Create Characters with Character! | Kelly Jo | Skillshare

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Create Characters with Character!

teacher avatar Kelly Jo, Creative Strategist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (42m)

    • 2. 01: STORY

    • 3. 02: CHARACTER

    • 4. 03: PERSONALITY

    • 5. 04: PURPOSE

    • 6. 05: SITUATION

    • 7. 06: REVISE & IMPROVE


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About This Class

Create an illustration with buckets of character!

Join creative strategist and illustrator Kelly Jo for step-by-step instruction in creating characters with purpose and personality. In this 40 minute class you will: 

  • Make interesting and unexpected character choices.
  • Create dramatic scenes with simple thumbnail sketches.
  • Integrate elements of conflict into your sketches to create drama.
  • Understand how to create high stakes for your character.
  • Create a finished character illustration.

Each activity is broken down into easy to follow steps and includes stories, examples and tips throughout. Class worksheets help you every step of the way. Whether you are a professional Illustrator or a creative spirit looking for a helping hand to get started, Creating Characters with Character will help you apply storytelling principles as you draw - helping you create characters that stand out!

Resources: - view more class examples and check-out the Scuttle! Kickstarter
Cartooning: Character Design (How to Draw & Paint) - A how-to guide for how to draw

Meet Your Teacher

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Kelly Jo

Creative Strategist


Hi - I’m Kelly Jo and I’m a creative just like you, and like you, I’ve had a unique journey. As a strategic designer and creative strategist I’ve designed future visions for many things, like shoes, cars, events, performances, infrastructural systems, and so much more. My job, in a nutshell, is to help others define and act on a future they can be proud of, that fits their values, mission, strengths and capabilities.

Most of my career has been to help very large organizations do this - and now I have begun to translate what I have learned to help individuals understand the world around them, understand themselves, and take action for a better future - for themselves and for their communities.

My mission is to help you find your spark so yo... See full profile

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1. CLASS INTRODUCTION: Hi, I'm Kelly Jo, and I believe, wholeheartedly, that anyone can draw and that those drives and the activity of drawing has great value. That's why I created this class for you to help you make your character drawings stand out , no matter what your experience level is, whether you're curious, beginner or a seasoned professional looking to add a little bit of spoke to your work early in my career, designing cars, shoes, electron ICS, all sorts of things I mostly used to drawing to convey how something would look and how something might work. Now I use drawing in combination with storytelling to make complex ideas. In this class, you will learn how to make your drawing stand out by using storytelling principles as you draw. The idea for this class came about as I was illustrating the game Scuttle, and what I realized was my most successful illustrations included story elements that gave my character's personality and purpose. Have you ever laughed at a stick figure drawing or just shrug passed an intricate illustration. It doesn't really matter how good your technique iss if what you're drawing just isn't that interesting. That is why this class focuses on what to draw rather than how to draw. There are many great guides out there to explain drawing techniques, and there are also some really great skill share classes on the topic. But don't worry. Also share with you my own process. From initial sketch to final illustration. I'll show you some of the challenges I faced, and not only will I show you successful drugs, but I also show you ones where I struggled. The class is comprised of quick exercises to help you make your drugs more interesting, more dynamic on to give them more meaning for your audience, whether your audience is an art director or your kid sister. With each lesson, you will follow along, applying what you learn rate away, and by the end of the class you will have a finished character illustration with buckets of character. One of the most amazing things about drawing is you can actually see yourself getting better and better with each drawing. So let's get started. The first thing you can do to help yourself be successful is starting inspiration board. Look at fairytales, folktales and legends, and also look at compositions and styles that inspire you share your inspiration board in your class project. The more often you update your project, the more likely you will be to complete it. In the next activity, you will focus on story. 2. 01: STORY: in each activity, I will give you approx things to consider. As you draw, I will be covering all sorts of possibilities to help inspire your final illustration. You won't be expected to incorporate all your ideas. In fact, that would likely be a disaster. Instead, you'll create a range of possibilities to choose from. My hope is that after you complete this class, the activities will have served, As sparks tell, Continue to remind you to infuse dramatic on the unexpected into both your characters and the situations you place them in. Here's your activity. One checklist. First, you will identify possible fairy tales to illustrate. Then you will identify possible characters to illustrate. Then you will identify possible settings for each fairytale. You will choose the fairytale character and setting to illustrate, and finally you will update or start your class project. In this activity, you will select a story to give context to your character. It gives you the structure and inspiration for situations to put your character. Basically, a story will give you a reason for your characters to exist on a reason for them to look and act the way that they dio choosing a familiar fairytale will give you a great simple story line to draw from, and it will already be infused with action and high stakes story elements are also a great way to make complex ideas understandable and engaging. For this class. You will be completing a single character illustration. But the lessons in this class can be applied to a much more complex projects like editorial illustration, game design, comic books, Web comics and Children's books. Just to name a few in this class, I'm going to use lots of examples of illustrations that I created for the card game Scuttle . This will give you a glimpse into how story elements and familiar themes can be used to convey complex ideas. Scuttles based off of an old game called Cut. And both games could technically be played on a standard deck of cards. But having the theme of pirates helps convey the rules during gameplay and also makes it more memorable and more fun in the game. You can play actions against your opponent, and one of those actions is to steal a card away from your opponent and keep it for yourself in pirate lower sirens were purported to do A very similar action legend is that their enchanting song would lure pirates away. So by selecting the familiar storyline off Sirens, Scuttle makes it easy for players. Teoh understand the action of stealing, but it also adds kind of a light narrative element to the game. Play for the class activities. You can download the class worksheets or just you scrap paper. First, identify the two or three fairytales that interest you the most. Maybe you have a childhood favorite that you're itching to reinterpret. You might still have some of your books sitting around from your childhood like Ideo that you might be able to look through to remind you of some of your old favorites. And for inspiration, you might check out how other artists have interpreted legends on fairytales. For example, DC Comics put out this an American fable, which is, Ah, Batman, take on a murder mystery set in the past. As you're looking through stories, look out for fairy tales that have characters with strong motivations and flaws, especially ones that get them into trouble. Next, identify the character that you might illustrate. Since there are so many familiar fairy tales, this is an opportunity to surprise your audience with your choice of character. For example, you might choose to illustrate a villain or maybe a secondary character. Try and come up with at least one interesting choice per fairy tale that you're interested in. Take a look at nor crooks Red Riding Hood book collection. She's illustrated Red Riding Hood from five different perspectives, each one a different character. So not only does she do Little Red Riding Hood, but she also does the wolf and the grandmother, for example, and each individual book is from the point of view off the different character. Next, identify the different possible settings to place your fairy tale. This is another opportunity to really surprise your audience. You can choose something quite unexpected. So, for example, you might change the location, the era or the genre. Examples of unexpected eras include the Wild West. Anything said in the future, maybe an alternate universe, maybe something post apocalyptic. You couldn't really choose wildly, as long as you retain the core story. Elements of a familiar story help clue your audience. So, for example, Red Riding Hood's cape is so familiar that it could be placed on a child in a jungle or on a robot wandering through an abandoned landscape. Maybe you choose space, or maybe you decide to play with time. Or maybe you do some combination. Consider that future Rama is really at its core, a story about a delivery guy, and by grounding the story in the familiar, they were able to make a this really interesting scenario out of something very every day that the writers could take off with and come up with, sort of limitless possibilities of what these characters might encounter. Similarly, the Flintstones is really about raising a family in the suburbs. Finally, pick the one fear retail that you will use for your final illustration. Keep in mind as you go through the activities that you will want to focus on maybe one or two big surprise elements for your illustration any more than that, and it will be difficult to convey to your audience the core elements of your fairytale. Are you super excited about your story choice or having a little bit of trouble nearing down your options? Sure, your experience with the class in your project update on get feedback and ideas from your fellow classmates. Let's review what you have accomplished so far. You've identified possible fairy tales to illustrate you identified. Possible characters illustrate. Then you identified possible settings for each fairy tale you chose the fairy tale character and setting to illustrate, and finally you updated or started your class project. In the next activity, you will focus on your featured character. 3. 02: CHARACTER: In this activity, you will focus on your star character, one that you will feature in your final illustration. Here's your activity to checklist. First you will identify expected to character elements. Then you'll define surprise character elements. Then you will choose one surprise character element to illustrate. You will create a thumbnail sketch depicting your character, and finally you update your class project. Often times when drawing, the most familiar elements come out first. Sometimes the act of drawing it can be such a struggle that it can be hard to remember to evaluate what it is that you're drawing. So, for example, has taken Barbie generations to reflect the diversity of the population on Disney, too. It's taken them decades to shift what it means to be a female or male lead in their feature animations. I'll give you an example of how we've been influenced. When you think of Cinderella, What does Cinderella look like in your mind? Are you thinking of Disney's animated feature Cinderella Blonde? Sprightly, then white flipping assumptions and historical norms is a great way to surprise your audience on t even add value and meaning to your work. It could be really easy to fall into tropes and cliches, choosing the most common versions of archetypes and characters. As the creator, you get to make all sorts of interesting decisions. Sketching is your time to play. The worst that can happen is that your sketches don't convey the idea that you're trying to get out. Andi, In this case, it's just a matter of continuing to work on the craft. The more you sketch and the more you work through ideas, the better you're going to get at both. One way to help you come up with interesting ideas is think of yourself as a casting agent . You get to choose how your character is embodied. The script for Alien notoriously noted that the cruise unisex on that any part could be played by man or woman. And thankfully, great casting prevailed. And Sigourney Weaver was cast as Ripley, the featured lead in the film. Roger Ebert mentioned the casting in his review off the film, and he noted that the casting was particularly good at selecting actors that were older on what this did was add a layer of believability to the film, making it that much more thrilling. Years ago, I went to an Off Broadway musical of Coraline, based on the book written by Neil Diamond. Andi, the casting in that was really great core line who is a young girl, was cast as a senior citizen this round. She eked Wonderful Lady, probably in her seventies, and she was adorable and absolutely perfect. The first thing to do for this activity is to identify the 123 elements that are expected for your character. Consider what elements you see over and over again. Are there elements that are so expected that anything else would greatly surprise your audience? Remember, surprises are good. Fairy tales are stories that have been told over and over again, often times repeatedly in feature animated films, many books, even comic books and cartoons. And so it's likely that you've seen your story played out a number of times with a frail damsel in distress and maybe an ugly villain. Expected elements for your character might include the sex or gender age, but it also might include the moral compass of your character, the romantic interest of your character, maybe the ethnic origins of your character. One of my first sketches for the scuttle game was the first mate, and I was unsure of what style I wanted. I didn't quite know exactly what these shapes would be. Andi, I defaulted to this young male pirate, even though the first mate is actually the queen card in a standard deck of cards. So despite the fact that I already knew that there would be a number of male pirates in the deck because we would be using his a few historical pirates, I still sketch a male pirate for the Queen card. I tried again, but my next sketch ended up looking like Hayley Mills from the Disney films of the 19 sixties, a quintessential suburban white girl, which isn't exactly a queen of the Pirates look. So I have gone from one cliche to sort of another very easily. And this is when I realized I needed to look around and take inspiration from the people around me in my own neighborhood, and I remember that I had seen this woman with this wonderful purple long hair, and so I took inspiration from her and I redrew the Hayley Mills version of the sketch. Andi, in doing so, actually made it more riel because it's based off of a riel person, and I made her more interesting in doing so. Next, identify possible surprise elements for each expected element that you identified try to come up with to unexpected elements to either flip or counter the expected element. Going back to the sirens sketch for this illustration. I really wanted, as the casting agent Teoh cast a a look that was reminiscent of American black jazz singers . So is very important to me to try toe capture that which is challenging in and nude character. I also wanted to sort of challenge the notion of what a siren is. So in Pirate Lower Cyrus or or women Enchantress is Andi. I wanted Teoh also feature a mail in my illustration on and this guy, he might be a pirate. He might also be an enchanting siren. I leave it up to the audience on I also wanted to know make him into the sort of glorified , chiseled, handsome guy I wanted. Teoh, you know, give something back to the chubby men out there, so I made him bald rounder in order to just add diversity. Teoh All of these images within the stack that I was creating. It's easy to forget, but as creatives, you are in control of the universe that you're creating. Finally created thumbnail sketch of your future character. Do this very quick and don't be afraid to erase. Sometimes my sketchbook pages have two or three failed drawings underneath um, that I have completely erased through on for me. In my process. I, Ted Teoh, continue to refine my thumbnail sketch until it turns into a more detailed, finished version. If you want a little help making your thumbnails dynamic and interesting, you might wanna look at story boarding. How twos The's can really help you understand composition and perspective. Andi. It shows you how you can quickly try out different ideas. There's a really great saying that it takes 100 bad drawings to get to the good one. So every time you drop, just think you're getting that much closer to something really great. Add your thumbnail sketch to your class project and share your experiences. Let's review what you have accomplished so far. First you identified expected character elements. Then you defined surprise character elements. You chose one surprise character element to illustrate you created a thumbnail sketch depicting your character, and finally you updated your class project. In the next activity, you will focus on your character's personality. 4. 03: PERSONALITY: In this activity, you will focus on your character's personality. Here's your activity. Three checklist. First, you will define possible strings for your character, then defined possible flaws for your character. You will identify strength and flaw pairs that are in conflict. Then you select the most interesting pair. You will create a thumbnail sketch depicting this conflict, and finally, you will update your class project. First, Make your character distinct by making them really good at something. Define several strength for your character. It might be that the fairy tale that you've chosen provides an obvious strength for your character. Or you might use the earlier activities as inspiration. You could think of your character strength as their ticket to accomplish a goal or to meet an important need. Next, give your character a sympathetic or relatable flaw. So come up with several options for a flaw that your character might have. Imperfections give you the opportunity to place your characters in interesting situations off their own doing. You could even give your audience that cringe that you feel when you see a character make really bad choices. Next, match your characters potential strength with their potential flaws. Try to find pairs that have the most interesting outcome. This will give you inspiration for all sorts of situations that you could put your character in on. This might even inspire you to define a storyline for a book or an animation sequence or a storybook or any larger project. Next, let the most interesting pairing of a strength and a flaw that you will straight. Consider what situations might arise in the fairy tale that you've chosen and finally create a thumbnail sketch depicting the conflict between your character strength and their flaw. It might be challenging to depict both of these in a single image, but I encourage you to try and remember. This is just a thumbnail sketch quick, simple on and use your eraser as needed. You might look at other sources for inspiration. Like maybe I love Lucy Stills or Roadrunner cartoons. Examples of comedic or dramatic moments where characters are are faced with both their strength and their flawed colliding. If you find some great examples of inspiration, please share with the class in your class. Project Update. Let's review what you have accomplished so far. First, you defined possible strengths for your character then you defined possible flaws for your character. You identified strength and flaw pairs that are in conflict. You selected the most interesting pair and you created a thumbnail sketch depicting this conflict. Finally, you updated your class project. In the next activity, you will focus on giving your character purpose. 5. 04: PURPOSE: In this activity, you will define the dramatic intentions of your character. This will give them purpose. Here's your activity. Four checklist. First, you will identify possible wants for your character. Then you will identify possible barriers to their ones. Then you will define possible fears they might have. You will define what is at risk for the character. You will create a thumbnail sketch of their purpose, and finally, you will update your class project. Your character, strengths and flaws have set up the foundation for your characters purpose as well as the challenges that they might face in fulfilling their purpose. Just like in real life, this is your chance to think more deeply about your character's motivations and the world that you're creating for them to create drama in your illustration, consider that there must be something at risk for your audience to care about. Your character must have a chance to lose something for your audience to be invested first , define 123 wants for your character. These are the desires that drive your characters actions. Now it might be that the fairy tale that you've chosen makes this pretty clear. But this is your opportunity to develop this further based on your character strengths. Don't worry of the seems hard. The goal of this activity is just to get you thinking more deeply about your character about their wants, about their desires, about their motivations, about why they're taking action. Next defiant possible barriers that are in your characters way for achieving what they want . Now a lot of fairy tales use barriers that are outside of the characters control. So, for example, a number fairytales use other characters, like a witch or a troll, or something like that. Or they might use circumstances, which could be the weather. It could be your character's stricken and poverty. It might be magic. They're all sorts of barriers that fairytales put into play. Next. Define the fears that might influence your characters, actions or inaction, for that matter. What is your character afraid of? Are they afraid of entering the woods of leaving home off, not providing for their friends and family? Next defined the possible repercussions for if your character actually reaches their goal. Imagine this is sort of a watch. What you wish for a kind of scenario. You will quickly learn that being a jerk to your character really pays off in the form of drama. Finally, create a quick thumbnail sketch of your character trying to fulfill their purpose. Now this could be really hard to convey, since we're talking about motivations here. But if you're having trouble, you can think of it as depicting the moment where your character tries to get what they want, the moment that they failed to get what they want or the moment that they succeed to get what they want. Was this activity challenging, or did you find that the fairy tale that you chose really helped you out here? Let's review what you have accomplished so far. You identified Possible wants for your character. You identified possible barriers to their wounds. You defined possible fears they might have you defined what is at risk for the character. You created a thumbnail sketch of their purpose. Finally, you updated your class project. In the next activity, you will define a situation to put your character 6. 05: SITUATION: in this activity, you will define the scene for your final illustration. This might be an evolution off earlier thumbnail sketches that you've done, or it might be something new altogether. This activity is designed to ensure that you choose the scene that really excites. Here's your activity. Five checklist. First, you will identify possible scene still a straight. Then you will identify possible mid scene moments. You will then create a thumbnail sketch, and finally, you will update your class project. First, describe several scenes that you might use for your finance illustration. An example of a scene is in the Disney version of Cinderella, where the little mice create Cinderella's dress. It's important to note that a scene should really, for pal your story forward in some way on. And it's very helpful, at least for the sake of drama to include some kind of oppositional force. So this might be a villain or some other barrier for your character to overcome next. To find a dramatic or otherwise really interesting mid scene moment to illustrate. Think of this as the movie still in a feature film. So this is the frozen moment from your seen that you are going to illustrate. Consider moments that cause your audience to be uncertain off what's about to happen, that edge of the seat moment. Also, try to catch your character in mid action to make it more dramatic on. Interesting. Finally, create a thumbnail sketch of your character in your favorite mid scene moment. Let's review what you have accomplished so far. First, you identified possible scenes to illustrate. Then you identified possible mid scene moments. Then you created a thumbnail sketch, and finally you updated your class project. In the next activity, you will focus on revising and improving your favorite thumbnail sketch in preparation for your final illustration. 7. 06: REVISE & IMPROVE: in this activity, you will review progress and revise your work to make it great. Here's your activity. Six. Checklist. First, create a rough sketch of your final illustration, then review your rough sketch, then identify possible improvements to make and finally update your class project. First, create a larger, more detailed rough sketch of your favorite thumbnail sketch. I suspect you'll want to use the most recent thumbnail sketch that you created, but maybe there's one earlier that you did that you become attached to. Once you've completed your rough sketch, ask yourself four questions. First, is it interesting? Doesn't make your audience want to know more about your character or about the events that just happened or that are about to happen. Second doesn't catch your character in the middle of taking action or catcher character suffering the repercussions of taking action. Now this isn't a requirement for the class, but it's an important point to consider as you're reviewing your work. Third, do the elements near illustration help propel the story forward in script writing and writing. In general, scenes are often cut. If they do not move the story forward, there's even a saying for it it's called Kill Your Darlings. When you're creating illustrations to convey complex ideas, it can be really easy to become attached to an image Onley to find out later that the image did not quite capture the information that it needed Teoh or, in fact, it might have contradicted it. So my first version of the maelstrom card for Scuttle I really liked it, but it turned out it actually contradicted the mechanics that it was meant to explain. So I've sent revisited the sketch and redid it entirely. Finally, use your sketch technically on point. So do you have the right number of fingers and toes? For example, in the nineties Rob Life Field, a comic creator who made titles for Marvel and later on his own publishing company image. He was notorious for, occasionally giving his characters two left feet on. This is something that's really easy for anyone to dio. So, for example, when I was creating my second revision for my mouse from sketch, I was so happy to have finally gotten it right that I shared it with one of my friends, and she instantly recognized that I had missed something. She asked me where are the rats Tails. I was so caught up in my drawing that I had missed it. And not only had I missed that the rats didn't have tails. But my friend Emma, who's an illustrator she was with me while I was sketching, and she hadn't even noticed it. So this is something that you might want to share with a friend. Tab thumbs. Just sort of looking over and see what you might have missed. Finally, identify ways that you can improve your rough sketch. Let's review what you've accomplished so far. First, you created a rough sketch for your final illustration. Then you reviewed your rough sketch. Then you identified possible improvements to make. Finally, you updated your class project. In the next and last activity, you will create your finished illustration. 8. 07: FINAL ILLUSTRATION: in this activity, you will complete your finished illustration. Here is your activity seven checklist. First, you will create your final illustration, and then you will update your class project with this illustration. In this activity, you will complete your final illustration. Now, if you have a lot of revisions to make to your rough sketch, you might make it right there on that sketch. Otherwise, you might move straight on to working on your finished illustration, and you can use any materials you want. Your final illustration might be a more detailed pencil sketch, or you might decide to do a full on rhetoric. It's up to you on. You can use any materials that you like, whether you want to use all hand materials or you want to use some combination of hand materials on the computer or just everything on the computer, whatever you feel comfortable with or whatever you'd like to try out. Typically, I create my rough sketches in my Moleskine notebook on I use the mole skin sketchbooks because they have such thick paper and I can would be race over and over and over again and refine my lines that way. Once I have the details defining the way that I want. I photocopy my mole skin sketchbook at 150%. I then use a light table to transfer this photocopy onto Bristol board. I was lucky enough that I got my light box from a used furniture sale for, like, $15 but plenty of art stores sell very small light boxes that are you been portable for? Pretty cheap on. If I'm in a pinch, I'll even use a, well, a window. After I transferred my sketch onto the Bristol board, I'll think it before I touched that final illustration. I will spend some time warming up, maybe five or 10 minutes just moving the ink around on practicing my strokes on a scrap piece of paper on. And I can tell how long I've spent doing this by how well my lines turnout on my final illustration. So the longer I spent warming up, definitely the better. My lines are for my final illustration. After inking, I erase the pencil lines that are left over, and then I scan it in often times. My drugs are just a little too big to grab as a single scan and so sometimes I'll have to scan in in parts and then piece it together. Now I'd really love to experiment with coloring and put a lot more effort into it. But by the time I reached the point of coloring, I'm usually really ready to move on to my next project. And so I personally don't take a lot of time at the stage, because for me, the most important part is to get to the ink and to get to something that's exciting for me . If I'm creating a single image that requires text, I will then put text in or even some basic graphic elements in Photoshopped. But if I'm creating something that really needs a template, something I'm going to repeat over and over again, like with the schedule cards, then I create the graphics either an illustrator or in in design. Let's review what you've accomplished. You created your final illustration and you updated your class project with your illustration, and that's it. For further guidance, feel free to post questions in the discussion area or mention your challenges on, and some of the resource is that you might have found along the way in your project update . I can't wait to see what you come up with