Bringing Princess Zee To Life

This is the real-life Princess Z, my daughter. I started this book concept with the simple idea of modeling a princess character after her pictures. Since I was testing the idea out with a new art style I decided to start with an alphabet book rather than jump straight into a story-based series.

The first step was coming up with a new art style. We did a photo shoot where Z posed as Princess Zee for specific scenes I had planned for the book. Then I took some of the best photos and tried making several versions.

I knew I wanted a different art style from Jurassic Work, which was digital oil paintings rendered quasi-realistic. I ended up using the first rough sketch of Princess Z as the Dedication page, but I decided to aim for a more stylized version.

At first, I went with a 2D art style that resembled my daughter’s dolls since I figured that design would appeal to girls her age.

While Z approved of this early design, I wanted to try out some new 3D rendering tools in order to mimic the style of modern 3D animated movies. With this approach, I hoped my 2nd book would stand out from the crowd in the bookstores. After all, there are not many black princesses out there and most of them are stylized 2D art.

The hard part was finding a balance between realism and the 3D look. I tried to retain the physical attributes of my daughter when I “Disney-fied” her features, but the first versions of Princess Zee had these scary eyes that stared down deep into my soul…

After a little experimentation, it became apparent that I would need to lose the realism or I would end up in the creepy uncanny valley. Still, it wasn’t long before I created the “Disney Princess” version of Princess Zee that became the front cover. My real-life Z loves the final design and that’s all that matters in the end.

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