Kayly Nyman was one of the first artists I hired. As such, she had a big hand in determining the look and feel of the game, and the world beyond. Kayly has also finished more pieces than any other artist, so it makes sense to start with her.
Q: We actually met through a mutual friend. I remember seeing your portfolio and having two takeaway thoughts. (a), that you had some gorgeous examples of nature and other organic pieces, with faces of every different type and ethnicity, and (b) no robots, buildings, or tech of any kind. Still, you were eager for the challenge. How did you approach it?
My first step was look up lots and lots of reference! I immersed myself in not only steampunk style (which I had a pretty good idea of in my head already) but more specific things like tech and robot construction. Studying how things are put together, the shape of difference parts, types of robotics, clothing, and machinery definitely helped me feel more comfortable when designing things of a subject that was new to me.
Q: Your first assignment was the characters Maximilian Ward and Amelia Pettengill, and their inventions. Max’s fake leg, and Amelia’s robot puppy Scraps. The Leg is one of my favourite pieces, but Scraps is universally loved by everybody else. So let’s talk about Amelia.
I based her look on my daughter Elise, and aside from photos, I gave you this description: “Amelia is around 5’4″. She has blonde hair just past her shoulder, but due to a lab accident, the hair on the right half of her head is aquamarine. She wears a leather zeppelin pilot jacket that’s slightly too large for her but she rather defiantly doesn’t care. The jacket has a leather helmet attached like a hoodie (looks like a WW1 pilot helmet or a 19th century american football helmet.) Amelia wears a grimy dress that goes just past her knees (I don’t have a strong opinion about the look of the dress). Under that, we can see sturdy leather boots with which she could potentially kick a bear to death.“
With that scintillating description, can you describe the process of creating Amelia?
If I’m being perfectly honest, I started with creeping on photos of your daughter on Facebook, ha! But it’s true! (I should point out that Elise granted permission – Ian)
When I’m doing portraits, it’s always good to have that visual reference to get a likeness. Then using those, I did some quick sketches to work on expression and from there, fleshed it out into a full body piece using your description. I wanted her pose to reflect her personality, and we worked together to make a few adjustments so the piece worked visually and still got all the design elements in there. Amelia was also one of the characters that was pretty in my comfort zone since I tend to draw female characters more than males.
Q: We have to talk about Scraps. Why a corgi?
If I remember correctly, about the only description you gave me for Scraps was that it was a dog and it was ‘cute AF’. I think corgis are one of the cutest dog breeds out there, and they are also super popular in general. So I figured a robot version of one would have universal appeal!
Q: You’re not wrong there! Although Elise later confessed she would have preferred a German Shepherd. It’s not the first time my daughter has been wrong. What’s your preferred method for drawing?
I always prefer to start with classic pencil and paper. Even for digital pieces. I keep a sketchbook which is strictly for rough sketching and in there, I have total freedom. I sketch out ideas and have no care whether they look good, are in proportion – none of that matters. It’s just to get the idea down. (It helps that no one but me ever sees said sketchbook so there is no pressure for me sketches to be good!) From there, when I get an idea I like, I snap a pic of it, and pop it into Procreate on my iPad and begin the refining process. Once refined, that is what I consider my first official rough sketch draft, and send them to clients for approval. In some cases, I will start sketching digitally from the beginning, but 90% of the time, I start with pencil and paper.
Q: Throughout the whole Widget Ridge process, you seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit. Did you have a favourite piece?
Oh man, that’s so tough to pic a favorite! I think aesthetically, Lady Luna is my favorite. I adore Victorian goth style, and getting to illustrate that was a ridiculously fun. I also really do love Scraps; at the time it was probably the most ‘out of my comfort zone’ piece I had done, and I loved getting to figure out the robot design and come up with the moving parts to really see it as a moving robot. It was totally new to me but so much fun!
Q: Much as we like talking about Widget Ridge, what else do you enjoy creating?
My focus for my personal art is actually pretty different from Widget Ridge. I love nature, character portraits, and a lot of my work has a bit of a dark/horror vibe to it. I’m currently working on an animal skull series featuring animals with skull faces (four for each season). And over October I did an entire series for Inktober called Conjure which focused on pagan and witchy images with a darker vibe to it. I love horror, and enjoy creating art that’s a bit macabre or creepy. I also love making fanart just for fun; drawing characters I love from various media never gets old!
Q: You stream some of your art sessions on Twitch which I must say I enjoy (especially the orchestral video game music in the background). We’ll have a link to that and your portfolio. Is there anything else you’d like to plug?
Yes, Twitch has been an amazing place for sharing art, and I’m so thankful to you for allowing me to stream the work on Widget Ridge. It’s been so cool to share the process of it from sketch to finished piece. You can also check out all of my work on Instagram (https://instagram.com/kaynymanart) and if you ever wanted to support my work you can check out my Patreon (https://patreon.com/kaynymanart) or my art shop where I sell prints, originals, and stickers! (https://kaynymanart.com/shop)
I’d like to thank Kayly for her time. Please check her out on Twitch, and enjoy some more pieces from her adventures in Widget Ridge.
“(with) a Place to put your Widget”
Alistair Gaines – Daring Test Pilot and Inventor
“(with) a Built-in Faraday Cage”