Heraldry, Pt 3: Charges
Designing New Characters
July, 2006: Mischief
Designing New CharactersBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
I had this very interesting request from a reader to do a tutorial on how to draw imps and goblins. I thought this tutorial would be perfect for this monthís subject! But I also realized that I could do one too many installments of such types of tutorials: How to draw fairies, how to draw gnomes, how to draw ghosts, how to draw animals, etc. So I wondered if there wasnít another type of tutorial that could cover all of these in one single column.
It seems like there is: This month, we will see how to create and design new characters. Weíll see how we can put our ideas and discoveries onto paper to get a nice and basic character sheet. For the fun of it, I will use the example of a goblin. (I donít think Iíve ever drawn any goblin in my life, so this should be fun for everyone!)
Usually, when we want to design a new character, we have a specific idea of how weíre actually going to use this character in future illustrations--it might be for a picture book or an RPG game. So naturally, we should have a description that comes along with this new fellow we want to bring to life. I donít suggest skipping this step. Defining a character with emotions, specific details, and a background story (even if it is very simple) will help you get a quick mental image of him or her. Letís try to do this with our new (well, soon to be) goblin friend.
Small bio and description: Gabhul is a young Night Crow apprentice. He wants to be a crow trainer when he becomes a full fledge warrior. He is kind of small compared to most goblins but he is still very agile and swift. Because of his tiny size, he can actually ride crows!
Good! Weíll keep it at that! Iím sure you all have a fairly good mental image of our little goblin right now, even with this very small description. Try creating a character of your own. Maybe a new member of the Night Crow tribe? Have fun!
Brainstorming and Researching
Now, since we are working on something weíve never drawn before (goblins) we will have to do a little research. Weíll first have to brainstorm ideas that we feel are related to goblins and to our characterís description. This way, we will broaden our keywords when we start looking for references online and in books. Letís brainstorm right now:
Weíll stop here. Just now, I see tons of keywords that trigger ideas for research online. Of course there is the word ďgoblinsĒ. Iím sure we can find very helpful images just with that. With "green skin", we could look for animals that have green skin and use those for reference (frogs and lizards).
Iíve always imagined goblins like caricatures of our own faces. A strong study of the human face might be helpful here. If the nose is what we want to put time into, finding pictures of noses will be necessary.
We have boar teeth. Another very interesting subject to venture into!
And finally, we have warriors. We might want to again, make a research on ancient civilisations to inspire ourselves for the clothing, weapons and jewellery.
For pictures, going to the library is a great idea! If there is a photocopier where you can make copy of the references you find, bring a binder with you to carry them. Youíll also be able to find countless pictures online to help you out. (I often go to www.corbis.com.) Just a reminder though, that pictures you find online shouldnít be copied or stolen. You can study them when you arenít sure how something in particular is made, however.
Once you found all the pictures and information you need to start creating your character, you are ready to start!
Creating the Character Sheet
This is, to me, the tricky part. I never know if a character is really well constructed or not. I tend to redesign my characters over and over. But I find that doing a character sheet will at least help me keep a consistency in the design when I draw them in different illustrations. The most basic character sheet can be a 3/4 front view and a 3/4 back view. With only this, you will have all the information you need to do your character from any point of view.
Aside from the turn around, you will need to find the characterís name and the colors. Any important details should be pointed out so you donít miss it.
The more complex turn around would include: a front view, 3/4 front view, back view, 3/4 back view, profile, colors, name of the character and maybe a few expressions. When I do such a complex turn around, I start with the 3/4 views. From there, if you trace some guide lines, it will be easier to break the turn around into the 3 other views.
And now for our friend Gabhul. If I was to make a turn around of him, I would first time by trying to nail down his design with random sketches, then Iíd keep the best one and do the 3/4 front view, like this:
From that 3/4 view, you trace guide lines that will help you work out the 3/4 back view. Keep in mind that you do not need to start working the details right away when you do the turn around. Try drawing the basics shapes first. Make sure the anatomy of your character works also. Since this will later be your reference for your character, you need this version to be the best it can be!
I wish I had twice as much space to talk about the subject, because there is so much I could elaborate on. But overall, remember that if you are to venture into new grounds when you create characters, itís 50% technicalities and 50% your own creativity. If youíve done your research, all that is left if for you to put it all together with ideas of your own. Donít be scared to draw new things. It isnít easy at first, especially when we know nothing about it, but itís always rewarding when we manage to do it! (Look at me! I never thought I actually could draw a goblin and it seems like I managed to do it for this tutorial after all!)
Perspective! Weíll will start with the simple rules of perspective and try to do a one point-of-view perspective background. (Nothing too difficult, I promise!)
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