Friday, June 29, 2007

Developing a Character - Combining Proportions with Distinct Shapes

From Andre 7,000:

This character was already designed, but Joe Horn asked me to do some wacky versions of her for a music video.

A character is like a theme. You start with a general idea (which was already provided to us) and then you try variations.

This character was given to us by Joe Horn to do variations on.

Katie starts normal and cute to get used to the character.
I caricature her pose, by exagerrating the contrasts in her drawing. I also upped the wall-eyed Mary Blair effect.
Now Katie starts to break out and experiment with individual details and proportions.This drawing is chock full of distinct shapes and unusual- unusual means distinct by definition - proportions.

We use the term "Character design" pretty freely. The word design suggests that there are distinctions in the design even though much animation design is vague and indistinct. Animation has a tendency to be very conservative and to reuse shapes over and over again and in the same proportions.

This character came to us with the stock Preston Blair baby shapes and proportions-a big ball for a cranium and smaller pair of balls for cheeks and a pear for a body.

That left us with only the proportions and the details on the balls to play with.

Anyway when designing characters an artist who is truly a designer

1) searches for pleasing individual forms and shapes that look original and then

2) combines them in interesting proportions to try to make the design seem individual.

A designer should also be a caricaturist. A caricaturist looks for distinct shapes in real people and ditinct proportions and then makes them even more distinct than nature did.

You have to ignore your habits to be a good caricaturist. Instead of already knowing what things are supposed to look like, you open your eyes and really look, then put it down.

Marlo loves the myriad of individual shapes nature provides her with.

Katie Makes a Bumblebee Girl Shape:
And it inspires me to try some variations.

Adventurous types like to see how far they can go with distinctness, but of course this business is run by the vague-est most indistinct people on the planet and they always pull our stuff waaaaaay back until the characters are as vague and indistinct as the last 15 years worth of characters.

An interesting phemenon of all this is the concept of "Development Artist".
You know all those "Art Of" books the big companies put out? Filled with development sketches that the company never in a million years had any intention of actually using?

Why the heck do they spend so much money on developing interesting art to then throw it away and go back to the usual vagueness? That's a subject for another post, but lately they have figured out a use for it-to sell you the expensive books and make you wonder why the film didn't look like that.


Here's my "Fatty" version

Of course in a cartoon today, no one can actually be fat. They can only be slightly plump. If that!

Everything in cartoons today is just "slightly". Except for fur and hairs and pores.

Today's producers are real generous with gross surface details.