Friday, November 4, 2011

Character Designs for "A Cloudy Day"

Well, I've slowly but surely begun work on my new children's book "A Cloudy Day". Got the two main characters designed, figured out what the car will look like, and figured out the overall structure/ layout of the book complete with one round of rough thumbnail sketches. I probably won't reveal much of that stuff until the book is done or at least close to it. For now I just wanted to post some character sketches. These are just the initial motionless body poses to get a feel for the shape and size of the characters. In particular, the skin tone colors aren't correct yet. I may show more of the actual evolution of the character designs later. This book actually started out as a winter book but then i made a comment about maybe having the kids in the back of a convertible so we wouldn't be boxed into a small car in every scene. So now it will take place in the summer.

 I'm finally starting to get better and faster with designing characters of young children. This is a task I have been trying to study and get a grasp on ever since my days at Massachusetts College of Art. I still have TONS to learn and really there are soo many amazing styles for drawing children's book characters. I'm just now starting to settle down a bit into a particular style while still trying to improve with each new book. Also since I'm currently doing a lot of self published material I find it's basically necesary to constantly let my style evolve as each book has drastically different needs.

       I think the first time I realized I would have to learn to draw and paint kids is when a friend in one of my illustration classes made a valid point during a class critique. With the whole class critiquing my artwork, he pointed out that the kid I had painted looked "Special". It caught me a bit off guard at the moment but i had to agree with him once I took a look from their perspective.

    The image for that critique was actually one of my main portfolio pieces and would later be printed up as one of my first ever mailer postcards to be sent out to publishers all around the U.S. I spent a couple hundred dollars to have thousands of copies printed. This is the painting when it was "corrected" after the class critique (the one on the right).

         There is still a lot to like about these images, in fact the one on the left landed my first children's book gig! Now I look back on these and realize I wasn't ready for the publishers at that time. It's likely that kids would still love the images but unfortunately in order to get my illustrations accepted by publishers and bought by parents and into the kids hands, I have to go through adults. Publishers see hundreds if not thousands of art submissions each week on their desk and most of that goes directly to the trash can. They look for unique styles, good handling of subject matter, great understanding of color, composition, the ability to tell stories through images, etc etc. but above all a children's book illustrators have to understand how to paint children in a  lively and fun way. That can be anything from the style of charlie brown comics or dora the exploror to a full on deatailed exagerated realism character like norman rockwell. I still struggle with that myself but have made huge leaps and bounds over the past few years.

     Sometimes it's hard for artists to look at their own art objectively. We spend hours and hours drawing and painting an image and redrawing and repainting, moving and shaping, pushing tugging, splatting, sloshing, rubbing, dabbing etc. we might spend twenty minutes just trying to get  a nose to look right or an hour painting the eyes with a tiny little brush that has bristles flairing out at the ends. It takes patience, a steady hand and the perfect flick of the brush to get just the right amount of hairs, with just the right amount of paint, to land in just the right spot and shape, to form the whites of the characters eyes ; on a face that is less than an inch in height on the canvas. Then when  you feel you got the paint in the right spot, you find that it's not the correct hue in relation to it's surroundings or that is the exact moment your little sister walks into the room to tell you one of the eyes is lower than the other, LOL.

    I feel I have started to retain some of the things I've been learning on the topic and hope to write some blog posts soon discussing how to draw and paint kids. Everything from what materials and mediums I find to work best, how to draw folds in clothing, drawing various hair styles, drawing the same character in different poses, designing the character, drawing emotions and facial expressions etc. All the stuff I still struggle with greatly! haha. But it should be fun to learn even more on the topics and put it all into written form for my own future reference and for yours. I'll be sure to reference books and websites on the topic whenver I know of any.


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