The Illustration Process - Part 1
Hey, how's it going? My name is Harry Pendleton. I am 19 years old and I am currently a student at Montgomery County Community College in suburban Philadelphia. Even though I am attending school (majoring in web development), illustration has always been my passion. Ever since I was able to hold a pencil, I was drawing, no matter the time, place nor weather. Throughout the years as my skills in drawing progressed, however, I realized that I needed to be able to get my artwork out there somehow. With the help of my cousin Wes, I am now learning the ropes of marketing my artwork and making it better than it ever was before.
Art itself has always been a process to me, similar to how a muscle works, only instead of it being a physical aspect of yourself, it is purely mental. Every time you draw it's as if you're stretching out your brain to make more room for the imagination that you had ever since you were a little kid. For me, my imagination stemmed from reading comic books as a kid. Specifically "Amazing Fantasy - Issue 15" which is the first appearance of Spider-Man, I remember finding it within an easter basket that my aunt gave me during a weekend over her house. Opening up the pages of that comic, seeing the artwork for it, the story and even the designs of the characters back then, being iconic in their own right. I knew that drawing would be something that I could get into.
That being said, during this week while starting some intern work with Wes at his home office, I decided to practice on my skill of being able to create and develop characters, or just character design in short. With this in mind, I'd like to share with you the few rules that I've learned when in the process of designing characters.
1. Finding the inspiration for the character.
When creating a character, my influence usually comes from some sort media that I was exposed to. What helps me strengthen my creative juices is listening to music. But in reality it can be anything. It's all just a foundation of where I can build from. Using these sources helps me get a feel for how a character should be, or rather help me better mold the character. Think about it like this... Suppose you had a blank slate for a scene for your character that you're creating. You have no ideas on how they look, what they or doing, just nothing. Now take that blank slate and use a song for inspiration. Let's use "Photograph" by Def Leppard for example. With this song playing in my head, it has the late 70s/ 80s feel to it. So I imagine how the character's appearance would fit that aesthetic, with the light blue denim jacket, plain white graphic tee with a box cut and high top converses on. With the song going toward high vocals during most of the duration, I picture that the character himself has a carefree, reckless mentality, similar to the invincible feeling that you had as a kid, that nothing was impossible. All while floating in the air moonwalking, while blasting music on his walkman near the city's skyscrapers during the nighttime.
2. The style doesn’t necessarily matter.
One of the things that I think most people (including myself) get confused about sometimes is that the art style of your drawings contribute to a majority or not all of how your character will be portrayed. What I mean by that is, a good character design in itself is often times recognizable or iconic. You would think that the style itself would also be associated with the character itself, but this isn't actually true. The art style is just associated with you as the artist, and usually not the character themselves. Let's take Spider-Man for example. If someone were to draw him as a stick figure, realistic portrait or even in a manga/ anime style, he would still be recognizable. A good character design cannot be bland. It has to stand out. In designing the character, the art style won't make a character dope. You have to get creative with what they are wearing, how that will better fit with their world, and their own personality. That also means that you have to be consider not replicating someone else's character. It's a common critique about animes nowadays with the common wild brown hair protagonist that a lot of shows have. Try to differentiate the character as much as possible to make them your own.
3. Keeping in mind the world that your character exists in.
I can't stress this last point enough. This is one of those things that I myself tend to overlook. Your character, even if you don't have a real specific idea of the setting itself, has to fit within the world that they exist in. Whether it's in your design, in terms of appearance, or just within the narrative itself. It has to flow. As dope as an idea may be, you can't have a cyborg ninja who wears Yeezy boost 750s in the wild west for no real reason. (That is a dope idea in my opinion, but I digress...). There has to be a reason for why your character looks the way that they do and it also has to fit within their own personality in one way or another.
Overall the whole experience itself was an interesting one. One that I'm still pushing to get better at. The only way to get better is to keep going. There's no end field for any art form, so that only means the journey is endless along with the potential.
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