A while back I was asked to do some concept illustrations for a fantasy card game which is always a fun thing to do. One of my favorites was this very dedicated young warrior who wears living vine armor. I immediately began working on sketches. I did a whole bunch of thumbnails and decided to explore these two. One of him taking in the sunrise and the other of him hacking away at some practice dummies at night.
Both sketches were meant to show his determination, how in tune with the earth he is, and show of his fancy armor. The client ended up picking the second, but asked that I get rid of the background and make the armor more orderly and with smaller strands.
Taking reference is key. It's a simple process, and should be done wherever possible. My setup consists of a $4 clamp light and a point and shoot camera with a timer on a tripod. My costume for this piece was made up of a cotton sweater vest, a thermal shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a red flannel shirt tied around my waist. I hung a Jack Daniel's belt buckle from the collar of my shirt and I'm holding an old karate bow from when I was in second grade. As you can see, it's just things I can find round the house. Although not necessary, I try to match the value of the costume to what it needs to be in the piece. I've recently started collecting things that could be used as reference down the road. Halloween is an excellent excuse to do this.
Here's one of the compiled reference shots.
And here is the finished piece.