Character Casting ...
Last issue's IMPrint covered the initial conceptualization of an
as-of-yet untitled bar-room brawl piece. This month, I will be describing the
process by which I developed all of the different creatures that will be
interacting in this scene. As luck would have it, I realized after their
creation that the two "main" characters were developed using two completely
Auditions for the main characters ...
The two main characters were involved in a fight with one another.
This much I knew. I also knew the approximate location of the two antagonists.
With those three points in mind, and nothing else, I started to create.
For no particular reason, I started on the
right-most main character first.
The first couple sketches were of a
"normal" humanoid creatures.
Fortunately, I simply didn't like the way the first attempts
looked. So I decided I would go ahead and try this guy as a centaur. The
next sketch was mainly to see if a centaur would even fit into the scene.
The resulting sketch is shown on the left.
The general direction was fairly horse-like, hints of a unicorn, with the
face a cross between human and horse.
While I wasn't happy with the
result, I thought the direction deserved further exploration.
So I made some quicker, smaller sketches. I particularly liked the smaller
figure on the right. The pose was not only more compact, but gave a much better
sense that the creature was in the middle of rising. I thought this felt more
dynamic, that it gave a better sense of pent-up energy on the verge of
release. So I stuck with this pose.
The figure itself, however, still left me cold. It violated one of my
biggest rules: aggressively avoid characters which are too standard, too
ordinary. SO I started trying other hoofed
animals... not shown are the quick sketches of buffalo-centaurs, giraffe-
centaurs, etc. None of them worked quite like I wanted them to. Then Robin
suggested something a little more exotic that she'd seen at the local zoo,
an okapi. An okapi is a relative of the giraffe, but much smaller and
much closer to a horse in proportions but with some very interesting
shapes and colorings and a wonderfully bizarre face. I pulled out some
reference pictures, gave it a quick try and immediately
loved the result.
This character was finally coming together! I did another
close-up (or several) to further refine the face.
After a couple more refinement hours I felt like he was done and that I knew
I liked the way the body shape fit with the pose, the markings looked
exotic, and best of all, I immediately got a sense of the personality of this
creature. He was a rogue, a rough and dirty highwayman with a good dose of
scoundrel in him. Sinewy and seedy, but strong and fiesty. All I had to do
was make a face to get all of that across! I still liked the idea of blending
human with animal, so I went back to it. Again, I really liked the results.
Sometimes you find a natural ...
Somewhere in the middle of all that, however, I needed a break. I
stopped and tried a sketch of the other guy.
About 15 minutes later, this strange boar-dog-hippo-ogre thing
was throwing punches and I couldn't stop him! That fast, and he was
ready to fight the okapi. Some adjustments were made to the pose and general
shape in the final drawing, but that one sketch was as far as design work went.
What this shows is that there is no correct way to design a character.
All you can do is be ready when they show themselves. Some may take a lot of
elbow grease, re-working, references, patience and back-tracking. Others will
simply appear in the blink of an eye. What is important is that you feel like
you know the personality and quirks of your character. This may happen in a
single sketch, or it may take hours or days. But don't stop until it gets
there, or you will end up feeling like the piece is missing something.
Getting all the extras ...
After that, I needed to fill the role of bartender.
Again, I was
happy with one of the first drawings, one of a very wild-boar-like fellow who
nevertheless was daring enough to wear bows in his hair. But then again, he
may have been a she... I didn't ask.
A couple of old guys came in and played cards.
I rejected them, but
despite all of the noise, they refused to leave. So against my wishes, they
ended up in the final picture. Pesky old men...
Several primates came in. I liked some of them, such as the
pick-pocket who worked
well in the scene, but I had to reject almost all of the
rest on general principle. I needed variety, and having too many ape-based
characters would have felt too predictable.
I also seem to remember a young bar maid
who I thought would work well
in the scene, but she decided that there just wasn't room to stand amidst all
the flying food, fists, and insults. Oh well.
After that, the additions went by in a blur. There were some lizardy
guys, some fishy fellows, and several that don't seem like much of anything.
Some of them made it, some of them were cut, some were changed, and some
others missed the auditions but ended up on the final stage anyway!