time line below gives insight into my journey working on this series thus far. My goal one year from today: to have at least two original printed collections of my art and comic book stories. I know it will happen, I just need to keep telling myself: just keep doing it. I’m excited, I can’t wait to see where I’m at in a year. ■
Casia Minohr was the first character I created for The Realm Ethereal. This painting really began my exploration into this new world I was just dipping my toes into. I knew I wanted to create new worlds and characters and so this was my freshman effort. This was also the very first, full blown painting I created on my iPad Pro.
Following up Kiana, Mirela became my “green” piece. Mirella’s character was one tied in with the land. Hence, the green theme. By this point, I designated Casia, Kiana and Mirela as “metaterrans”. Metaterrans essentially being super-powered or extraordinarily gifted human-like beings.
From the beginning, I knew I had to create a character who would be the main, most powerful character in this world-building project. Enter: Om, the Ethereal of Vibration. Om’s powers having to do with “vibration” cemented the concept for this character being all-powerful in The Realm Ethereal. He is the first Ethereal.
At this point in time, I really started focusing on thse “Ethereals”. Om was seen as a “good guy” and, naturally, I had to come up with a “bad guy”. Enter: Kor, the Ethereal of Chaos. In my mind, Kor is more complex than just being all about “chaos”, but I figured he was a good start to introducing some conflict.
Oda continued my exploration into creating more Ethereals. Oda became the first female Ethereal I designed. I took the concept of Kor’s “hair”, which looks like flames, and wanted to try something similar but different for Oda. I really pushed her hair to become this flowing, ethereal element to her character. Oda is the ethereal of light.
Nor was a jump back to the “dark side”. I’m still not sure if he really is “good” or “bad”; that remains to be seen. My concept of him being the ethereal of merging stars was that he causes stars to collide. From that, he is one who is able to either create new worlds or destroy them…or perhaps both simultaneously.
Ena was my next Ethereal creation. She was designed to help balance out who I was slowly defining as the top three ethereals. So, Ena is the ethereal of order. Along with Om (ethereal of vibration) and Oda (ethereal of light), Ena completes my trio of balance in The Realm Ethereal: vibration, light and order.
To contrast Ena’s visually softer and flowing feel, I came up with Aur, the ethereal of the shining star. His metallic looking skin with sharp, blade-like objects protruding from his back seem to make him more aggressive. The concept of a “shining star” intrigued me with wanting to make Aur a guide of some sort.
For my next character, I wanted to create a new classification of characters in The Realm Ethereal. And so was born Azure…Ethereal Guard. This is the first design where a character is visibly holding some kind of object, most likely a weapon of some sort. From there, I came up with the idea to have guardians of the ethereal realm. This is also the first time I show the “ethereal flame”, emblazoned on Azure’s chest.
For the next several paintings I would be excited to work on this new classification of characters called ethereal guards. They would be neither ethereal or metaterran, but something in between. Nenael was the next ethereal guard, wielding a magical torch. The idea of the “ethereal flame” was also carried through into this design. This is the first painting that includes a background with more than just planets, clouds and rocks. It is the first time I painted some kind of city.
My designs take a turn as I come up with a new theme idea: Ethereal Reveal. All of the Ethereals have a mask of some sort, over their faces. These are each different symbols I designed to give a symbol for what each Ethereal represents. The concept of Ethereal Reveal is to reveal the faces of the Ethereals.
The Ethereal Reveal would be short lived (for the time being.) At this point, I felt like I needed to challenge myself. Enter: Aeliana, the Lion Gatherer. All compositions prior to Aeliana were all structured around single characters. Not only did I want to add some kind of additional interactions for my characters, but I felt a need to include other creatures. Aeliana is the first painting where I tackled rendering an animal head-on. I referenced the lion in the painting with a small plastic toy lion I bought at my local Michael’s art store.
Caelestis is a new Ethereal Guard design created to help bulk up my Ethereal Guard line-up. I have plans to create the next chapter in my Realm Ethereal comic book series centered around the Ethereal Guards. Caelestis is the brother of Azure. This painting also marks a major turning point in my creative process. This was the first time I started painting full-on grayscale with the intent of moving the painting from the app Procreate on my iPad to Photoshop and then working on my desktop iMac. This was a huge game-changer for me and to date, this is how I have been creating my digital paintings.
I felt an urge to change the tone of my next painting and to date this probably is the most light-hearted almost carefree looking piece. Damara is a metaterran who is one with all winged, flying insects. Between Damara and Eislyn, these are the only characters that are really smiling!
King Baldor is the first character I have brought over from another series I created from two years earlier, an online comic book called The Hammer and The Fury. He is the first male metaterran I introduced. By this time, I noticed a very definite pattern of including flying creatures in my paintings. I suspect that all these winged, flying creatures are subconscious symbols of my own art career finally taking off (or, at least me making a run at it!)
Avalina saw me going back to my Ethereal Guard line up and wanting to bulk up the team even more. This painting is a call back to an older painting I started a few years ago but never completed. This one was an especially gratifying piece because of me finally finishing that piece. And it turned out even better than I could have hoped.
Fantasy Art Realm was created by me, Rene Arreola. I am an artist who draws and paints fantastic imagery in the style of imaginative realism. My interest in making art lies at the intersection of character design and creation while owning my art and intellectual properties.
On top of all that, I really just enjoy playing with colors in a painting while paying homage the superhero comic books I read as a child. That’s why my fantasy art illustration will always have some kind of look to it that draws from superhero comics.
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