How to Grow an Alien

Our triptych this month will be a continuation of the The Last Sun Sage, focusing on the character Bekthe. She is the daughter of the Sun Sage, so it follows that her appearance should be similar. Let me take you briefly through the Sun Sage’s development, which lays the foundation for Bekthe.


The Sun Sage is still disappointed with his lack of pants.

In developing the Sun Sage character, I followed certain parameters. I set limits to provide consistency and realism, which is especially important if you want people to find a story about plant people believable. Here is the information I knew that would affect his appearance:

  1. The Sun Sage is humanoid.
  2. He has plant-like characteristics.
  3. He is living on a heavily forested (but withering) planet.
  4. His culture is reminiscent of the Mayans and Aztecs.
  5. He is a Sage–both an inheritance and a position in his society.

Just with these 5 pieces of information, I knew what his underlying anatomy should look like and what cultural/environmental factors affect him on the surface. I also knew what not to include and what attributes were higher in priority. I could give him ceremonial garments like Mayan priests–a good idea to reference their culture. However, that would then give me less options for incorporating plant elements. Why have clothes when you can “grow” clothes? I went with a “natural” look to the Sun Sage’s exterior and decided reference the Mayans in other ways.

With both Bekthe and the Sun Sage, I started with a human base. I imported the model into Sculptris from Daz3D. These models are a great starting point for humanoid characters–half of the work is already done! I then proceeded to sculpt directly on top, starting with the face. I looked at depictions of Mayans in petroglyphs for the dramatic profile-view as inspiration for the face structure. From there, I added all of the same elements as the Sun Sage onto Bekthe’s body, just in different proportion. The head “petals” are inspired by orchids, the collar area by tree mushrooms, and the other bits by a combination of flower and leaf structures.

Everything added onto the body is designed to highlight part of the anatomy. By following the natural contours of the musculature, I can make the leafy appendages look organic and functional.

Deciding which part to differ in Bekthe’s design from the Sun Sage led me to a few key areas: the head, the collar, and the hips. Initially, I thought giving her a more elaborate collar area than the Sun Sage with be a nice regal touch. The downside to that option was making her look too mature. Bekthe is still a young girl, so I needed to go with something that would be appropriate for her age. By reducing the collar area and increasing the hip area, I create a silhouette that looks more like a youthful ballerina. Not my initial intention, but I think she rocks her shroom tutu.


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