Believe it or not, Natalya wasn't always a spoiled Grand Duchess with a love for all things gothic lolita. In fact, she used to be a FMA cliche fan character that borderlined a Mary-Sue. There aren't many surviving drawings of her original appearance but I have found some that date back to 2007:
These examples are surprisingly good for my art at that time and I think they are my first attempts at drawing her at all.
Back then, her name was Shiitake because I still had a thing for mushrooms (later she adopted the last name Povlova when my love for the Russian Empire began to bloom)
- Character: Shiitake had olive green hair and greenish blue eyes. Her outfit consisted of a little black dress with a white scarf and matching ankle boots. She was extremely quiet and always seemed to be sad. If I remember correctly, she was an orphan with a bloody past but I don't recall all the details.
- Conception: Her entire character came into being when I wanted to write fanfiction of an anime back when myOtaku was still a thing. I had asked fellow members in a myO post what she should look like. Someone suggested she have electric blue hair which was fine with me at the time. The fanfiction, however, never got written. An old member, named Sevy, created a beautiful background for me which included a cute silvery green haired anime girl. It was so lovely that I dropped the idea of bright blue hair for the unsaturated green (which also became one of my favorite colors).
- Bronze Age: In mid to late 2008, I scratched the surface of lolita fashion. I was already in love with Goth and Victorian clothes so lolita was logically the next step. During my '08 lolita breakthrough, Shiitake's appearance started leaning towards frillier, darker clothes. Her eyes changed from greenish blue, to a darker shade of her then sea-foam green hair. In 2009 most of my art was inspired by lolita and I had started learning the rules of the fashion.
- Birth of Natalya: I dropped the name Shiitake in 2009 and began looking for a new, Russian name. One day, in my high school English class, I was browsing a text book and stumbled upon an excerpt from Leo Tolstoy's novel, War and Peace. One of the character names was Natalya. At the time, I was a fan of the name Natalie so this naturally caught my eye. This is the first piece of art on theOtaku to use the name "Natalia". This was the last evidence of art of the fan character Shiitake.
- Silver Age: In mid '09, Natalya became her own original character, completely independent of any anime. Her story was called Duchess in Dreamland, where she was a Grand Duchess who transforms into a living doll. This was a common look for her.
- Golden Age: 2010 was a turning point for Natalya's character. She took on her staple look of emerald green hair and mint green eyes. Natalya's costumes are always evolving but have a persisting design. I consider 2010 through 2011 her Golden age because she was my most popular character at the time. 2010 saw the birth of The Petite Affairs of Natalya!
- Other: Natalya as a character still endures but hasn't been in the spotlight since I began Valle Lacrimarum in the final months of 2011. She has met her match, the Countess Amelia de Belvoir, a rival gothic lolita.
2010 comparison of Shiitake and Natalya: