Eva Toorenent is an illustrator and concept designer who creates unique and innovative creatures. She believes that storytelling is essential to create believable fantasy creatures and characters. In the video (above), Toorenent explains how she comes up with new characters. She also explains the process she uses to create the backstory.

Toorenent, who is also a digital artist, uses watercolours for her creations. If you’d like to learn more about the process of creating these works then check out our guide. best watercolour paints, best acrylic paints. best pencils for artists

If you do not want to view Toorenent’s video workshop, you can still read the transcript below and learn about this artist’s creative process. 

Why is storytelling important to art?

(Image credit: Eva Toorenent

Your art will be more powerful if people can connect emotionally with it. Storytelling is one way to make people connect emotionally with your art. It is important to get an emotional reaction from your audience when you are creating art. 

People remember stories and art that have made them feel something. People remember stories. It is for this reason that stories and myths like Sleeping Beauty, Shakespeare, King Arthur and Shakespeare’s works have endured. They have been so popular with people over the centuries that they still influence our culture. When used correctly, storytelling can be a very powerful tool. 

You can add a personal touch to your artwork by adding a story to it.

If your art doesn’t connect with people emotionally, even if you are a master artist, they won’t remember it in a week or ten years. Your art and stories should be remembered. Make yourself memorable and stand out from your peers.

When you add storytelling to your artwork, you give it a unique personal touch, and you will stand out. Anyone can paint a beautiful picture, but you are the only one who can tell your own story.

Charles de Lint said something that I would like you to remember: “Don’t ever forget, no one can see the world as you do. No one else has the stories to tell.”

Why is it important to have a backstory for your character

Eva Toorenent, storytelling in fantasy art; a dragon

(Image credit: Eva Toorenent

In a great YouTube skit, a man explains quite humorously that if you give a rock googly eye, a name and family, this will instantly create an emotional bond with the audience. If you destroy the rock, then people will get sad. It’s not just a simple rock, it has a history. 

The video is a satire on movie directors and executives. But there’s some truth to it. I have to admit, I was a little saddened when the rock with a wife and children was destroyed. 

This video is a parody but it shows how easy it can be to connect with your character. Visually, you can evoke any emotion that you wish to convey in your work. The way I do it is by either putting a visually defining element with my characters or changing their autonomy to fit the plot. 

If you want to make a character look sadder, add visual stuff around the character that evokes sadness. For example, dead animals, something related to water/tears or tissues. If you want the character to look sadder, put around it visual stuff that is associated with sadness. This could be dead animals, water/tears or tissues. This can be applied to all emotions. 

Visualize your stories and write them down

It is true that a picture can say a thousand things. The golden rule: Show and don’t tell. It is sometimes good to share. Since I was a kid, I have been writing stories. But I was not a good writer. 

I struggle with words and speech in general. But I’ve always loved making stories. As it was difficult to write down my stories, I compensated for this by telling them visually. If I used my art to tell my stories, no one would be able to comment on my spelling.

When I first started posting my art to Instagram, I didn’t share any of my stories or additional details about my artwork. I kept them all to myself.

Magic is created when your work or stories touch people and bring them to tears, laughter, or both.

Then something very interesting happened. People started to ask me questions in the comment section about my monsters. I was able to answer their questions with great detail, because I already had a story for the monsters. I’d just never written it down. I found that the more I explained about the creature’s past, the more people connected to it.

Although my technical skills were not the best at the time I realized that the story could have made up for the difference. Since I’ve improved my craft over the past two years. In my writing, the story is still what does most of it.

Sharing my stories and work has helped me grow as a writer. It is magical to see how your stories and work can connect with others, whether they are bringing them to laughter or tears. I find it fascinating that people react differently to stories because they have different experiences.

By talking to my fans or followers, I’ve seen the stories of my creatures become more rich and interesting. Your story can inspire and grow if you share it with the public. This is why I highly recommend that you share mine. Visually or in writing.

There are three different ways I create my stories and how they originate, The idea , The accident and The grower. Below, I explain how each of these can influence the design of my creature.

Handwash Monster

Eva Toorenent, storytelling in fantasy art; a creature with lots of hands

(Image credit: Eva Toorenent

The idea for this creature came to me. My notes app has a folder called idea box. Whenever I come up with a great idea, it goes into my notes. The best ideas usually come just before I go to sleep. It can be annoying, but I’ll forget them if I don’t write them down. You can keep a small journal or a notes app on your smartphone to jot down any fleeting thoughts. I always have my phone on me, which is an ideal place to jot down ideas. 

George was the idea that came to me during the Pandemic. It felt like I had washed my hands so many times, I could feel the skin peeling off my bones. I had the idea to create a creature who did exactly that, and perhaps even elaborate on it. It was a few months before I could get the creature to appear on paper as I had hoped. He finally appeared one day. 

When writing a story, I always create an imaginary word web. You can watch a screen recording on how I created the word web for George and how his story was born. Keep in mind that English is not my first language and I have a dyslexia. 

The word web Eric (twin) – washing hands, punishment for not doing so – Soap and water – Bad hygiene – infection ­ Dry hands — Sickness ­ Cleaning — OCD ­ Erosing. 

Now I have a story. George is a creature who loves to wash his hands. He has washed himself so many hands that his flesh is gone, and only his handbones are left. He wants to be able to clean other people’s hands. He cleans the hands of others, returns them to their owner, and “borrows” them. He often kills the owner while doing so. So If you want to keep your hands and avoid a visit from George… WASH YOUR DAMM HANDS (with soap) 

The chillimander

Eva Toorenent, storytelling in fantasy art; a creature inspired by chilis

Image credit: Eva Toorenent

This painting was inspired by a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding was expanded upon and I created this painting.

I signed up for an art challenge in which I had to produce a painting each day during October. On that particular day, the theme was salamanders. Sincerly, I didn’t know what I was going to paint on that particular day. So I started sketching and saw where it took me. I started by drawing a salamander onto a pepper. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the idea to my partner. We had a small miscommunication and he believed I said that the chili was the salamander. He thought it was a brilliant idea, because the stem looked like a small hat. I went back to the drawing tablet immediately and finished it. I was so pleased with the outcome of this miscommunication, that I created another painting of Chillimander to expand its story. 

This word web started with the miscommunication, which resulted in Chillimander. This word web shows how I came up with the story of the final painting. 

The word web Hot Sauce Bottle – Plant – Chilli plant

Now I have a story Chilimanders are a plant species with a unique way of reproduction. Let me describe its life cycle. When a mature chillimander is about to die (the older specimen of chillimander, the more spicier), the creature will produce an egg/seed. This egg/seed will grow up to be a small jalapeño baby. 

When a jalapeño is fully grown, the parent chillimander will harvest the jalapeño baby. To keep the baby safe and healthy, they are stored inside a large bottle of hot sauce called “The Jalapeño Nursery” (great sauce). Inside this nursery, the jalapeño will develop into a little chillimander (grow arms, legs, and a tail). 

Once it grows all of its limbs, the young chillimander will crawl from the hot sauce container. After that, the young chillimander will help protect the garden where the baby jalapeños grow. Once it is an adult, the chillimander will receive gardening tools and be a gardener who can maintain and care for the garden. The chillimander leaves no skeleton behind when it dies. It only leaves a small blue egg/seed.   

Candle Wax Uncorn: the grower

Eva Toorenent, storytelling in fantasy art; a unicorn made from candlewax

Image credit: Eva Toorenent

When I start creating my art, most of the time I have no idea where to begin. I start by sketching, and then let my doodles guide me. I have to draw several pages before I have anything worth showing. I usually illustrate at night as I do not need daylight to draw in colour. I’m also most relaxed and enjoy watching horror videos, youtube videos, or playing horror games. 

I draw for pages upon pages. I take notes while sketching. These are facts, comments, and details about the creature. You can see that I’ve erased several sketches and started others, or even expanded upon existing ones. Inspiration can strike at any time. I don’t know how it happens. When I’m really inspired, however, I stop watching the video and really immerse myself in it. 

While sketching I came across this unicorn. She was gorgeous, but something was missing. I kept this sketch in the back my mind as I continued my work. One day, I was out shopping with my friend and came across a similar-looking candle.

My first reaction was. Then it dawned on me: A unicorn made of candle wax! As soon as I arrived home, I finished the design using a candle instead of a standard horn. I finished the painting by digitally finishing her hair to look like candle wick. I liked the design so well that I painted an original acrylic painting of this unicorn. 

Over time, the idea and design for this unicorn painting really evolved. This is the wordweb I created when writing her story. The unicorn sketch and the twirly candle were the starting points. 

The word web Unicorn, Horn, Candle Wax (dripping), Nightlight, Darkness & Fear of the Darkness.

I now have an idea This unicorn made of candle wax is afraid to go into the dark. When she becomes afraid, she lights her unicorn horn. Problem is, the longer she continues to light her horn the more she will melt. She has to face her fears otherwise the light is going to consume her.

Painting demo

In my rest of the video, I show a demonstration and narration of this working style. From sketch to final product, storytelling. How I create concept art and how to incorporate storytelling.

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