A couple of days ago, I was seized with the irrational desire to do a Princess Peach fanart picture. I wanted to do something cheesecakey, like a Gil Elvgren picture, but mixed with a James Jean-like surrealistic thread.
As preliminary work for the picture, I compiled a bunch of Princess Peach character art from around the web. When working on a picture based on a famous design I'll look over the official art and draw a couple of takes on the character. Working style into someone else's design is largely an unconscious process. However, to gain a more complete understanding of the character, I decided to formally break down the design and rebuild it.
I found two different full body renders of Princess Peach. The first is from the New Super Mario Bros. DS game(left), and the second is from Smash Brothers Brawl for the Wii (right). At a glance the characters look the same, but resize the images so that their heads are the same size and then it's immediately obvious that the Smash Bros. Peach is taller than the New SMB Peach. I decided to toss the shorter Peach and work with the more modern Smash Bros. design.
To understand the character's build, I first need to determine her body proportions. To help with this process, I placed the art on and use the size of the character's head to figure out the height of the body. While I can't be sure of exactly where Peach's legs end underneath her gown, I can safely approximate Peach's height at around 5 heads tall, typical for a cartoon mascot character.
Typical adult proportions are around 7 1/2 heads. That would mean Peach, at about 5 heads high, has roughly the same body proportions as a 6 year old. Now, I'm sure the designers never intended to pair her up against a real human, but when you do, it illustrates how weird she looks. It seems that Princess Peach has an adult figure with a child's proportions.
Next, I figured out her anatomy by establishing some basic landmarks for her body. How long is her torso compared to her legs? Does she have a long midsection or a compact one? Where is her navel, and where does her torso end? Because Peach rarely struts around in anything skimpier than a ballroom gown, it's hard to be certain of her body lines. Doing my best with the clues in the visable anatomy and clothing, I created a model for her body.
To double-check my model, I compared the length of her legs against the upper torso and head. For most people, the legs (starting at the hip joint and running to the foot) are about the same length as the torso and head combined. It appears my take on Peach confroms to these proportions.
With the body lines established, I've acomplished the goal of deconstructing Princess Peach. Now that I know how she works, I can use the grid to translate her design to a side, back, or 2/3s view and create my own character design sheet.
For my rendition of Peach, I don't want her to look quite so young. Using the teen photo as a proportion guide, I cut up and stretch my sketch of Peach's body until her body matches the target proportions. This is the design I will use to create my illustration.