Thursday, March 31, 2011

Character Building Notes and Suggestions

Good evening. I thought I'd take some old notes from previous class lectures on character design and compile them into an online handout. When designing figures, animals, characters or anything organic really, remember this statement first:

Get that gesture in first! (That is, once you have a concept or character outline) Push the gesture so it conveys the best story. If the figure or character is tired, sad, happy, proud, angry, sneaky, timid, or feeling anything the gesture should broadcast the feeling of the drawing loud and clear. All the rest; construction, costume, value, eyelashes - is all icing.
Once you have solid gestures think about what goes into your character that sets it apart from other characters. If you have a character who is excited or moves around a lot think about how diagonals can be used to push the idea of the characters. Diagonals convey action. if your character is a villain or supposed to appear dangerous or evil, try sharp angles. These angles can make the character painful to look at; in effect suggesting teeth, thorns, shards of glass, daggers etc.
Or another approach is to use curves. Curves act to soften a character, make it comfortable to look at, and relaxing.
Think also about the volumes or shapes that will make up the character. Most shapes have an associated meaning and you can work those meanings into your designs. I'm sure I've said this before but the three main basic shapes are a circle (sphere also cylinder), square (cube), and triangle (pyramid or cone).

Each has it's own set of meanings and you can choose which of those meanings fit the design. So you don't have to look up the meanings, some are included below...

Associated meanings for Circle: unity, wholeness, infinity, calm, purity, happiness, sun even moving into goddess/female power or spirit.

Associated meanings for Square: Strength, durability, solidity, honesty, fairness or justness, firmness, immobility, anger moving into masculinity etc.

Associated meanings for Triangle: Illumination, angular, action, tension, discomfort, proportion, order and (depending which way you draw it - pointing up or down) male or female.

ORRRR you could just use these shapes because they best convey what you want to show in the character.

Santa using a know, because he has a round belly that shakes when he laughs like a-well you know.
A crusty sea captain as made from a cube.
An old feller based off of three main triangles and other minor triangles.

Don't limit yourself to just simple shapes in your design either. There is a wealth of shapes that can push the visual idea of your character as long as they follow the gesture. Below are an oval, bean, pear, rounded cube thingy, and a hour glass. Look up the meanings of these shapes, I can't tell you everything. (Yeesh)

Cat using bean shape for the torso. Play around with the curve of the bean or think about types of beans...lima? kidney? vanilla? Whatever works.
The pear bodied disgruntled spear wielding fat guy, everybody needs one. If you look at bears, they are basically pear shaped...go ahead I'll wait...also raccoons, rabbits, pears (incredible, I know) and other stuff. If the larger part is at the bottom of the character as shown above, it will feel heavier or fatter. If you invert it, the character will feel stronger or more imposing.
Hour glasses make drawing females easy but can be cliche. Control your volumes, try triangles as well.
Variations of shapes and size of shapes. Don't be afraid to play around with proportions as well. Who says you can't have a character with a huge torso and tiny legs? Or long legs and a tiny torso? Also placement of appendages are up to you; the head doesn't always rest at the top of the neck. Removing the neck and dropping the head between the shoulders makes the character look really strong. reduce the size of the forehead and you'll make your character appear less intelligent or, dare I say, dumb. Doing both and you have, well, me. "Whatever it takes to bake those cakes" as they say.Use whatever is in front of you to best convey your character's attitude. Look at the difference achieved in the two drawings of the same pose above just by making the back straight on one and curved on the other. Push what you know and exaggerate. Have fun drawing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Discussing Camera Angle

We have been discussing camera angles in terms of illustration and film and here is a handout. Click for larger version. On the same topic is Scale or Framing Heights (How much of the subject's height is seen in the shot) each has a different meaning. Do not over use any of them, a variety of shots and angles keeps your work alive. I call it the Hershey's Kiss Principle: If you eat one or two Hershey's Kisses, they are satisfying, but if somebody poured a truckload of them down your throat, you wouldn't like them much, or at least you'd tired of them.
Thanks for stopping by, have fun drawing/boarding.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Perceptions Characters: Evolution, Part 1

Hi there. Well, I've been working on another book for the "All About Me" series for Hoopoe Books. This is about perceptions and discusses the five senses. When I started on this book, I was told that the characters and visuals would be a throw back to the first book, "Me and My Memory; Why We Forget Some things and Remember Others" and the characters would again be robots or 'bots' as we (my publisher and I) have come to refer to them. Okay, another bot book, but there is stuff in the manuscript about a bear -a cave bear- so I got into working on bears for a term.

Despite how much fun it is to draw bears, I needed to stay focused and work up comps for the characters that would represent the five senses. At an initial meeting with the publisher, we were discussing possibilities and the question was raised,"What if these guys were just the sense like a nose with little legs?" I shrugged it off, instantly thinking of those product adds from the 50's where some poor dancer had to put a giant cigarette carton on and dance around. So I just drew these things below right there at the meeting. After the first (the nose) my pub could see what a bad idea it was but I continued to toss out the other sketches until he was forced to concede. (nothing says "It's a bad idea" better than a little overkill) The disco dancing robot started a new line of thinking for us.
I did already have some rough (and very terrible) sketches of some bots but I was hitting a wall. What the heck can you do with a 'smell bot'? I had an air filter but my pub scowled at me.I do like my note from this meeting, "not so 'roboty'" as shown above. So I started to focus more on 'humanoid' bots. We discussed the need for many 'sight bot' because of the many ways the brain perceives what we see. So progress appears below.
The nose dudes literally stink.
I liked the idea of a big machine that would be the touch bot but i wasn't enjoying it, as you can see-my sketches are so stiff and uninteresting above.
Another head shake from the publisher and I went back to an early sketch of team of bots that seemed right and did the sketch below.I got an email back that these were heading in a better direction but there were a huge list of changes for these fellows. Including, "Please refer to notes from previous meeting about needing many sight bots...". So I was at the drawing board again, when I started to think about the crew from Star trek and how they would go adventures off ship. We were going to reuse the "Decider" idea from "Me and My Memory". Why couldn't the decider receive stimulus and 'send' out squads of senses to investigate? So, while, riding the bus to teach at SJSU, I hustled out sketches like the one below. My publisher dug the idea when I sent this rough lineup above. More changes and suggestions and i started working up ideas for the space ship that would carry this group of misfits with giant ears, hands, eyes, noses etc. They are based off a brain, get it?Now that I had something that would fly these explorers here and there, I could focus on the decider, shown here in various stages of anonymity. they like the fourth one, even though I thought it was a little scary or at least heading in another direction. Just goes to show once again, they will always like the one you don't.
Here are the rough final characters for the project. Uniforms will change a bit, I am really leaning toward those campy space uniforms from classic B grade Sci-Fi flicks. I'll post those in a while. Concept for these guys is misfits. They really don't fit in the real world, like O'l Pap is that guy who waxes about long gone days of piracy and other foolishness (you know the guy at work who should have retired 40 years ago but sticks around just to say random stuff like, 'thar be a storm a'blowin').

There's a funny story about the Touch Team, or at least notes I got from publisher about what the most sensitive parts of the body are and how I should incorporate them into a character...i didn't post the results of those notes here, maybe some other place. If you're really interested in THAT story, post a comment...A line up of the entire away team; the Senses Squad. Click for a larger image. that's progress for now, more later. Thanks for stopping by.