The making of Johanna

One of my greatest passions in life is creating characters.

They come alive in my head when I’m reading or role playing, as if I’m watching a movie. I enjoy the creative process from the very begining, which for me is building a profile through references. I often sketch characters in random pieces of paper when I started to get a clear image of them, but I only settle for a figure after I did some studying.

Johanna is a character from a D&D 3.5 group. She’s from a cold climate, has a fair complexion and light coloured eyes. Of noble descent, she built her carreer in the army and held the title of captain when the group met her. With a stature of 185cm (6 feet give or take) and a good physical development for strength, she is proficient in the use of heavy armour, tower shields and heavy melee weapons such as the flail.

I did a maybe 5 minute sketch on some really crappy paper ( it warped all over as you can see) during one of the sessions, just to start getting a sense of her facial shapes and her mood in general from how the player was building her. This was used along with her stats to build a more consistent character afterwards. 

Reference is such an important part of character development. I like to use photographs better than using other artwork, so I looked for portraits that helped me find the facial structure I wanted to give her and get the anatomy right. A strong jaw line, aquiline nose and fierce eyes. Sometimes I like to use a feeling a portrait or artwork gives me to help with expression and detail. I always saw her on Jules Lefebvre’s Judith.

Body type and gear

After having her face figured out I went on to study how her body should be (I love drawing muscle structure). I consider not only the stats, but also what kind of performance she has to endure. She carries a lor of weight during some pretty intense activities. She doesn’t get to the body builder type of musculature, but she does need to be solid and have strong legs. Her basic clothing is riding trousers, a shirt, and riding boots, whilst her full gear includes a black full plate and a padded surcoat.

As I mentioned before, I was quite inspired by Lefebvre’s Judith, so I used her as reference for both the ink and pencil portraits you can see below. Takes a bit of practice to reproduce a characters face and keep their features, so I like to draw them in a similar way a couple of times to memorise it a bit. 

The pencil portrait was made on B4 240gr Fabriano watercolour paper and shaded with 0.3 B graphite. The colours were added digitally over the greyscale drawing. The ink portrait is a A5 120gr Fabriano paper, finished with Talens china ink and micron pens.

Portrait process

In this final gallery you can see some shots of the work in progress for the pencil portrait and the digital coloring.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit more about my process. If you have any questions about this or any other project feel free to contact me through this site’s contact form or directly by email at


See ya!

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