Friday, August 5, 2011

Character design

When I started as a clean-up artist at Cine-Groupe (a local animation studio) a decade ago, I sat near a character designer. He'd receive written notes on characters required for a given episode, and would whip up drawings that blew me away. Although I've always enjoyed designing my own characters, I recognized early that it wasn't my forte. Design is incredibly challenging; coming up with something distinct, expressive, and visually interesting can be a long, difficult process.

Some characters I've created sprang from my pencil sketches almost fully formed. Others required alot of tweaking until I felt satisfied. My fish-wearing-armour super-hero (who is now a turtle), went through many revisions over the years:

1 My first idea, a fishbowl that walks. A bit boring.

2 Reworked as a deep sea diver... interesting, but awkward.

3 Looking a bit robotic, but getting closer to what I was going for.

4 I like this guy and his fish-cycle, but felt it a little too cute.

5 Star design element creeps in, and the suit is starting to look sleek. At this point, the character started to look heroic, and the concept firmed up from there.

6 At one point, I replaced the fish with an electric eel, hence the lightening effects. I still like that idea, but eels are dull to draw, visually.

7 Trying to figure out how to make the character move, this action-figure design was an inspired solution. The belt and guantlets are looking good!

9 Almost there; the shoulders flow better and fins pump up the arms and legs.

10 A stylized sketch that I really like.

11 A flying manta replaces the fish bike; shield and staff give him a knight vibe which I enjoy.

The design hasn't evolved much from this one, although I've replaced eel with leatherback turtle.

And there you have it. I think the many years of sketching were worth it, ending up with a cool character I love to draw, and hopefully readers will enjoy as well!

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