"Legolas Greenleaf long under the tree,
In joy thou hast lived, Beware the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more."
When approaching Legolas the first place I looked for inspiration (outside of the books) was the Cherokee Native Americans. The typical life of these Eastern Woodland Indians involved hunting deer and other game animals in the forest; they fished and trapped in the rivers and lakes; and made their homes from what the forest provided them.
I have always imagined wood Elves to be quite feral, fleeting and far less refined than their kin. Legolas has been purposely clad in an ever green cloak, matching the season, the holly braided into his hair reinforces this. I have also used mainly ochres and greens in his skin tones, as I wanted him to look like a deity of the forest.
Tolkien first describes Legolas as "a strange Elf, clad in green and brown".