CHARACTER DESIGN: EL GARNER
Giving my characters a visual identity is very important to me…
Maybe because I’m also a bit of a drawer, I always have to put a picture to an idea to make it more concrete and avoid a lot of mistakes.
Back in 2008, when I was doing my initial research for “The Hawthorn’s Souls”, I wanted a young girl with angelic blonde hair for the visual of my heroine, El Garner. My first reference was a photograph of the French actress Clémence Poésy. I loved her fresh, natural look, her big blue eyes, and especially her elfin air. Eventually, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, I found the idea of blonde hair a little too “cliché”. So El became a brunette, and I chose the face of Alexis Bledel. Then came the second version of my book, and then I reworked the whole story and rethought my characters for a third version, the current one (the one that goes back to basics, as I explain here), and El went back to being blonde, honey and ash to be exact. And I fell in love with a photo of Gaia Weiss, who was my only model for El for a long time. But as my heroine grew in psychology and complexity, my visual references logically evolved into what I present in the character sheet above.
So I chose: Brit Marling for her feisty, tomboyish, messy-haired, gorgeous look. Gaia Weiss for her warrior aura, her animal beauty, her charisma, her magnetism. Gabriella Wilde for her naturalness, her smile, her freshness, her charisma. Marine Vacth for the beauty of her eyes, the strength and animalism she exudes, and because she also has that tomboy look. Cara Delevingne for that thing in her eyes that says, “I’ve got a demon trapped inside of me somewhere. Teresa Palmer for her uncanny resemblance to the illustration I did of El Garner, even though I didn’t use any part of her face.
El is a mix of all of these female characters, all of these traits brought together in one face and one illustration. But if I had to choose just one, it would be ….. Gaia Weiss, without hesitation.
As for El Garner’s look, my references are American Vintage, among others. But just to clarify, El is not a fashionista. El doesn’t care about her style, she’s the type to slip on the only jacket hanging on the hall coat rack, even if it’s her father’s yellow wool cardigan.