Art School Boot Camp: Designing Quirky Characters | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

Art School Boot Camp: Designing Quirky Characters

Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

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6 Lessons (13m)
    • 1. What's Character Design?

      1:12
    • 2. Speaking with Shape Language

      2:32
    • 3. Checking Strength with Silhouettes

      0:43
    • 4. Case Study: Shape Language in Animation

      3:24
    • 5. The Fine Details

      2:09
    • 6. Project Assignment

      2:59
39 students are watching this class

About This Class

What makes a character look like a good guy? A bad guy? The comic relief? The love interest? A character design is different than just a drawing of a person. A “character” must be dynamic enough to tell a story about who that person is. The viewer must be able to connect with the character and understand who they are at a base level just by how they look.

This class will focus on using shape language to draw characters that communicate personality, story, and emotion rather than focusing on drawing perfect anatomy. We’ll be developing unique and expressive characters by speaking visually with shape language.

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Shape language is how basic shapes (whether in character design, fine art, or any other application) can communicate aspects of mood, personality, and story. Understanding how shape language works gives you a starting point for drawing characters, as well as depth and meaning to your final character design.

By the end of the class, you’ll have your own new character design for use in whatever you like to create whether it be books, comics, video games, or just random doodles!

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WANT MORE?

You can see more about Christine and her work at might-could.com

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Hope to see you in there! :D

Transcripts

1. What's Character Design?: Hi, I'm Christine Fleming, illustrator at Mike Good Studios. In this installment of art school boot camp, we're jumping into character design. What makes a character look like a good guy? A bad guy? The comic relief? What about the love interests? A character design is different than just a drawing of a person. A character, must be dynamic enough to tell a story, and tell us who that person is visually. This class focuses on using shape language to drop characters that communicate personality, story, and emotion, rather than focusing on drawing perfect anatomy. We'll be developing unique and expressive characters by speaking visually with shape language. Shape language is how basic shapes, can communicate aspects of mood, personality, and story. Understanding how shape language works gives you a starting point for drawing characters, as well as depth and meaning to your final character design. By the end of this class, you'll have your own new character design for use in whatever you like to create, whether it be books, comics, video games, or just random doodles. Let's jump right in. 2. Speaking with Shape Language: Speaking with shape language. Shape language is how basic shapes, whether in character design, fine art, or any other application, can communicate aspects of mood, personality, and story. Understanding how shape language works gives you a starting point for drawing characters, as well as depth and meaning to your final character design. There are three main shapes in shape language, the circle, the triangle, and the square. You can also of course, use rectangles, hexagons, octagons, whatever. But the more complex the shape gets, the less clear that communication is. So for now, let's stick with these three basic shapes. The hidden meanings of shapes are embedded and recognized by all of us. It's been over our heads for generations of stories, design, art, culture, and even seen in nature. So let's go through the core feel of each basic shape. The circle tends to feel gentle, mild, calm, friendly, wholesome, eternal, familiar, complete, inactive, warm, comforting, loving, safe, happy and generous. The square tends to feel stable, trustworthy, rational, peaceful, solid, secure, and equal, and finally, the triangle feels dynamic, tense, aggressive, energetic, powerful, conflicting, strong, active, progressive, sharp, violent, angry, lively, and dangerous. So now let's look at some characters made out of shapes. What do the shapes of these characters communicate to you about their personality? Do they look friendly, stable, maybe a little evil? If you want to push your use of shape language a bit further, you don't have to stick to just one shape for your whole character. For example, you could combine a circle and a triangle, which would give you a feeling of a happy and energetic character. Or you could combine a circle and a square, which would give you a character that feels gentle and trustworthy. You can use shapes to make the entire body of your character, whether it's a human, animal, or as in the case of this class project assignment, a monster. 3. Checking Strength with Silhouettes: Here's a tip to check how strong the shapes are in your character. Take the character design and fill the entire outline with black to see its silhouette. If the character has been designed well, even the silhouette should be communicating something about the character's personality. The silhouette should also be recognizable as the character, and distinguished from other character silhouette's. Let's look at an example. Do you know who these characters are? Even if you don't know who they are, can you tell which characters are the good guys and which are the bad guys? What about now? Now, let's move on to the fine details. 4. Case Study: Shape Language in Animation: The DreamWorks animated movie, Rise of the Guardians is an amazing example of using shape language successfully in character design. In the movie, there are six main characters, and each was designed around a specific shape and color representing their personality and character traits. Let's go through each character and look at how they use shaped language. The character North is based on a red square. He's the leader of the group and is therefore stable, trustworthy, and rational, just like a square. Sandman is based on the yellow circle. Here's the calmest member of the group and is friendly and generally happy. Bunnymund is based on a green triangle. He's a bit aggressive and tense, but still overall good guy. Tooth is based on a purple diamond. Here we start to deviate a bit from the most basic shapes, but the same shape language applies. If you look at a diamond, is like a squished square. So it's really a combination of a square and a triangle, as far as feelings go. Tooth is energetic and powerful like a triangle, but she's also trustworthy like a square. Jack Frost is based on a blue hexagon. His shape is reflective of a snowflake, but as essentially a mix between a square and a circle. Because if you keep adding sides to a square, it eventually becomes a circle. His character goes through the most change in the movie as he struggles to find his place in the world and in the group. So that's reflected in his shape language. He's based on a more complex shape with a more complex personality. He has character traits from both a square like there is in ultimately trustworthy, and the circle that is ultimately gentle and loving. Finally, Pitch, is based on a black coffin. Pitch is the villain of the movie and his shape is appropriately creepy. His shape and overall character is like a rectangle and a triangle. So he evokes feelings of a triangle like aggression, anger, and conflict, and the feelings of a square like strength and confidence. Plus those that obvious implication of death from the coffin. You can see in each character, the shape language is repeated in so many different ways. North's body parts are all shaped like squares and rectangles from his head to his legs, to his fingers, and even his hand. Jack Staff, has a hexagon shape at the tip. Bunnymund's ears, hands and legs, boomerangs and even for pattern, are made of triangles. Sandman overall body and head are very bulbous just like a circle. Finally, Tooth's feathers, wings, tail pieces, and even her little fairies are all based on diamonds. So this gives you a great sense of how shapes can be used to communicate immediately and visually, the character traits and personality of your characters. It adds depth and meaning to your character designs and helps you make characters that are strong, unique, and full of story. 5. The Fine Details: The fine details. Clothing choice is a form of expression for all of us. What you wear does say something about who you are and how you're feeling that day. So it's no different for your characters. What your character wears can easily tell the reader if your character is, for example, a tomboy or a girly girl, a messy child, or prim and proper, eccentric, or average, just to name a few. So don't just dress your character in a white t-shirt and khaki shorts. Dress them in something that further communicates who they are. You can also still use shape language in the design of all the clothing and accessories. If we look at our example of the Mario characters from earlier, you can see that even in their clothing and accessories, the round shapes like a circle are used in the good guys in the clothing, and sharp shapes like the Triangle, are used in the accessories and clothing of the bad guys. A character's face is often the best communication tool for portraying emotion. No person or character expresses emotion in the same way. When drawing your character, think about some of these aspects. How are the facial features arranged? How big is the mouth? Where are the eyes? How big are they? Are the eyes often wide and open or narrowed? What are the eyebrows doing? To learn more about injecting emotion into facial expressions, check out my previous class, character illustration from feelings to faces. You can find a link to this class in the class resources. How your character moves and acts also communicates a lot about their personality. When you're drawing movements, keep these tips in mind. Focus on the overall gesture of the pose. Instead of getting all the body parts anatomically correct. Exaggerating the pose a bit will also help to bring more emotion and excitement into the character. To learn more about injecting action into gestures, check out my other class, Art School Boot Camp, drawing dynamic gestures. There's also a link to this class and the class resources. 6. Project Assignment: Project assignment. Now that we understand the shape language and have seen some awesome examples, let's jump in and make our own. For our project assignment, we'll be designing the monster character based on one of the three basic shapes; the square, the triangle, or the circle. You'll design one monster using shape language to communicate its personality. Here are the steps for the project. Step 1, decide who your character is. What is your monster's personality like? What's its backstory? Life goals? What does it want? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Does t have a name. Step 2, decide what type of character your monster is. Is it the good guy leader like North? Is it the villain like Pitch, or maybe the comic relief sidekick, or the central love interest? Step 3, choose the shape language to represent your monster. Is your monster dependable and rational? Maybe a square would work. Is your monster calm and comforting? What about a circle? Is your monster energetic and maybe a little dangerous? Try a triangle. Finally, step 4, experiment and design your monster. Sketch versions of your monster using the shape language you chose, aiming to communicate its personality visually with that shape. Can you try to make its overall body using the shape? What about its head? What about the details in the clothes, skin or feathers? What about the pose it's standing in? Keep pushing your character farther and farther and see how crazy you can get. Once you have a sketch that you like, you can either post that as your project or you can take it farther and finalize your drawing. You can choose to draw your monster in whatever medium you like, whether it's drawing with a pencil and paper, painting, or using away com, tablet, or iPad. Any style is also up for grabs, from cute cuddly monsters to realistic scary monsters. Just remember to use your shapes to communicate personality and have fun. Once you're done with your monster, you can upload your sketch, final illustration, or any process work you'd like to share in the project gallery. Clicking on the "Start Your Project" button on the Community page. You can also check out your fellow students work and see what fun character designs they created. I look at every project that's posted in all my classes, and I really love to see your work. Thanks so much for taking this class. I hope you learned how to speak visually with shape language to draw unique characters. I really hope you create your own monster and I'd love to see what you come up with. Have fun speaking with shapes, and I can't wait to see your work. See you in the next Art School Boot Camp.