Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 1 - Gesture, Silhouette, Form | Marco Bucci | Skillshare

Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 1 - Gesture, Silhouette, Form

Marco Bucci, Professional illustrator & teacher

Character Illustration and Design Mini-Series, Pt. 1 - Gesture, Silhouette, Form

Marco Bucci, Professional illustrator & teacher

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1 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. Character Design MiniSeries Pt

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About This Class

This 3-part series will take you through both the design of a character (in a semi-realistic style, similar to what you'd see in a modern AAA game) as well as the art fundamentals needed to work professionally as a designer or illustrator.

Part 1 of the series covers the fundamentals of gesture drawing, 2D silhouette design, and building up the drawing with 3D forms such as boxes and cylinders, as well as more complex 3D forms such as muscles and bones. Each fundamental is explored separately, and then implemented into the character to push its design toward a professional level and finish.

Meet Your Teacher

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Marco Bucci

Professional illustrator & teacher


Hello, I'm Marco.

I'm a professional artist with 15 years' experience in the film, TV, game, and print industries - primarily as a concept artist and illustrator. I also happen to believe that it's the duty of experienced artists to pass on what they've learned, with no BS and for as low-cost as possible. It's for that reason that I'm a passionate teacher. I currently teach at CGMA, and have previously taught at Academy of Art University, Centennial College, and more. 


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1. Character Design MiniSeries Pt: Hey, everyone, this is the curriculum for a three part character design. Siri's will go through the entire creative process of designing and painting a character in a semi realistic style. Also in this series will be taking a look at the fundamental art skills that are being used each step of the way. Okay, you ready? Here's the project brief. Vladimir is a burly, sword wielding psycho. He stalks his prey on the streets and fears no man, and we got some clothing and age notes. Let's get to work. I would like to quickly talk about gesture drawing using this piece of reference. Can you see the overall C curve running through this pose? Also, these secondary see curves that kind of rhyme with that action lines of action or what gesture drawing is all about. So let's do a gesture drawing of this pose. I'll start with the main action line and get in some of these secondary in lines of action . Now I kind of want to plot out the head because general proportion is a consideration in a gesture drawing, even though I'm definitely not considering the actual forms yet. So all kind of plot out where the shoulders are, where the hips are. That kind of helps me delineate the body. Maybe kind of where the foot might end up somewhere down there, this foot as well. But more than anything, what I'm interested in is feeling the thrust of the chest, the ark of the back. I'll make sure everything I do here supports that seeker of rhythm I've established through the body. This arm is a very subtle almost actually kind of an S curve. Even the way the head kind of flows into the body. It all connects rhythmically. I'll even think of the hair is an extension of these rhythms. You notice I'm using a brush that's not allowing me to draw any kind of detail. I'm not even trying to draw volume or form above all else. A gesture drawing should evoke the brief moment in time that this pose exists in Now. Is this a work of art in and of itself? Hardly. Is it a critical tool for understanding the pose? Certainly. You know, another critical tool I use is wicks, which is helping to bring you this character. Siri's. If you're an artist and not a Web designer like me, you can get started with one of Wickes is many templates. Just pick one you like and which is. Editor loads up. Now, using the editor, we can customize to our heart's content. Watch how user friendly this is. I'll dragon image into the up loader. There it is, and my front page is already taking shape. Wants a gallery simple. Just strip mined. This pre built one dragon drops, um, images and then customized to a slick presentation that doesn't sacrifice quality, Wix has reliable, safe and secure hosting custom mailboxes. Unlimited pages search for your very own custom domain. I've been with Wicks for five years, and I rest easy, knowing my work is being presented to the public and to clients in a professional way. You can have that, too, right now for free at Wickes dot com slash go slash marco ButI. So why not give it a shot and bring another dimension to your arts or your business with weeks? So let's explore Vladimir's body language with gestures drawn freely from imagination, and I'll try out different rhythms here like maybe a curve against some straits, and this is a start proportions are a bit on the cartoony side, though. Okay, let's try something different for this one. Maybe, um, or exaggerated s curve. Like someone ready to strike. Strike is a funny choice of word. This guy looks like a batter for the New York Yankees. So that's not gonna work. Gonna go back to some straightness in the shoulders and arms, which kind of feels like a tense grip to me. A little bit more of a curvature in the body, like he's moving into this pose. Maybe the angle of the sword mirroring the angle of the arms for a dramatic kind of V shape . I don't know. There might be some power there. Using an S curve seems to offer a little more movement. So I'll try that again here. Although I'm already thinking this looks more like an athletic pose rather than a hunter's pose. So while I like the movement here, I don't exactly think it suits Vladimir. Okay, so I'll go back to some see curves mixed with straits kind of thing. And I guess I like the movement. But it looks like he's in a dance recital, not killing someone in cold blood. huh? Ok, this time, something with more straits. The straight arms just seem to be working for me. I'll go back to that and try and minimize even the curves in the body of stretches Back leg , far back, as though he's currently transferring weight to his front leg. Maybe, but I don't know. Something about this feels posed. And here's where I get lost in the woods a bit. So we move on. Ah, twisting the upper body. That's a good idea. There is a murderous intent to this pose that I didn't have before. I like it going to try a variation on that pose, something Mawr in the moment of this strike going to twist the upper body again. I think that works for the character and, yeah, I don't know. We'll add it to the collection. I'm thinking maybe Vladimir is less athletic than this, So let's see if I can communicate physically imposing without the histrionics and notice that even though this poses more static, it's not straight up and down. And for the first time, I think that could be Vladimir. Now I want to take what I learned from that pose and bring it all the way back to my first pose, actually getting a static yet lumbering sort of thing. Somebody hunting, moving slowly, methodically transferring waits to that front foot, some nice contrast in the straighter left side and the more curvy right side. All right, so here are my three favorite poses. I think this one really captures the sheer physical presence of the guy. I also really like the proportions on it. However, it doesn't really communicate his intent. And that's a problem when you're trying to sell a character, this one definitely has intent, but it just doesn't look to me like how a burly guy would walk. Okay, this one seems to have the intense, the plotting sense of weight and the bull headed confidence of a man who is really strong but maybe not professionally trained with his weapon. I feel like Vlad lives somewhere in there. So let's move ahead with this one. Silhouettes is a strictly two dimensional understanding of your drawing. So what I'm doing here is I'm just filling my gesture in with an opaque black brush, kind of guessing at the silhouette to start. Of course, having that gesture kind of pre loads my silhouette with action, all right, But now I can hide the gesture. Let's make a duplicate of our silhouette dragging over here and do some iteration. I want to see what happens. Like, for instance, if I move the head over here and made him lean in more, maybe I could tweak the action of the shoulders, getting specific about where, exactly, they crossed the head. Negative space is critical as well, so I'll start designing this piece of negative space to see how it affects the readability of this pose. Also, because this is a silhouette. I could just do crazy things like grab this leg, maybe move the pivot point up here and, like, bring this leg in. The reason I'm doing that is remember I said that I liked the straightness of this side. We'll hear it was kind of like a little like that, and I want to make it more straight just to see if that works. Course we'll have to straighten out his foot here. So let's speed up the video a bit and just do some or it aeration, tweaking shoulders and who I really like that tweak that Siris of straights really make it feel like he's leaning into this. At this point, I'll bring in my first piece of reference for these heavy duty construction pants. I'm looking at the specific silhouette shapes in here as the fabric collapses onto itself with the bottom. Here, the thickness of the fabric makes very characteristic shapes. And I think putting some of that in here would really help my design both on a silhouette level as well as a realism level. Maybe right around here is it folds near the shoe. Now be careful here, see what I just did. I just made the same shape twice. That is a design. No, no. Repetition like that can draw too much attention, and it's so easy for it to sneak into your drawing, undo it and I'll try again. Maybe I'll get rid of this one and go back to this one and maybe smooth out that one. Have it only a little bit. I also like these pockets here reminds me of like a saddlebag on a motorcycle. I think they add a lot of interest to the silhouette and would fit this character's choice of clothing. So I'll put that in and to see what happens. I'll be very careful about navigating the negative space where it hits the arms. You see what I don't want to do is accidentally do this. That looks a little foul unfortunate. So let's bring back that valuable negative space. See, the silhouette is your chance to achieve the fastest and clearest to read these two photos . Both show me holding a mallet. This silhouette communicates that information, and this one does not. Burying critical elements inside the silhouette is usually not the best design choice. The viewer needs more time and more information to resolve this picture, and that can be a real barrier to their interest. Whereas this reads clearly and quickly, even at a great distance, I find designing the silhouette really fun. It's a great place to experiment with shapes here. I'm trying out some complexity on the pants, but I think it kills the straight too much. I'll remind myself that there's lots of room for complexity later, when I am dealing with the inside of the silhouette. Okay, just making a few final adjustments and let's look at this. Here's where we started and here's where we ended up before after. I think we can all agree that's an improvement, and I'd like to explain something else that I think is contributing to that. Let's call it a rhythmical awareness. Look at this area here. See how jumpy and staccato that rhythm is. Compare that to this rhythm, which is right next to it, and we get that longer sense of relief. It's a visual cadence I was able to refine here that in this stage was not quite present, because in that stage I was focused on other things, also recalling these small negative spaces. My personal philosophy is the smaller the shape, the simpler it should be because a simpler shape is more likely to read at scale. All right, let's move on to the third topic of the day Thing is a drawing by one of my favorite figure drawing instructors, Glenville Poo. This drawing has a strong sense of form, meaning three dimensionality. Now, a gesture of this drawing might look something like this. There's no solid form there yet, but we can now build it. One thing I learned from Glen is to look at the axis of the shoulders and the hips. In this drawing, you might think those two lines are parallel, but that is rarely the case. In this example. I think it's more like this. Those two axes give me a starting point toe lay in some basic forms. Boxes have been used since forever to help artists understand the most fundamental plane changes. But using two boxes, one for the rib cage area and one for the pelvis area helps me visualize the different three dimensional orientations at play here. In fact, I'll even draw a center line down the model to embed this information. In my drawing, I'll throw on some quick tone here and now we're really seeing in three D. I'll expand on this by adding some cylinders for the arms. I like to figure out the start and end ellipses before connecting them, and I'll do the same thing for the legs. Now, at this point, I could go in and layer on things like anatomy or more specific breakdowns of each part. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So let's go back and start building up our character. I'll use the top plains of these boxes to help me understand their orientation now instead of the box. This time I'm drawing an egg form. That's the rib cage. The rib cage is a formidable volume and can really help your understanding of the bulky nous of the chest. It's particularly useful here, as this is a big, burly character. Now. The rib cage still has boxy side and front planes, so you can imagine both at once if you want. These are all classical life, drawing tools and spending time. Learning them really revolutionized my ability to draw. Anyway. I put a center line in, and now I'm simplifying the head into a box form. Underneath that, a cylindrical neck connects to the rib cage. And here come more cylinders to help me figure out the orientation of the arms and back toe boxes for the hands. The legs are very simple cylinders, and by the way, if you want to convert those cylinders into boxes, you can do that quite easily. You know what I'm doing right now is not even really character design. It's simply understanding three dimensional form, which is a prerequisite to good drawing. An experienced artist learns to see this way naturally and is able to convey this information without having to literally draw it. But I have seen a lot of people kind of skip this part of their learning, and if that describes you, my recommendation is the life drawing class room. Now I can start using that three D information to work inside the silhouette and figure out some tricky things, like how that arm is pressed up against the chest there and the mass of the shoulder behind it. I could even start like figuring out the folds in the clothing. Now that's something I'll cover in the next installment of this series. Speaking of clothing, though, I have this reference, and I want to fit the chest piece around this guy's burly chest. I can't copy the reference. It's not the same character or angle, but I can use its information in this case, the design of those overalls. But then reapply it, three dimensionally to my drawing those overalls. Wrapping around the form is a great way to reveal the three dimensionality of the character , and as a designer, you're always looking for opportunities to do that. Here. I'm just painting away some of my construction lines so I can get a better sense of what the actual design is looking like. And at this point I'm working on both the two de silhouette that is the outside and the three D inside these straps on the overalls, wrapping around to the back here are yet another great excuse to show the three dimensionality of the character, and I'll just quickly lay in the head here with again some basic forms, essentially just figuring out the eye line, the center line setting the stage for designing the actual face. Later on, I can do other things, like rap lines around his waist, which might later become a feature of his clothing, like a belt or something. Just going to see if I can punch up that strap a bit mass in some quick tone to separate the clothing elements. Now, One unfortunate thing that happens to me when I draw like this is my drawing tends to stiffen up, so it's never out of the question to blast out an entire area and retry it. In this case, I think I can get a little more torque in that shoulder, recalling that upper body twist I had in some of my gestures, and I'll do overhauls like this right up until the end, like Drew Struse and said ones, it ain't sacred until it's finished. Okay, let's put all of laddie in the corner for a second. So to me, Form has two overall categories. The basic geometry, which is what we've been dealing with then a second category. Anatomy well, come face to face with anatomy in those gigantic forearms. Currently, we have a tapered cylinder, and that's a start. But ah, forearms a little more complex than that. So we have to increase the resolution here first on map out the elbow, which is kind of a mini box, and I need to indicate where the upper arm is so that I can add this group of ridge muscles . They originate from the upper arm and wrap around the cylinder toward the thumb and are responsible for that signature bulging contour of the forearm. Next, we can map a line from the elbow to the upper outer corner of the wrist. That's the ulna, the bone. I'm also converting the wrist into a boxy form. Next time, land marking the lateral epic conned ill. That's the little dimple. Next to your elbow. From that point comes a group of extensive muscles. They, too, have a twisting action, a kind of winding, river like flow culminating at the top plane of the wrist. Also, the extent sirs can overlap the all PNA near the elbow. Okay, 1/3 group of muscles, the Flex Er's originate from the medial epic, conned ill. That's the other dimple hidden by the elbow. In this view, they flow around like a lazy river to the palm side of the hand, and they're responsible for the other signature bulging contour of the forearm. Overall, the forearm is twisty and flowing, but it's offset symmetrically. Not respecting that aspect of the forearm is a common mistake. In fact, I'll have to address it in my drawing, which is currently too symmetrical. I think anatomy best fits into your fundamental study after you have some basic three D drawing skills. And where can you study these forms? Well, the life drawing class room for one, or you can go to Pro Coast Channel. He's got the anatomy thing pretty much covered. All right, now, let's take a closer look at the head. I'll show you how you can start modeling this. I shot a photograph here of my a sorrow head. The first thing I'll do is use the temple and cheek area to separate the head into front and side planes, which is very valuable overall information. These planes here make up the bottom 2/3 of the front of the head. This plane is oriented upwards more, so I'll give it a lighter value for now and now we'll use a darker value to delineate the side planes of the head. Now, this is just a temporary design for the sake of this breakdown. I want to be a little less rigid in my actual design. But these air the underlying fundamentals I'll be using later when I am designing more freely. Now I'm working out how the nose feeds into the brow and carves out the eye sockets. And for the sake of this demo, I'll just mass the eye sockets completely in shadow, which does happen quite often in real life. Then I can refine my contours here, getting the right thickness of the cheek and protuberance of the brow. I'll work my way down to the mouth here, figure out a general shape for it and, more importantly, get in this under plane. This one right here, it really helps describe the depth of the mouth. Okay, the nose is very boxy. It's got clear front and side planes, so I'll figure out where those go throw a little tone on the side just for clarity. What we'll do now is think about like the nose casting a shadow onto the muzzle, deepening the darks in the eye sockets to show their depth more, the head casting a shadow onto the chest. I mentioned the muzzle just now. We humans have muzzles just like animals do. They're just far more narrow from this angle. It has an egg like shape like this, and you can trace it rhythmically from the wings of the nose, past the corners of the mouth, right down to the chin and back. If you want a deep dive on this stuff, I have a seven hour class that focuses exclusively on the many planes and rhythms of the head. I encourage you to check it out. Last but not least, the brow has a protrusion here known as the super silly Eri Arch. Say that 10 times fast. There's also the brown muscles underneath there. Not only does this set off the dimension of the brow, but you can design it toe look a very masculine, which is probably what I'll do for this character. Okay, so I'll quickly implement these things in my design, keeping in mind that this is a character design, not an anatomy textbook. So just enough anatomy to help move this thing forward for the head. I'll keep it suggestive with shadow shapes. For now, my preference is to leave the face for later when I'm working in color. But that's coming up next in the series. This is just a little sneak peek. A part two will be getting in tow, lighting and painting and color and start making our design look real professional. And, hey, I've got an art challenge going on my discord where you could design flat along with me. And if you're a patron, I just might feature your work. So stay tuned. I'll see you in part two