We all know dwarves are stocky, have beards, and live in caves in the mountains. Snow White, Arthur Rackham, Tolkien, Wagner, Nordic mythology: all have established this archetype. I began by developing the race of dwarves by looking at where they lived. The mountainous terrain and mining lead to the beards, broad hands, shoulders and low center of gravity. The culture of mining and rock inspired a faceted aesthetic that I felt would pervade the art of the dwarves and give them a distinctive look.
Dwarves are a hard people, with a hard-edged style. The design team told me that dwarves should look like tanks. The beards became a fun experiment. Since no one ever sees a dwarf without a beard, it must hold a strong social, possibly even religious significance. I decided that the beards would be a key to individualizing characters denoting family, personal history and clan affiliation. Once the beards were designed, I found that the only facial feature that could be seen through all the hair was the nose, so I thought it would be very striking if it were prominent, since throughout art history dwarves have large noses, and small-nosed dwarves tend to look like Santa.
The female dwarves were a much greater challenge. The design team felt that they had been ignored in earlier versions because they are always depicted as so unattractive and masculine. I was directed to make them beautiful, even sexy. Short, stocky and large nosed is not exactly a schema for the classic female beauty. I had no inclination to depict them with beards or soft cherubic faces. Broadening the face and balancing the design with piles of hair and slightly bigger eyes was my solution.