Hello, nice to meet you! My name is Allegra Shinabargar, and as of this interview I live in a small Midwestern town in the United States. Creating characters and their stories has always been a passion of mine; one that drew me to CGMA’s 2D Character Design Program after I graduated high school in 2016. I decided to further my education through individual workshop-based classes that would help me construct a portfolio, instead of the more traditional -and often expensive- approach to earning a degree at a private art school. So far, I am halfway through my schooling journey; eager to further develop my personal project: Fe’avi and the Obsidian Isles.
Finding the Story
I’ve always had a love for video games and admiration for the hard work that goes into them. This project has become a way for me to practice the design process and explore new techniques while keeping gameplay in mind. I had a general idea of what direction I wanted to take “The Obsidian Isles” and our main character, Fe’avi. My favorite approach to any new project is copious amounts of research and reference and this piece was no different. Creating clothing that would not only be visually captivating but also add to the narrative was a challenge. I knew I wanted the world to reflect in her clothes, especially as she experienced the differing landscapes of the Isles.
I find it easier to design once I have a story outline, so I decided that this project required a bit of exploration. Fe’avi is the last dragon of the Obsidian Isles, cursed to live in the confines of a human form. She quests throughout the land searching for the sorceress who subjugated her. The Isles contain a range of diverse climates and creating clothing for multiple regions was ideal.
Building believable cultures and civilizations to create a vivid world is very important to me. I really wanted to emphasize Fe’avi’s interactions with the people she would encounter as her journey progressed. This can be shown through the costume details and her accessories. I decided to play around with different climates to learn more about costume diversity. Having Fe’avi transition from a warm environment to the arctic regions was a way to showcase her personal growth throughout the story while also branching out of my designing comfort zone.
The Initial Spark
I decided to keep her first costume somewhat minimal after going through many experimental preliminary sketches. I imagined that she would craft her own clothes and that they would consist of a lot of patchwork until she acquired enough skill to make more fanciful items. Ideally, this would fit the reoccurring artisan theme I wanted to bring into the project. It was really helpful to have Phil’s insight on how to make the garments appear more homemade, and I believe both the story and the design elements benefited immensely from it. While playing with shapes I realized the more triangular designs seemed to fit the character’s personality better rather than the ones with more rounded edges.
Fe’avi is a confident and determined character, often finding herself at home in the most unsuspecting places. Creating a pose that would fit her personality was equally challenging, especially when I didn’t want to conceal too much of the costume. In the final design, you can see her pose reflecting her routine of being prepared, almost like she is saying to the viewer: “More adventure? Cool, let’s get going.”
The initial face studies can be seen in grayscale format alongside the first drafts of Fe’avi’s costume. While she wasn’t modeled after any one person, I wanted to include a strong profile and chiseled, sharp features. Throughout this course, I took inspiration from many places, including the Dukha people of Mongolia and the people of Umoja, Kenya.
By week four I had completely fleshed out Fe’avi’s first costume. You can see has obtained an opaque glass charm around her thigh. This was made to serve as a type of gameplay notification, ringing like a bell whenever a new quest arrives in the inventory. This accessory also connects her to her first encounters in Tekriit, the artisan village on the edge of the Hist’a Desert. These people are known for their ethereal glass blowing skills, which they survive upon by trade. This small town is one of the first places she discovers on her journey.
Fe’avi also wears a hand-carved driftwood adornment on her back, in the shape of wings to represent her past. Her hair has the ability to burn like embers given the right conditions and it carries the last shimmer of magic left from her transformation. I wanted her clothes to be practical. I considered giving her a hood, but I could just see it accidentally going up in flames if her hair got too hot, so that option was put on the back burner until I could think of something more suitable. We can also see ceremonial tattoos that mean she is welcomed by the people of Tekriit.
Finding colors that worked for this character was a challenge. I wanted to keep that handmade -almost scavenged- appearance going in the beginning, so neutral colors worked best. I felt the earthy tones spoke more to her grounded personality. To keep the rugged appearance I went with the dark tanned leather for the main part of her design. All of the eyelets and details were made from waxed thread, rather than metal. To add more variation, I gave her a red piece of silk fashioned around her waist. Her staff’s embellishment is made from a section cut of the same shell that she wears on her shoulder as a makeshift pauldron. The knee guards are also made from the same wooden material as her back adornment.
In the following weeks, I decided to explore additional costume ideas. Wanting to try something new, I went with a traditional ceremonial garb she would wear during her welcoming ceremony in Tekriit. Additional clothing designs were created that would suit her as she traveled north to the Izo Tundra. Painting all these detailed textures was a little intimidating at first, but my instructor gave me tips that helped pull the piece together in a timely manner.
Intricate beadwork has always been something I’ve had a fondness for, and I wanted to explore that in this garb. Since the people of Tekriit are known across the land for their glass, I imagined that their ceremonial clothing would be a spectacle to behold. The people of the Hist’a desert do not have a wide selection of textile options, instead opting to use beads for ornamentation when needed. Most clothes are made from spun silk, which is then dyed various warm tones from surrounding items. Red is a common color that symbolizes the people’s connection to the desert.
For Fe’avi’s tundra costume, I played with a lot of natural textures. I quite like the look of woven reeds, and decided to make her an insulated outer shell that would almost serve as armor. I also scanned in one of the pendants my mother used to wear and painted it as Fe’avi’s necklace to provide a personal touch. It fit her character and the hand-carved attitude of her journey. I also ended up giving her a hat in the tundra costume, thinking she might have picked up an enchanted beanie along her journey so her ears wouldn’t turn to popsicles in the cold. Not wanting the design to be too monochromatic, I incorporated Mongolian-inspired fabric patterns, and also gave her a pop of red with the piece of silk worn in earlier designs. You can see Fe’avi’s journey reflected in this silk and its weathered nature.
Winter is Here
In the final week, I really tried to challenge myself and complete Fe’avi’s tundra costume in a smaller time frame. It was a lot of hard work and overall I am happy with the way it turned out. The final critique gave me the realization that I want to pursue this project outside of the class, which has been very exciting. The world has grown on me and I am quite excited to see what the future holds for it. Phil’s mentorship really helped me flesh out this character and the world she resides in. This course has allowed me to experiment with so many unique ideas and textures. There are so many designs I would still like to explore with her, one being to incorporate obsidian. It’s how the Isles got their name after all, and I would love to find a way to add it to her story.
I absolutely adored Costume Design with Phil Boutte. He pushed me to explore different textures and incorporate materials into my designs that I would’ve been hesitant about before. It was great to have a teacher who was really invested in helping me succeed. Having a passion for designing characters really benefitted me during this course. I learned a lot about how to render difficult textures and how to build a costume for a specific person. The one-on-one personalized feedback and having someone with a professionally trained eye sit down and analyze your work each week is worth its weight in gold. Phil’s expertise was a huge help when it came to making garments not only visually appealing but functional as well. It is fantastic to have classmates who ask questions and take an interest in each other’s projects. I have found that well-rounded critique is irreplaceable, and would highly recommend CGMA to anyone who is searching to improve themselves artistically.
You can see more from Allegra and her work below: