League Of Legends Chinese Splash Art Comparison Essay

Beast Slayer Splash Art: WIP

Reference pictures are the unsung heroes behind every splash art, used for inspiration while never seeing the spotlight… until now.


Victor “3rdColossus” Maury: That’s one of the pictures I took while working on the Beast Hunter splash. It’s one of my favorite reference images—I could instantly picture the final splash art when he made that scrunched up face. It was just so Draven. Every artist on the splash team has entire folders filled with pictures like this.

Joshua “HUGEnFAST” Smith: Reference images are kind of like research to figure out what something is supposed to look like. Sometimes, you can get by just with just a Google search, but other times, there’s a very specific thing, like a facial expression worthy of Draven, that you can’t find a good reference for, so you just make it yourself.


HUGEnFAST: Not always, but we should. If you ever need to figure out how something works, the easiest thing to do is pull out your phone, grab a room, and start snapping selfies.

3rdColossus: What you’re seeing is just one picture, but we often take like twenty slightly different ones to figure out what looks the best before we even start drawing. You can waste a lot of time on a drawing that doesn’t work, but photos provide a quick proof-of-concept and allow for a ton of variety and fun camera angles really fast.

HUGEnFAST: In my phone, I probably have like a hundred photos of my hand because I’m not exactly sure what’ll work best. I take a bunch with slightly different angles and slightly different poses and then pick the one that fits.

3rdColossus: A big reason our images tend to stand out is because they’re informed from real life. It can be tempting to make everything up, but if you want to make these crazy characters still feel anchored to reality, you have to add that one moment of believability.

HUGEnFAST: And to make it believable, sometimes we have to mess around in real life, like, ‘Wait, how do hands work again?’”

Where’d the idea of using reference images come from?

HUGEnFAST: Reference pictures have been important to painters since… forever.

3rdColossus: Basically, since photography was invented.

HUGEnFAST: Yeah, and even before that, it was life. Renaissance painters would hire a bunch of models to stand exactly how they wanted, for hours on end, and then they’d literally just copy them. We definitely didn’t create a new technique here—it’s more like a bridge between traditional painting and the crazy, digital art we make today.

Is there a specific thing you’re looking for when taking reference pictures?

HUGEnFAST: Usually, but more generally, the goal is to build understanding. Like for Pool Party Leona, we went out and bought an orange umbrella. When we got back, we took some pictures and realized that light filtered through the umbrella tints everything slightly orange. This little detail was a really important discovery for Chengwei “KIllerPanda0007” Pan when he was painting, and I think it’s part of what makes the splash so unique.

3rdColossus: There’s also this weird phenomenon when you act something out where you empathize with the character you’re drawing. I know that sounds weird, but it leads you to certain decisions that make your drawing feel like the real thing that wouldn’t have necessarily occurred to you if you drew it without experiencing it.

HUGEnFAST: When I was crushing an orange for a Gangplank reference, I was thinking about my body language and my facial expression, inevitably inhabiting some of the mental space of the pirate. When mimicking a character’s gesture and emotion, you can gain new understanding about how their feelings would affect their pose.

3rdColossus: When you act as the character, you know where the weight is, where the tension is, where the relaxation is. When I took Warwick’s reference pictures, the way my hands spread on the ground helped me understand weight distribution, and I noticed little things like how my fingertips squished down. I learned a lot from posing for this picture, actually—firstly that this is a really awkward pose, and I am not a wolf, and my neck bones were not made for this. But it did help me find which angles felt appropriate for the limbs. If you’re inventing a pose, it’s really easy to draw something broken and never realize it. But as soon as you act it out, you’ll know, ‘Oh, my wrist doesn’t bend that way.

Why’re reference pictures so important?

HUGEnFAST: In every splash, we strive to really understand what’s going on first. That’s ultimately what helps us convince other people that this character is real, and they’re actually feeling this way, and they don’t look derpy because they’re posed in a way that doesn’t make any sense. It’s all based in reality—you don’t have to just draw from your imagination.

3rdColossus: Sometimes, there’s this misconception about art that it’s magical and we’re just really talented, implying that it’s somehow inherent or easy for us, but it’s actually a lot of hard work, research, study, and trial-and-error. Good image-making, like anything else, can be learned. Lucky for us, most of the answers you could ever need are present in nature if you know where to look.

HUGEnFAST: The human body, and light, and color, are so complicated. It’s too much to keep in your head, even as a professional illustrator, and references help us create art that accurately reflects reality.

The following is a collection of reference photos taken by Riot’s splash artists.

Urf the Nami-tee, Order of the Banana Soraka, Archduke Nasus, Definitely Not Udyr

Bananaband1t is a writer on League of Legends who secures kills with Ebb and Flow.

To start, I must apologize because the title implies I'm going to go into cultural differences more than I'm going to. So by now I'm sure we're all aware of the 'new' splash arts coming to replace all the old splash arts. Some are good, some are _alright_, some are bad and some are just... why? I'm going to talk about the _why_ splashes. All the new splashes are splashes coming from the Chinese client. For various reasons, mostly marketing I'd imagine, a lot of the old (and even some new) were changed for China. A lot of them were what I will refer to as anime-ified, given whole new splashes in a style more reminiscent of anime, and most of these are good and are indeed an improvement [(Tempest Janna tho, hot damn)](https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-iQ_XrKlOCpo/VvWrbu8RVpI/AAAAAAAAMpQ/HWMRqOMOmGUVBDFwdpSx5M6Oisff6uS0Q/s1600/Janna_Splash_1.jpg). Others were altered due to cultural differences like with Karthus for example because China is afraid of skeletons (_**read**: showing bones is disrespectful or something like that, I'm not entirely sure of the specifics_). Others still and the least numerous are splashes with **VERY MINOR** changes (usually to faces) likely to better appeal to the Chinese audience similar to the anime-style splashes. Here are some examples of the last two categories (culture and taste) **(EDIT: The thumbnails turned out bigger than expected, I apologize for the space they take up)**: https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6-GfIenUFJA/VvXBLfUM70I/AAAAAAAA5PM/NwZSQD98NNsUlfY3of5gCy8aoHGreym-A/s1600/Karthus_Splash_0.jpg https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-F7hl7mXQngk/VvWrcMZn6AI/AAAAAAAAMpc/ECg_sGCi1CcS-lp12uS2nTt1BLSI2EM9A/s1600/Karthus_Splash_1.jpg https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ISJLKAYLUSM/VvWrcFUZHNI/AAAAAAAAMpg/jrIe4mfSq_8O6k_cD8vK2QwtLeA88U6xA/s1600/Karthus_Splash_2.jpg https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rrpKWqHI2AU/VvWrXMbQHYI/AAAAAAAAMnw/SXO7NckCtgMjI8aH3m3sPMdDINB9fLvXg/s1600/Ahri_Splash_1.jpg https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-crdFDYoyHwo/VvWretXa82I/AAAAAAAAMqQ/wCtjq5VO2ZogWQFnBj_BMs4pLlFZZ6lhw/s1600/Morgana_Splash_2.jpg https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-F8L5fiBa_5M/VvXBLiG97dI/AAAAAAAA5PQ/CsL5detZ5nED3pDdGmrRmlnzOn6Xcax1Q/s1600/Hecarim_Splash_0.jpg https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-0cSXeAI3J3Y/VwQKASFLEUI/AAAAAAAAM_I/oMTW3GhHyIsbIW8dBd__pqbbid3IiZ1MQ/s1600/Chogath_Splash_2.jpg https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-48YoD4xC1Uw/VwQKCGbXFrI/AAAAAAAAM_w/JnUZKBjaFkUQ5E7KK0RLDDXGgnwWJJ1jQ/s1600/Sion_Splash_4.jpg https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-GiezkKLI4bA/VwQKGA5JQlI/AAAAAAAANBE/bOU28XpdbxMOnXyJxB3A_mnwnehx25Qbw/s1600/Urgot_Splash_1.jpg https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-d8u7qSD4ShY/VwQKHO66YRI/AAAAAAAANBI/R8zcNfVclNE5L72sqoy4loUA0P59uWd_Q/s1600/Veigar_Splash_3.jpg https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WQcDNf6oNj8/VwQKIP63DxI/AAAAAAAANBc/rgLI_5tGhIITu4tvOYCbfJoOHoWew9Cow/s1600/Volibear_Splash_1.jpg https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6qEIeL9nqOU/VwVgN7_BndI/AAAAAAAANI4/utxhlx8TX38DbouG0htvRKOXSPKdr6F-w/s1600/Annie_Splash_1.jpg https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-R7FhG4W7_D4/VwVgPFxqmnI/AAAAAAAANJU/3-BZhOMB5ekB8OJ0q93S4fZPVyhXV15mA/s1600/Teemo_Splash_5.jpg Here's the thing, this is all fine in the context that they're for China because they market better over there. So I ask... WHY ARE WE THEY BEING FORCED UPON US HERE? **We are not China.** There is absolutely no reason to impose Chinese cultural restrictions and preferences on us at the cost of perfectly good art. The most egregious example of this are the Karthus splashes. In all but one, his face is obscured partially _or completely_ because it resembles a skull, a point of disrespect in China **but not here**. Other major examples are Gothic Annie and Cottontail Teemo (at the bottom of the list up there for visibility) where the art is clearly worse for the changes by our own standards that are separate from China's. The differences are so minor though that there's no reason to bring them here. "Splash art unification" shouldn't really apply in this situation because they're already practically the same. Other good examples include Giant Enemy Crabgot and Sinful Succulence Morgana (both linked above). ----- To sum up, the point of my post is this: **We are not China. We do not need and in fact should not be getting a lot these 'new' splash arts because of China's ridiculous standards.** We should not be censoring our own art just because China doesn't like it. **WE ARE NOT CHINA**

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