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There's some Pokemon.
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I AM LOSING MY SHIT OVER THIS WHAT THE FUCK ARIN HOLY SHIT I ALMOST DIED LAUGHING I ALMOST FUCKING CHOKED
mmmm never forget this. never let this die. in 80 years when arin is on his death bed, let him remember the d club
I do not care if you arent into game grumps. Please listen to this.
I just love though, dan’s muffled laughter as he leaves the room to ask arin’s wife about him having totally-not-gay gay actions and comes back into the room screaming “oh my god” its beautiful really
I have died
I love you guys. These words are for you, and also for myself.
I thought that by the time I actually got a creative job in the animation industry I would surely feel… like less of an imposter. Nope. Often times when I get an assignment I experience a moment of pure terror. Afraid that my last success was an accident and I’ll be shown for what I am in front of an audience that grows with each day in the belief that I am something that I am not. This feeling comes in white hot flashes between fleeting moments of proveable victory.
A creative act is a leap of faith, and like many who follow something greater than ourselves, we falter often.
When I was in grad school and still figuring out what was possible, I had a revolving door of people telling me to lower my expectations. Friends and foes alike, telling me I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t… YET. But it did not matter.
It does not matter if you are READY.
Ready is a lie. It’s a finish line we point to, always far in the distance, where the weather is always sunny and a roaring crowd waits to give a standing ovation.
Ready is always far enough away to create comfort, but not so far that we need admit failure. It is as sweet and delicate a fantasy as exists, but in addition to being only mildly comforting, it is ultimately damaging to our artistic goals.
What creative goals have you been putting off because you aren’t “ready”?
Whether you want to write a novel, develop a video game, be a character artist for animation— whatever your goal is, the only way to BECOME is to do:)
Apply for that position. Go to that convention. Approach that artist for feedback. Do it now. Learn what you can, then do it again. Every time it will become less daunting. You’ll find new things to be afraid of in no time;)
Trying to become perfect in a vacuum, and then present yourself to the world like some sort of gift wrapped God of art making is not realistic.
Immerse yourself in the community.
Fall down and get back up.
Allow people to help you, and help others in earlier stages than yourself.
Be courageous (and positive:)) as you jump in with both feet!!
This year— to take my own advice. I will be creating a book of my artwork, getting a table at at least one convention (ECCC2015), and reaching out into the world of kids book publishing as it’s a huge dream of mine to work in books. And of course creating written content for the followers of this blog;) I may not be ready for any of these things… yet:) But this is the fastest way I know to get there:)
I wish you all the best!! Be fearless!
Jennifer Ely is an artist working in the animation industry as a Color Stylist on a Dreamworks television show for Netflix. She has also worked for LAIKA as everything from Intern to Visual Development Artist.
You can follow her here:
Character design and drawing are tome-sized topics and even if I had all the answers (I don’t - I have a lot to learn), I’m not sure I could communicate them effectively. I’ve gathered some thoughts and ideas here, though, in case they’re helpful.
First, some general things:
- Relax and let some of that anxiety go. This isn’t a hard science. There’s no wrong way, no rigid process you must adhere to, no shoulds or shouldn’ts except those you designate for yourself. This is one of the fun parts of being an artist, really - have a heady good time with it.
- Be patient. A design is something gradually arrived at. It takes time and iteration and revision. You’ll throw a lot of stuff away, and you’ll inevitably get frustrated, but bear in mind the process is both inductive and deductive. Drawing the wrong things is part of the path toward drawing the right thing.
- Learn to draw. It might seem perfunctory to say, but I’m not sure everyone’s on the same page about what this means. Learning to draw isn’t a sort of rote memorization process in which, one by one, you learn a recipe for humans, horses, pokemon, cars, etc. It’s much more about learning to think like an artist, to develop the sort of spacial intelligence that lets you observe and effectively translate to paper, whatever the subject matter. When you’re really learning to draw, you’re learning to draw anything and everything. Observing and sketching trains you to understand dimension, form, gesture, mood, how anatomy works, economy of line; all of the foundational stuff you will also rely on to draw characters from your imagination.
Spend some time honing your drawing ability. Hone it with observational sketching. Hone it good.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do this sort of thing better than Claire Wendling. In fact, character designs emerge almost seamlessly from her gestural sketches. It’d be worth looking her up.
- Gather Inspiration like a crazed magpie. What will ultimately be your trademark style and technique is a sort of snowball accumulation of the various things you expose yourself to, learn and draw influence from. To that effect, Google images, tumblr, pinterest and stock photo sites are your friends. When something tingles your artsy senses - a style, a shape, a texture, an appealing palette, a composition, a pose, a cool looking animal, a unique piece of apparel, whatever - grab it. Looking at a lot of material through a creative lens will make you a better artist the same way reading a lot of material makes a better writer.
It’ll also devour your hard drive and you will try and fail many times to organize it, but more importantly, it’ll give you a lovely library of ideas and motivational shinies to peruse as you’re conjuring characters.
- Imitation is a powerful learning tool. Probably for many of us, drawing popular cartoon characters was the gateway habit that lured us into the depraved world of character design to begin with. I wouldn’t suggest limiting yourself to one style or neglecting your own inventions to do this, but it’s an effective way to limber up, to get comfortable drawing characters in general, and to glean something from the thought processes of other artists.
- Use references. Don’t leave it all up to guessing. Whether you’re trying to design something with realistic anatomy or something rather profoundly abstracted from reality, it’s helpful in a multitude of ways to look at pictures. When designing characters, you can infer a lot personality from photos, too.
And despite what you might have heard, having eyeballs and using them to look at things doesn’t constitute cheating. There’s no shame in reference material. There’s at least a little shame in unintentional abstractions, though.
Concepts and Approach:
- Break it down. Sometimes you have the look of a character fleshed out in your mind before putting it to paper, but usually not. That doesn’t mean you have to blow your cortical fuses trying conceive multiple diverse designs all at the same time, though. You don’t even have to design the body shape, poses, face, and expressions of a single character all at once. Tackle it a little at a time.
The cartoony, googly eyed style was pre-established for this simple mobile game character, but I still broke it into phases. Start with concepts, filter out what you like until you arrive at a look, experiment with colors, gestures and expressions.
- Start with the general and work toward the specific. Scribbling out scads of little thumbnails and silhouettes to capture an overall character shape is an effective way begin - it’s like jotting down visual notes. When you’re working at a small scale without agonizing over precision and details, there’s no risk of having to toss out a bunch of hard work, so go nuts with it. Give yourself a lot of options.
Here’s are some sample silhouettes from an old cancelled project in which I was tasked with designing some kind of cyber monkey death bot. I scratched out some solid black shapes then refined some of them a step or two further.
- Here’s an instructional video by Feng Zhu about doing much the same thing (only way better).
- Shapes are language. They come preloaded with all sorts of biological, cultural and personal connotations. They evoke certain things from us too. If you’re ever stuck about where to go with your design, employ a sort of anthroposcopy along these lines - make a visual free association game out of it. It’ll not only tend to result in a distinguished design, but a design that communicates something about the nature of the character.
Think about what you infer from different shapes. What do they remind you of? What personalities or attitudes come to mind? How does the mood of a soft curve differ from that of a sharp angle? With those attributes attached, how could they be used or incorporated into a body or facial feature shape? What happens when you combine shapes in complementary or contrasting ways? How does changing the weight distribution among a set of shapes affect look and feel? Experiment until a concept starts to resonate with the character you have in mind or until you stumble on something you like.
If you don’t have intent, take the opposite approach - draw some shapes and see where they go. (It’s stupid fun.)
- You might also find it helpful to watch Bobby Chiu’s process videos in which he feels out his character designs as he paints.
- Cohesion and Style. As you move from thumbnails to more refined drawings, you can start extrapolating details from the general form. Look for defining shapes, emergent themes or patterns and tease them out further, repeat them, mirror them, alternate them. Make the character entirely out of boxy shapes, incorporate multiple elements of an architectural style, use rhythmically varying line weights - there are a million ways to do this
Here’s some of the simple shape repetition I’ve used for Lackadaisy characters.
- Expressions - let them emerge from your design. If your various characters have distinguishing features, the expressions they make with those features will distinguish them further. Allow personality to influence expressions too, or vice versa. Often, a bit of both happens as you continue drawing - physiognomy and personality converge somewhere in the middle.
For instance, Viktor’s head is proportioned a little like a big cat. Befitting his personality, his design lets him make rather bestial expressions. Rocky, with his flair for drama, has a bit more cartoon about him. His expressions are more elastic, his cheeks squish and deform and his big eyebrows push the boundaries of his forehead. Mitzi is gentler all around with altogether fewer lines on her face. The combination of her large sleepy eyes and pencil line brow looked a little sad and a little condescending to me when I began working out her design - ultimately those aspects became incorporated into her personality.
- Pose rendering is another one of those things for which observational/gesture drawing comes in handy. Even if you’re essentially scribbling stick figures, you can get a handle on natural looking, communicative poses this way. Stick figure poses make excellent guidelines for plotting out full fledged character drawings too.
Look for the line of action. It’ll be easiest to identify in poses with motions, gestures and moods that are immediately decipherable. When you’ve learned to spot it, you can start reverse engineering your own poses around it.
- Additional resources - here are some related things about drawing poses and constructing characters (click the images for the links).
- Tortured rumination about lack of ability/style/progress is a near universal state of creative affairs. Every artist I have known and worked with falls somewhere on a spectrum between frustration in perpetuity and a shade of fierce contrition Arthur Dimmesdale would be proud of. So, next time you find yourself constructing a scourge out of all those crusty acrylic brushes you failed to clean properly, you loathsome, deluded hack, you, at least remember you’re not alone in feeling that way. When it’s not crushing the will to live out of you, the device does have its uses - it keeps you self-critical and locked in working to improve mode. If we were all quite satisfied with our output, I suppose we’d be out of reasons to try harder next time.
When you need some reassurance, compare old work to new. Evolution is gradual and difficult to perceive if you’re narrowed in on the nearest data point, but if you’ve been steadily working on characters for a few months or a year, you’ll likely see a favorable difference between points A and B.
Most of all, don’t dwell on achieving some sort of endgame in which you’re finally there as a character artist. There’s no such place - wherever you are, there is somewhere else. It’s a moving goal post. Your energy will be better spent just enjoying the process…and that much will show in the results.
January: Selfie Olympics
February: Flappy Bird
lets see how the rest of the year goes
March: No Oscar for Leonardo DeCaprio
April: it’s a metaphors, you’re a metaphors, we are a metaphor, if I see another metaphor I’m going to kill someone
Wonder how July is gonna be
i will keep reblogging this each month
May I request captioned GIFs for every moment this reviewer comments on how offensively stupid designs of this game are?
Why do you even have this giant armored robot if you’re just hang at the front of it, so everybody can see you?! (1:51 - 1:55)By the end of this video I want to figure out what is up with that underwear. It’s not even underwear. She has, like, A TATTOO… for… underwear. What is it??? I don’t know… (2:12 - 2:25)You know, I think I wanna put some glasses on you, so you’re AT LEAST a little bit more covered up. I’m sorry I can’t help you, really… (2:41 - 2:48)Despite my best intentions, she’s not wearing clothes again. I tried. I tried to give her at least the glasses… No. (2:58 - 3:07)EVERYTHING IN THIS GAME is sexualized to the max. You think you’re safe going over to this vending machine, but oh, nope, the vending machine’s showing you its ass. (6:06 - 6:15)What is on your butt? How old are you? You just told me that I have to be level 10. You look like you’re 8… (6:22 - 6:30)
edit: updated links
edit 2 (18.08.13): updated links, again
Jinxy Jenkins, Lucky Lou
Me and Mike Bidinger’s thesis film made during our years at Ringling. Please enjoy and share! :)
I loved this SO MUCH!! I love the concept art so I’m so glad to see the full short!
SO SO SO SO SO GOOD!!!