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(UnHeavenly Hosts Development Journal 2)

Monstra sits sideways on a silver chair raising a goblet
A new, more refined illustration of Monstra.

I was excited to release the first round of info for UnHeavenly Hosts as part of the development journal last time, so I took a shot at illustrating Monstra, just seeing how her look feels when it’s moved around. And to experiment with style. Obviously, all this info is in flux as the story is developed.

About Monstra

Monstra is a late-night horror host for a small LA TV station. Monstra is her real name, but when the FBI hid her they gave her the false identity of Felicity Bainbridge. She doesn’t care for it, thinking it lacks the grandeur of her real name. Naturally regal and studious, Monstra enjoys film and horror films in particular, but as we meet her she’s frustrated by her producer’s efforts to turn her into a clone of that OTHER more famous late night horror hostess. She doesn’t consider herself a comedian at all, instead her sense of humor is dryer and more biting. She’d prefer to spend her time educating her audience.

Developing Monstra’s Look

Monstra was really the start of the whole project. It started off as “what if all these horror hosts joined together?” I wanted to make characters that felt familiar, while very much being their own thing. So even though the basic template is Lily Munster, Vampyra, Elivra, and the rest, there’s a little Samantha and Endora from Bewitched to her as well.

The first sketch of Monstra from 2016. I have no idea what’s going on with the right side of her head.

The first concept for Monstra leaned into the Lily Munster look a little more. Her dress was black, but I wanted her color palette to be distinctive, so I went with one of my favorite color combos—teal and purple. As you can see, my drag queen friends would slap me for this eye makeup. But it’s a sketch!

2022 Monstra (or Monsterra) concept

When it came time to look at designs again in 2022, I did the quick concept sketch. I wanted to push the character even further away from some of her inspirations, which led to the new hairdo and a purple dress. Then, I went back and found the old sketch I did and I just liked the black dress better. The purple dress was a little too loud (the teal/purple combo is loud enough as it is!) and took her a little too far away from what I wanted. Also, the “spider-web” cape and fringe didn’t work for me. If I’d rendered it better, maybe I could have gotten it to work. But it just didn’t fit with the sleek look of the rest. And I just missed the older cape.

The final design, featured in the finished illustration above and the group concept sketch from the last journal entry is a blend of the two. I was worried about the bright red/orange hair with the other colors at first, but I like the way it pops

The Black and White base illustration for the main illustration above.

The Art Process

I’ve probably forgotten more than I remember about digital art, coloring, etc. I regularly draw stuff. But it’s a lot of fan art or random illustration stuff, for the most part. My last big project involving art was the 2021 animated folk storybook The Wolf Prince & The Toymaker’s Boy:

I tried very hard, with the art for that, to not make everything too oversaturated. That’s almost my default for a lot of my art. Super saturation. I am trying to refine it more for UnHeavenly Hosts. So, the illustration of Monstra above is an attempt at that, using grays to establish tone instead of colors, and them building up from there. I’ve still got a ways to go to retrain myself (and learn new stuff!) to keep improving the look of it. But I’m liking these first efforts.

I’m not sure if I will go for as painterly a style as this. Just because that could be a lot of extra time. We’ll see how it all develops and whether this ends up being a full comic book or an illustrated novel.

Next time, we’ll take a look at another one of the main characters. And maybe some sketches at some of the secondary characters… and the one main character you haven’t seen yet.

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