Today's sketches are a journey in character development!
These are my concept sketches for my My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic OC General Ironclad of the city-state Pelopponysus. When Princess Radiant Dawn is summoned to Pelopponysus to help them uncover the leaders of a dissident movement, she finds a proud, militant pegasus community with a dislike of Princess Celestia and her namby-pamby peacemaker ways. Things get more complicated when one of their generals is assigned - against his wishes - to work with her to investigate the growing insurrection. Can Radiant Dawn convince him and the other Pelopponysians that life isn't just about discipline and martial prowess before it's too late?
(Spoiler alert: they end up getting married.)
Anyway, looking at these sketches, I think they present a good case study for how I refined a character design.
Here's my first try at Ironclad's design. I had the basic (vague) idea of what I wanted with his aesthetic: gunmetal-gray coat, silver mane and tail, general Greco-Roman military hardcoredery (real word). But I wasn't super pleased with the mane and tailstyle which I felt weren't distinctive enough, and the armor was likewise very generic.
So on to phase 2. I defined his facial shape a little better and gave him a beard, both for further visual distinction and to visually age him a bit better (he's in his mid-to-late-30's, so he shouldn't look like a young stallion). I also tried something different with the manestyle which was a step in the right direction--now he doesn't look like every other male pony out there with a shortish spikyish mane, he's got some cool warrior flow going. Plus, I defined the armor design for the Pelopponysian troops, moving away from generic Greco-Roman-ness and deciding on something more ornate, substantial, and original.
I still wasn't super pleased with his forelock, which was just kinda hanging out not doing much (on a visual design level), so I moved on to... phase 3! This sketch, I think, continues to push his design to a more refined level, as the forelock becomes more visually decisive and ties in better with the rest of his mane (which I also altered the flow of to add an extra level of flair). I also designed his cutie mark.
A short while later, I did one last sketch to tweak his design just a bit more. I made his forelock a little messier to suggest someone who's just spent a long day drilling troops (or on the battlefield), bulked out his facial shape a bit (he is a large pony), and gave him a fuller beard (I am not entirely sure how equine facial hair works, it's a cartoon, just use your suspension of disbelief). I also designed the crest of Pelopponysus and decided on their state colors, black and gold. They stand for valor, discipline, unity, and being able to totally crush you in a fight.