Issue 2    


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 polar methods.

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.

main characters main characters

For no particular reason, I started on the right-most main character first. The first couple sketches were of a "normal" humanoid creatures.
Centaur sketch 1

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.

Centaur sketch 2
Okapi try

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.

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.

face sketches
more Okapi faces
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 him personally.

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.

other main guy

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...

Card players

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!



    Issue 2    


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This document last updated Mon Oct 2 11:00:31 2006.