Narrative Art: Drawing Imaginary Characters | Ira Marcks | Skillshare

Narrative Art: Drawing Imaginary Characters

Ira Marcks, Cartoonist / Author

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24 Lessons (1h 51m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:30
    • 2. Class Overview

      2:32
    • 3. Narrative Art History pt. 1

      1:58
    • 4. Narrative Art History pt. 2

      4:01
    • 5. Narrative Art History pt. 3

      3:47
    • 6. Disney's Illusion of Life

      6:23
    • 7. Squash and Stretch pt. 1

      3:45
    • 8. Squash and Stretch pt. 2

      5:04
    • 9. Character Appeal

      3:44
    • 10. Advanced Appeal

      4:54
    • 11. Believability

      8:02
    • 12. Staging Characters

      6:29
    • 13. Staging Scenes

      5:58
    • 14. Staging Environments

      4:23
    • 15. Other Kinds of Heroes

      4:01
    • 16. A Few Thoughts

      1:38
    • 17. Class Project: Concept

      9:02
    • 18. Class Project: Sketch pt. 1

      6:41
    • 19. Class Project: Sketch pt. 2

      4:56
    • 20. Class Project: Ink pt. 1

      6:49
    • 21. Class Project: Ink pt. 2

      2:25
    • 22. Class Project: Color pt. 1

      2:29
    • 23. Class Project: Color pt. 2

      8:37
    • 24. Wrap It Up

      1:45
52 students are watching this class

About This Class

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Behind every good cartoon character is a narrative artist.

A narrative artist is someone who can imagine and design the kinds of characters that draw us in and lead us on crazy adventures. Characters of all kinds, from the epic and cosmic to the simple and familiar. In this class, you'll learn the process and principles that narrative artists use to bring a character to life. 

Here are the topics I'll be covering:

  • How Narrative Art Works
  • Disney's 'The Illusion of Life' Book
  • The Squash and Stretch Principle
  • Character 'Appeal'
  • Staging Characters and Scenes
  • Conceptualizing a Scene
  • Sketching and Composition Planning
  • Inking an Illustration
  • Coloring an Illustration

All you'll need for this class is a pencil and paper but I'm working in Clip Studio Paint for visual clarity.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: What is that magic formula that makes a good cartoon character? You know it when you see it, a drawing that just sparks your imagination, and radiates with life. But where does that magic come from? That part is always a mystery. Behind every good cartoon character is a narrative artist, somebody with the imagination and skills to create characters that really draw you in and take you on amazing adventures. Characters of all types from the epic and cosmic to the simple and familiar. Hey, I'm Aaron Marks a cartoonist, and this is Gil, I don't know what he is. But together we are going to explore the world of narrative arts. We'll start with a little tour through art and history to understand the process and principles that bring a character to life. Then we'll take our new bag of tricks back to our drawing desk and get busy planning, sketching, aching, and coloring all new characters with the powers to tell stories we've always had stuck in our heads. All right, Gil, I think we've made our points, and we hope you will join us on our exciting new class, narrative art, Drawing Imaginary Characters. 2. Class Overview: Before we get into it, I want to give you a brief overview of the class. I like to imagine my classes are enriching, so I'm going to use a food pyramid to break down the chapters and why I chose to structure the class this way. I want to give you the optimum creative diet. At the base of this course is the concept of narrative art, how it works and how people have used it, not only in modern cartooning but throughout human history. That's a fundamental part of the course. Then we jump right into Disney's illusion of life, which is a book that gathers the principles and process of the studio cartoonists and how they gave life to their cartoon characters. From there we dig into the different principles the book addresses, the physicality of squash and stretch, the aesthetic appeal of a character, and the believability of the character in their world. That right there is a course on character design, but again, we're looking at narrative art. We need to put these characters in a context. I break the next section of the class down into staging a character. We look at the different ways a character can use their body language. The different ways to pose them in a scene, and the different ways to let them engage with environment. We do a little compare and contrast between different cartoon character types. Then we move on into the class project. The base of the class project is the concept and the process I goes through to develop a rich and interesting concept that's going to inspire me to design something cool. On top of the concept, we do some sketching and some more sketching on top of that, developing the narrative story of the character. Then we begin to ink. That's the frosting on the cake, and the cherry on top is a quick little lesson in color. This is my own personal approach to narrative art and character design. This class clocks in at almost two hours and I realize not everybody has the time for that. If you want to jump right to the class project section, you could do that. But I think it's important to build this foundation to really get a sense of the potential of this art form. Of course, Gayle will join us along the way to take some notes and make an appearance in the class project. All right, let's have some fun. 3. Narrative Art History pt. 1: Narrative art is a simple concept. It's basically visual art that tells a human story. The narrative artist uses characters to take us on that journey. At a core level, characters are ideas in motion. The actions of a character are symbolic expression of the human experience. Narrative artists have been doing this for a long time. For example, artists and craftsmen in ancient Greece thought their culture and stories were the best in the world. So you'd often see depictions of their experience on common objects like these vases from around 500 BC. The Greeks really understood the value of storytelling myth and the power of metaphor. They often showed mythical creatures engaging in common Greek activities. Here are some satyrs in a vineyard, picking grapes and playing music. By binding their culture with these characters from mythology, the Greeks were attempting to secure a place in the human narrative. Sometimes these vases showed famous Greek figures in moments of victory. Here's the ancient king, Croesus, who was so rich and famous in his time, that he became a figure of myth. This is him about to be burned alive atop a funeral pyre by one of his enemies. If you know the story, you know the next scene shows him calling upon the god Apollo to douse the flames with his godly ring. The use of character in myth lifts common figures into legendary and eventually mythical status. These early origins of narrative art really set the tone for how this art form can create stories that really stand the test of time. 4. Narrative Art History pt. 2: As creative tools became more accessible to the people, narrative art evolved to become a more intimate craft of story and character. Artists like the American painter Thomas Cole, use their work to create very unique and detailed parables. Mr. Cole had become famous for his visual stories of American landscapes. But in the early 1840s, he found he had another kind of story he wanted to paint about. The result was a project called The Voyage of Life, a series of narrative paintings. The massive oil paintings followed the voyager through the four stages of human experience. Childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. Let's take a look at the story of the voyager. Painting one, childhood. The voyager, a joyous infant, emerges from a dark cave riding a golden boat sculpted in figures of the hours. The boat is steered down a narrow stream by an angelic being who guides the voyager towards a lush valley of exotic flowers and an unseen rising sun. The path of the child voyager is narrow in its scope, but is still bursting with life. Painting two, youth. The voyager leaves his guardian angel taking the helm of his boat and setting out on his own journey. He is eager to explore the world before him. His journey will take him past the diverse line of trees, each casting their own shadow on his waters. His sights are set on the cloud-like castle just beyond the horizon. Unfortunately, the voyager is still too short-sighted to see the true nature of his journey. Before the river reaches the castle, it takes a sharp turn and descends rapidly towards a rocky ravine. Painting three, manhood. As the voyager reaches manhood, his world is cast in darkness. The cloud-like castle is long gone as the voyager is pulled through the whirling and foaming waters of the raging river. The world, which once seemed so serene, now appears in terrible conflict with itself. The lush fields are reduced to patchy moss. A tree is split by lightening and a distant plane drowns in the rain. The angelic figure continues to watch his journey, but the voyager only sees the demons in the clouds. Painting four, old age. The voyager emerges from the turbulence of manhood. His empty and battered boat is the last evidence of his life experience. His guardian angel has returned to meet him in a welcome beam of heavenly light, but she does not rejoin him. She's simply gestures beyond past the last shores of his lifetime and on into a still, an infinite ocean. Thomas Cole's work feels so alive. But of course, all of this story is just happening in our imaginations. But something doesn't have to be alive to feel alive. A good character earns our empathy by the way they act and reflect on the imaginary world around them. So the big question is, how do we create this illusion of life? 5. Narrative Art History pt. 3: Look, I know this class is about cartooning, but any form of art doesn't exist in a bubble. So we're going to look a little more at the history of narrative art, and the way it can personify an idea. Here's some examples. Beauty is personified in Sandro Botticelli's painting, The Birth of Venus from 1480. Diego Velazquez's painting, The Maids of Honor, gives us an insight into the life of a Royal Heir. The painter Tōshūsai Sharaku was great at representing character. Here's his wicked henchmen from the painting, the role of the servant from 1794. Francesco de Goya in 1920 painted Saturn devouring his son. A story of a vengeful father. For me, narrative art is at its best when it speaks to the struggle of people. I love the way Winslow Homer's work shows the struggle of Human against nature. This is the unlucky fishermen from 1899, and this is the lifeline from 1884. The struggle of a character is a search for identity and an artists can use character to clarify a complex sense of identity. Something that might otherwise be hard to really define. Emanuel Leutze in 1851 painted the crossing of the Delaware, which shows the struggle for American Independence. Goya's painting from 1814 entitled, The Third of May, shows the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies. This is Hale Woodruff's mural from 1942, reminding us to not forget the story of the Underground Railroad. Frida Kahlo's work shows the struggle of self-expression for the artists, especially in this painting called The Little Deer. This is Georges de La Tour painting, the Magdalene with the smoking flame, a story of a woman struggle with self-sacrifice. A little history on narrative art helps us make a deeper connection with modern cartooning. It's all part of the same lineage. Ever notice in that scene from The Little Mermaid when she's singing a part of your world, she literally points to this iconic French masterpiece. It's a painting about a woman who has witnessed a miracle and finds herself isolated as she contemplates it's mystery. Is that not the story of Ariel? Cartoonists love to speak to struggle. Political cartooning is a whole craft that is built on clear metaphor to instantly communicate a concern of the people. You can find it in animation as well. Isao Takahata's animated film, grave of the fireflies, only watch it if you want to be really sad, shows the story of two Japanese children as they attempt to survive the final days of the Second World War. Growing up as a kid in the '90s with newspapers, Calvin and Hobbes convinced me that cartooning was my favorite style of narrative art, Bill Watterson showed me that imaginary characters in fantastic settings could be very real ways of dealing with the world around me. 6. Disney's Illusion of Life: In the early 1900s, animation was this cool new way to tell stories. Artists of all types, cartoonists, filmmakers, actors, photographers, they all saw the potential of animation as a new way to bring their characters to life. There were years of experimentation, inspiring and creative works, but not much of it really connected with the people. Cartoonist and all around entertainer Winsor McCay had the first real breakthrough. He had this unique vaudeville act he would do where he interacted with this animated dinosaur named Gertie. He talked to her and make her do tricks. McCay became the first famous motion picture cartoonist with his 1914 animated short, Gertie, the dinosaur. People loved to watch Gertie. But what was so unique about her? I can see two main factors. For one, Winsor McCay is a master cartoonist. He's also an innovator, and he paid painstaking attention to details of timing and weight of Gertie's movements. His efforts were beyond anything anyone else in the animation industry was doing at the time and he made a fantastic illusion. But the illusion alone wasn't enough. The bigger reason Gertie was so successful was her appealing personality. It was a brilliant choice by Winsor McCay to give Gertie the familiar and endearing characteristics of a domesticated pet. We're told that Gertie is a dinosaur, but her appeal is much more that of the family dog. Other animation studios began chasing the success of McCay's, but they were taking the wrong lessons away from his work. These other studios were focused on that in your face vaudevillian vibe that Winsor McCay was so good at, the flash and bang look of his productions. This is why so many early animated shorts look like a circus variety show. You've got song and dance numbers, trained animals, magic tricks, circus stunts and satirical characters, and plenty of gags. Yes, of course, there's a few memorable characters that emerged from that era of animation. But the stories they told didn't go very deep and often the characters cycled through the same old gags and character tropes that we've seen time and time again. Audiences got bored and it's so easy to see why. In the very same theaters these animated shorts were playing, people were also seeing feature films created with actors, directors, editors, and cinematographers who were truly pushing the visual language of their narrative art to fantastic heights. These storytellers, were creating new ways to engage with character through costumes, special effects, set design, staging, and that special film ingredient, charisma. Cartoons do not have charisma. So by the 1920s, the animation industry was really struggling. No studio had yet cracked the code for designing a truly engaging cartoon character. During this time, The Walt Disney studio started making their mark. They were building a likable cast of characters and people kept coming back to see them. Disney really pushed his animators and they often made their characters better through studies of movement, form, and personality. Soon Disney had the best gang of characters in town. But still that was not enough. Walt Disney knew his team had an even better cast of characters in them. If he could just figure out how to get them out. The lore for them was a big project. Their first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937. It's brilliant storytelling, unique characters and dramatic action made it an instant success and keep it high on the list of best animated films of all time and so began the studios reign over good character design. They created countless memorable characters, each with their own story, tales of love, anger, desperation, humor, sadness, struggle, and success. To create great characters, the Disney studio had to be a place of experimentation and innovation. Walt and his creative team, never relied on dialogue or gimmick. They were in constant pursuit of stronger clarity in their visual storytelling. With animation being such a collaborative process, communication between artists of all skill sets was essential. The creative teams were constantly inventing phrases to critique each other's work. They'd say things like, hey I aim that pose, or you got to put some stretch on it. These phrases became more and more refined and eventually turned into an official list of animation and character design principles. This is the Disney formula for bringing characters to life. Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, two of Disney's top character designers put their principles in a book called The Illusion of Life. This book has become legendary, and stands as a foundation text in the animation industry. It's also a fantastic book for storytellers, especially anyone who grew up on a diet of Disney films. I'm not an animator, I'm just a simple cartoonist, but this book has still brought my character design skills to new heights. Now let me share those lessons I learned from those clever folks over at Disney. 7. Squash and Stretch pt. 1: Rigidity is the enemy of character design. A character in a stiff pose doesn't communicate the concept of a living thing. It evokes more of an inanimate object like a stone or a slab of wood. This is why the first principle taught and the illusion of life is the squash and stretch principle. If you've ever taken a basic animation class, you've probably done a project like the bouncing ball exercise. It's a great technical exercise, but the concept is an important thing for a visual storyteller to understand. To me the squash and stretch principle is really about applying physics to narrative art. It's about visualizing action and reaction. Instead of a bouncing ball, imagine a pair of eyes squashing and stretching as they react to what they're seeing. When I draw characters eyes, I'm thinking of them more as a water balloon with a heavy stone in it as the attention of the pupil is drawn towards something, it pulls the form of the eye with it and if the pupil is centered, the form returns to its original shape. The principle of squash and stretch is all about maintaining and distributing volume. No matter how absurd a character model gets, it can't lose or gain weight it can only redistribute it. The squash and stretch principle allows an artist to extend an idea without breaking the physics of the world. This principal runs through the DNA of every Disney character. For example, these sketches of Dopey by Disney animator Bill Tytla shows how all elements of the character's head are working in conjunction with the main action. No matter how stretched and pulled Dopey face gets, it always returns to its original form. A big rule of visual storytelling is to show instead of tell and this principle helps an artist answer the viewers constant question of what is this character really doing without using words? No matter the design of the character, a viewer can easily be taught the rules of its body language through squash and stretch. The Disney animators were able to bring any object to life with the squash and stretch principle. The book proves this by showing how you can apply the squash stretch principle to a sack of flour to bring it to life. Through some consideration of where the spine, shoulders, and hips of this character are we can make it move in any number of ways and evoke all kinds of emotions. Not every pose is going to work and soon you'll realize that shifting of weight is a big part of what makes a character feel and move in a realistic way. Let's take a look at some old Disney model sheets. You can see an artist exploring the potential movement of any type in form of character. When I look at these, the stronger models revealed themselves because you can almost feel the characters tensing and releasing their muscles, breathing in and out. Hopefully Nan and emotion releasing an emotion. But looking at characters floating around an empty sheet of paper doesn't really help us with our storytelling. Let's look at how we can apply this principle to our narrative work. 8. Squash and Stretch pt. 2: All cartooning explores squash and stretch in its own way. The principal has almost universal appeal and that its core it's perfect for any good gag scene. But squash and stretch can also convey more complex stories. Let's examine the principle at work in the villain Captain Hook. Watch the basic form of the good captains upper half bend into Stuart as he moves through a range of emotions. He's that classic type of villain Disney came to define a character who lets their violent tendencies bubble over. Then suddenly they become aware that they've shown to much, laugh it off and shift back to a false look of sincerity. Now that's a lot of character coming at you all at once. It's easy to take all that in because it's conveyed so clearly through the physical nature of the character design. It begins with the slamming of the rigid candlestick to show Hook is uncompromising. Then through the widening of his eyes we see his self-awareness and then quickly he tries to lighten the mood. His whole body right down to his evil mustache lifts up to reinforce his slimy smile. This is character development so brilliant it seems almost effortless. Narrative art needs to function without words. Look at the way these Disney storyboards work hard to create characters full of motion and appeal, guiding us through the story without the support of text and dialogue. Watch the way the character of the Colonel from Disney's 101 Dalmatians navigates through his world. You don't even need to see his face to get a sense of who he is. Here's a storyboard from the film, The Aristocrats. Squash and stretch is in full effect here, look at how it adds kinetic energy to the scene. Notice the artist is careful to show this character's movements are not without effort. You can see it in the kitten's face he's working hard to have fun. This little extra attention to detail endears us to the character. Many of us can relate to that struggle of being a kid and sitting down to learn an instrument. I love the concept art from Bambi, and I'm just going to use this excuse to show some of it to you. Look at how squash and stretch can work in a scene, it's showing the dramatic tension between these two characters. The owl makes his point with a drastic stretching action and Bambi reacts realistically to the weight of his assertion. Alice in Wonderland is a story of two worlds colliding and squash and stretch plays a very important role in the storytelling. The contrast between the rational world that Alice comes from and the absurdity of Wonderland as shown in the characters physicality. Alice is drawn with the conventions of human proportion, her squash and stretch is very limited which makes her feel more grounded. Throughout the story, Alice does her best to move logically through a world of insane characters. Look at how when we line up the character models altogether, you can really see the dynamic forms of Wonderland characters radiating from Alice's central and stable character design. Look at how the Cheshire Cat squash and stretch is so different from Alice. We know without a word of dialogue that these two characters are going to have very different points of view. The caterpillar has a more complicated personality. His upper half poses in a sophisticated manner, while his back squishy half reveals his true weirdness. Squash and stretch is a principal with a lot of layers to it. It makes you realize why a studio that obsessively examines human nature chooses to adapt fables like Pinocchio, a story that so literally explores the question, what does a non-living thing need to do to become real? I hope all of this is helping you start to look for examples of squash and stretch in your favorite characters. Pay particular attention to levels of exaggeration. Ask yourself how does the physicality of a character's world affect the way you engage with their story? 9. Character Appeal: The search for character appeal is what drives the narrative artist. Appeal isn't all about cute eyes, appeal resides in any character attribute, at could be a flowing cape, bendy antenna, a wagging tail, it's the things that help us generate a sense of the character's personality. The challenge of finding the right combination of design appeal is unique to every story, and requires lots of study of human expression and behavior and a lot of trial and error. In a lot of ways, character appeal can be identified through their silhouette. Odds are, if you're a fan of American cartoons, you can recognize at least half of these silhouettes. We're looking at work by different artists spanning over 60 years of cartoon arts, but still a lot of these designs share a common appealing design principle. Cartoonists referred to it as the rubber hose encircled design. You can see it at work in these character silhouettes from Disney's 1929 short, The Skeleton Dance. It was an aesthetic that saved time for animators, but also was great for getting story points across, especially for gag based kid friendly appeal, you couldn't go wrong with the rubber hose and circle design. For a time, Disney utilized the rubber hose look, but they weren't afraid to advance on the concept. Take Goofy's design, it's rooted in that iconic rubber hose form, but with his human proportions and sense of weight, Goofy's personality becomes more apparent and he turns into a more believable character. Then by the 1990s, Disney was able to refine the design of Goofy's rubbery appeal and further turned him into a sitcom dad with real life responsibilities. Audiences have been taught to gauge the reality of a cartoon by the way the characters bend and move. You get a looser style and comedic form of narration through slapstick characters like olive oil, and a more restrained, grounded reality through characters like Marge Simpson. For a more believable approach to story and character appeal, personalities must be toned down and appeal begins to translate through costuming, accessories, appendages, and more subtle character aspects. One of Disney's top creatives, Mark Davis, created the design for a Maleficent, which is so timeless for its simplicity and beauty. Her character is rich, despite the fact that she's nearly a silhouette. It's all in the way Mark Davis uses her cloak to show her emotional state. Without the need for a close-up on the face, we can see Maleficent's mood change, by the way her clothing changes. Even in an early stage of design, we see the subtle implications of where the story is going to go. As the character is overtaken by her own jealousy, she's consumed by her dark side. When designing a character, you don't want to mistake appealing details for appealing information. Even a loose, simple, stripped-down sketch, as long as it has a clear story point can appeal to an audience. 10. Advanced Appeal: How do you start to build an appealing character? Cartoonists often work from a preconceived notion of basic design forms. Look at the basic form of the Latins cast of characters. The human characters almost resembles chess pieces, which makes total sense when you consider the story of a Latin is about strategizing plays for political power. These basic forms can help us distinguish a character's role in a narrative. The Genie in a Latin, stands out as a malleable character whose personality expresses the wants of his human master. Ever notice how the genie looks like a cartoon speech bubble? Appeal needs to be consistent, but not static. A character must be capable of change, like the beast in Beauty and the Beast. He needs to transform from a scary monster to a sympathetic hero over the course of his narrative. The story of how a cartoonist arrives at good character appeal. It's amazing to see, checkout the way the Disney team experimented with the beast look, trying to find the right mix of human empathy and animal instinct. On that note, I recommend researching the concept art for your favorite cartoon characters. We can learn a lot more from a cartoonists trial and error than we can from their end result. Look at this series of sketches I found four iconic Disney villain Cruella de vil. Notice the artists often start with familiar tropes of human stereotypes. In this case, cruella, is basically a wealthy city dweller from the late 1950s. Like most Disney villains, she embodies gritty pursuit that overwhelms a real personality. She's defeated by her own obsessive nature. Cruella is character design allows for this whole narrative art to happen naturally. Her character appeal needs to develop and change very carefully, so when she arrives at her peak of madness, it doesn't break the stories reality. Appeal should always be referencing a familiar reality. When designing Bambi, the cartoonists first needed a firm grasp of deer anatomy and movement. From that base, they could begin to explore design elements that suited their story. When they arrived at the final design, we can recognize the characteristics of a young fawn but I also feel that character sense of wonder as he explores his world. Character appeal can also be linked to an audience's preconceived notions of metaphor. That familiar phrase, clever as a fox, was certainly behind the character design of Disney's Robin Hood. The mixing of animal and human traits is called anthropomorphism and it's a tried and true template of strong character appeal. Once Robinhood is established as a lead, the cast really starts to build itself. Also, Robinhood is set in medieval times, which helps the cartoonists developed costuming that specifically reflects the characters roles in the story. Between our associations with animal physicality and medieval costuming, the Disney team designed a cast of characters with clearly visible story roles. Their appeal really comes to life when the characters are put into motion. The weight of their bodies, the flow of their clothing. All these aspects help enhance appeal and reveal personality. Appeal just doesn't happen overnight. Take a look at the Simpson's family from their first season. Their faces almost look like vulture beaks. Would you want to watch these characters? The Simpson's always had a strong premise, the absurdity of domestic life in suburban America. But it took the cartoonists years to discover what attributes of their characters really appeal to audiences and what made this show truly enjoyable to watch. Appeal is an elusive thing, it transcends in one aspect of a character but as long as you continue the pursuit, your characters will discover their true selves. Now, maybe I'm overstating the obvious here, but sorry, I just wanted a reason to use this Peter Pan clip. Isn't it good? 11. Believability: These days, cartoon characters are able to adapt to any story role we need them to play. With over a century of experience in cartooning were capable of making believable characters that function in any style of dramatic storytelling. But creating a dramatic cartoon character takes some work. When the Disney studio was deep into development of their adaptation of Snow White, they face the challenges of dramatic storytelling. Snow White is a story about fear, fear of abandonment and prosecution, and the loss of youth and beauty, physical transformation is one thing for a cartoon to do, but what about expressing the inner psychology of a character? Could the Disney studio get their audience to believe that a cartoon character had murder on their mind. Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas share their frustrating experience in the story room as they go back and forth with their colleagues on how to design a dramatic scene in which the huntsman hired by the evil queen to murder Snow White, struggles with the morality of his mission. Early drafts of the script were sloppy and use dialogue for the Huntsman to explain his change of heart. What Disney insisted his animators find a visual approach. Let's break down how they visualize the scene and the narrative arc of the Huntsman. It begins with a Huntsman taking Snow White to a secluded glove at the edge of the forest. While picking flowers, Snow White's sees an orphan bird, a character that parallels her own situation. She tries to comfort the bird as the Huntsman looks on, he observes Snow White's innocence, but it doesn't seem to change his motivations. He looks around to see him and Snow White all along and chooses, this is the moment to strike. Back in the story room, Ollie, Frank and the other Disney animators argued over if the Huntsman truly believes he is capable of this awful act. That's when they realized the question itself could be used to build the tension in the audience's mind. As the scene plays out, we no longer see the Huntsman's face as he approaches. He's just an imposing shadow. When we cut to Snow White's response, we see her fear conditioned with an emotion. We are then allowed a close-up of the murderous man and we feel trapped by him. It seems there's no escape for Snow White or the viewer. The Huntsman goes so far as to raise his knife before his hand stutters and he drops it. The man collapses in shame, grabbing at Snow White skirt and asking for forgiveness. The Huntsman has shown us the dark side of Snow White's world. As she dashed off into the woods, the audiences in 1937 must have had their hearts and their throats. This was not the cartoon characters they'd grown used to watching. There had never been a truly dramatic character scene in an animated film. The Disney studio was embracing cinematic language and other aspects of dramatic narrative art. They were working with light and shadow, psychological distress, and the vulnerable side of a character. Disney had expanded on what audiences were willing to believe about a cartoon character. Scenes like this, make a study of Snow White a masterclass in cartoon narrative. Let's look at another aspect of cartoon believability. Can a dramatic cartoon story effectively address history. In the early 1980s, filmmaker Steven Spielberg approached animator Don Bluth with a pretty unique idea to make an animated feature about the 19th century Jewish immigrant experience. Don Bluth was into it and after a few years, his film in American tale was released. The story begins in the time of the Russian Empire, 1885 in the city of Shostka. We're introduced to the cute and friendly Moscowitz is a mouse family and obvious Jewish parable. The stories inciting incident is the burning of the Moscowitz family home. It's a dramatic scene, beautifully animated. But film critic Roger Ebert points out in his review, and I quote, "One of the central curiosities of an American tale is that it tells us specifically Jewish experience, but does not attempt to inform its young viewers that the characters are Jewish or the house burning was antisymmetric." Ebert makes an interesting point about the films narrative choices. It seems like it's skirting around the truth of the events. Even the cats who are clearly designed to evoke images of Russian aristocrats act like nothing more than poorly motivated, evil generic cartoon cats. We know enough about the animation industry to know that a lot of factors come into making the story choices. At the end of the day in American tail is a big budget studio film designed for Abroad Kid audience. Themes like prejudice and emigration are complicated and don't easily fit in kid friendly entertainment. Looking at an American tale in a critical way from an adult point of view, it's just an odd bit of cartoon history. It's a story that presents a historical context without delivering on the truth of its characters. For me, the narrative choices the storytellers make work against the final film and its impact. We all want our stories to connect with an audience, but creative expression comes with a risk. Even our best cartoonist like Don Bluth, struggled to make a deeper connection through their work. Luckily, other aspects of the cartoon industry allow for more mature storytelling, like comics during the same decade an American tale was being produced. A very different Jewish Mao story was being told. Art Spiegelman serialized comic mouse, depicts his father's experience as a Polish Jew in Holocaust survivor. The comic states very clearly, the mice represent the Jews. The cat's represent Nazi Germany. Spiegel men's artwork has a raw cartoon aesthetic that suits the narrative. His line work is rough, his characters are rigid, his staging is dark and his narrative is confrontational. In 1992, Art Spiegelman work was collected into a graphic novel and became the first comic to win a Pulitzer Prize. In conclusion, the believability built into a story determines the emotional weight of its characters. Whether you're creating in a historical context or a fantasy world, don't let the simplicity of cartoon appeal or ladies guitar solos betray your characters. 12. Staging Characters: Staging is about the careful placement of characters in their environment for maximum story impact. It's like placing an actor on the stage. For example, this little angry cowboy is positioned in service of the upcoming gag. The staging principle is to pull a quote from the illusion of life book, the presentation of any idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear. That's basically a design principle that all artists put to use in their work. So let's look at the different ways cartoonists stage their characters. All staging is a solution to a story challenge. Sometimes the challenge relates directly to the physicality of a character. What's the best way to show Donald Duck swinging a bat? Good staging requires planning and knowing how your character's body acts and reacts. Disney artists have a lot of fun staging goofy. He's a very party-like character. So they stage him in a way where he's forced to bend and squeeze his way through connected story moments. Good character staging is about the reveal of information. Looney Toons director Chuck Jones was a master of timed staging. Take a look at any Roadrunner Coyote cartoon. Here I pulled this specific one, for us.Let's follow the gag as it plays out. We're very clearly introduced to a concrete barrel with the Coyote's bodies stretched up and out of frame, we see the trap is set. The Coyote ducks away as always, the trap fails and the concrete pours down on him. Then as the Coyote tries to move on past the failed trap, he's frozen in the concrete is the victim of his own dumb scheme. Cartoonists use staging to reveal character personalities and relationships. During the making of Snow White, Disney knew the importance of developing the dwarfs into believable and appealing characters, and the team took the process of staging these moments with the dwarfs very seriously. Anytime we see the dwarfs, they're clearly positioned in the frame so that their unique personality is on display. Some of my favorite parts of the illusion of life book are getting some insight into the way the Disney team would sweat through these long meetings and create countless storyboards looking for new and exciting waves to show the dwarfs interacting in a natural realistic way. It's amazing how no two dwarfs are ever doing the same thing. A great cartoonist can combine emotional resonance and plot and they're staging. It's a tricky balancing act. But in artists like Carl barks made it look easy. He worked on a series of Donald Duck comic books for a long run, and he knew that to keep his readers interests, he had to stage has characters in motion constantly, even if they were just having what could otherwise be a simple, stagnant conversation. When considering an image, we want to be told where to look. So let's examine the ways the staging of these Disney characters creates an eye path for us to follow. Most importantly, staging can give us a point of view on a story, and depending on the staging different parts of information are revealed. I'm going to share a page from another great book on narrative art, Drawing with Words and Writing with Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. We know that staging gives us a point of view on a story. In this example, they show 60 different ways to stage a single moment between two characters. Let's look at how information is revealed and the narrative is affected depending on the placement and body language of the characters. We start with the characters framed in profile. We see we have one male character handing off an item to a female character. He says, "Take it." She says, "Are you sure?" Here we see a difference between height, eye contact between the characters. The exchange doesn't really have any tension. But if we zoom in a little bit and can see their eyes a little closer and shift the horizon line just a bit, we get some more information and we can start to reveal the relationship between these two characters. This seems a bit more personal. If we pull back and tilt the camera, now we're getting a bit of a bird's eye view, which can tell us more about the scene and where the characters are, but it doesn't help us get as intimate with their personal connection. If we start to tilt the horizon line now we add some tension to the same, that implies the world isn't balanced at this point, these characters are in motion working towards some kind of goal. We don't know if they're going to achieve it or not. We can also block the characters in different ways. By putting one character in the foreground, we see more from his point of view as he looks at this person he's about to exchange an object with. If we turn a character away from the camera, now we're concealing their emotion from the other character. It seems to imply that she's being a little withholding from him. By blocking the characters in a way that one of them is looking at the object, we can set up that we're going to be told what that object is in the next scene. So different types of blocking can imply what's going to come next. I really recommend this book, it will totally open your mind as to the possibilities for your narrative approach to a story, the way your characters act, the way you position them. So look it up. Now that you get the idea of how to stage a character, think of one of your favorite characters from fiction. Is there are a certain way you can picture them being staged? Think about what impact staging has on how you respond to a character. 13. Staging Scenes: It's hard to understand a character story until you see them in action. That's the difference between an illustration staged like this, and one staged like this. For staging to be a truly narrative principle, a scene requires setting and environmental elements. Developing this relationship begins with story. Compare the staging of these two scenes from Sleeping Beauty. David Irving developed the look of the backgrounds in Sleeping Beauty, and they put his geometric environments to work in the scene. Look at the way Sleeping Beauty and her prince are staged during this happy moment. The space is open with nothing in the foreground obscuring the characters who are set right in the middle of the composition. All the visual elements are natural, but they're very balanced and even and horizontal, which gives the scene a sense of calm. I love the little touch of the reflection of the characters dancing in the water. It just pushes the symmetry and balance of the scene even further. Now we jumped to a later point in the story and we see the prince as he tries to make his way to the castle to rescue his girlfriend. The background is a shade of gray, making the mid-ground thorns really stark in opposing silhouettes. They surround the prince and push their way into the foreground, right into our face. It seems like escape is impossible for the poor prince. The staging of these two images really conveys the extreme emotions of the story points. Up next, I'm going to look at the four main ways that cartoonists can advance their own staging. Using evocative props is story. Surrounding a character with props can help us understand them. By putting Dumbo inside this little tab, we evoked the idea of a baby in the bath and it conveys those early moments of childhood. We can flip it and let the characters teach the viewer to respond to an object. Aerial in flounder are staged in a way that we are being told, "Hey, we're looking at this book and it's really really interesting." Without questioning what the contents of the book are, the cartoonist pushes us right to the answer they want us to have. The book is interesting. That's all you need to know. But sometimes, we need characters to evoke a question in the viewer. As the young orphan, Arthur, reaches for the legendary Excalibur sword, lots of questions arise. What is the boy getting himself into? His face shows us he has no idea. If you didn't catch the expression the first time, the artist has put it in perfect profile, and also has his sleeve up, so we see a scrawny little arm grabbing this massive weapon. The golden light shining down on him. Let's us know he's probably on the right path, but we don't know how safe that journey is going to be. Using supporting characters of story. Let's go back to that illustration of the owl in Bambi, the body language in staging of each of the two main characters teaches us how to read the same. For me my eye path follows down the branch through the owl's body and stops right at the tip of his feather. Below in to the right, a character that assure us we should be focusing on what the owl is saying. A whole collection of woodland characters follow Snow White on her journey, and they act a bit like a Greek chorus. They support her role in the story by enhancing a scene, encouraging her onwards towards action, and forcing a suspicion or enhancing an emotional moment. A little fun fact, Betty Boop played Snow White five years before in 1932. But I guess her version just doesn't have enough cute animals, and it's got one too many creepy clowns. Using setting as story, all around the witch are artifacts that support her story. The familiar tropes of a witch's home. Tools of alchemy, things used to create something supernatural. A crow companion that looks on as the audience does, curious to know what's going on in that Coltrane. Even the smoke has character creating strange serpent like shapes that blend into the cobwebs in the corner of the room. Now over in another part of town, is there anything that says family, like sitting in a parlor around a big square television? The House and 101 Dalmatian says, always stuck with me. I realize now it's because the story is told from the animal's point of view. The animal stories are really engaging when you're a kid, because just like an animal, a kid's world is so small. It begins with just a few rooms and objects. You don't fully understand. Things you have no use for. Heavy dresser drawers, piles of books, instruments, paperwork, strange wallpaper. Adult stuff surrounds you at every angle. The settings are busy. These are lived in spaces. They're crowded and cluttered. The floor is barely visible sometimes, but they also feel safe and comfortable and cozy. Until that day comes when the outside world bursts in on you, and changes everything forever. 14. Staging Environments: I really can't emphasize enough the importance of Disney's ambition and experimentation. The 1937 animated short, the Old Mill, was a major testing ground for their upcoming feature films.The Old Mill tells the day in the life of the animals who live in and around in abandoned windmill in the country, with an obvious focus on experimenting with environmental effects. They explore advanced camera techniques, complex lighting and color effects, realistic movement of animals, ripples, reflections. Over the course of this eight minute film, the poor old mill and its animal friends are really put through the ringer. Lightening crashes all around them. Rain creeps in and wind, when warps the world around them into a dangerous and medicine place. By morning we see the old mill still stands to face another day. Disney knew how important a role environment would play in their upcoming films. A character's environment is a major factor in how we learn about who they are.The world of the Jungle Book is not just any jungle, it is an intentionally designed and staged place for our characters to interact. Environment often goes unnoticed because when it's done right, it blends seamlessly into a story. That is why it is even more important to study it. But whether or not this aspect of visual storytelling gets the attention it deserves, Environmental Design is a crucial development stage in narrative art. One that requires research and planning if you want to create a world that says alive as the characters you put in it. As you can probably see, expanding the environment around a character creates lots of new challenges for the narrative artist. Extensive composition planning, choosing color palettes, all these creative choices can get exhausting and it's easy to get comfortable in familiar places.While Disney wouldn't have that. He knew that his studio, if they were going to stay at the top of their game, had to always be exploring new settings to tell stories. The Fantasia Project was probably the pinnacle of Disney's environmental experimentation. In Fantasia, the audience is carried through eight different worlds on world bliss stories set to pieces of classical music. In Fantasia, there are no heroes and villains, just scenes of nature personified and dramatic visual. While this style of storytelling doesn't draw an audience like a character driven narrative, it's easier to see how these techniques could play a role in more conventional storytelling. Fantasia is full of evocative visuals from the dark, swirling phantom winds of the sinister Bald Mountain to the impressionist landscapes of the mythic Pastoral Symphony and the falling skies of the rights of spring. You will notice that the characters we see live firmly in the environments and show you what it's like to exist in these strange worlds. Try to look at the way environment plays a role in the stories you enjoy most. Is that a passive or active part of a character's journey? 15. Other Kinds of Heroes: Let's step away from America's Walt Disney Studio and look at Japan's Studio Ghibli. The history of Studio Ghibli is filled with characters as amazing and memorable as anything Disney's ever done. Ghibli felt like the next logical step in my cartoon education. Hayao Miyazaki and his artists, we're telling stories that were more complicated and engaging and just fundamentally different from anything I'd seen in American cartoons. Let's look at a few of Ghibli's iconic characters. In Nausicaa of the Valley of the wind, we enter a post-apocalyptic world where the last few remaining humans struggle for survival. Nausicaa is a young girl trying to bring peace to a post-apocalyptic world overrun with giant insects. Many Ghibli protagonists are young, spontaneous girls with a special knack for connecting with the natural world. Princess Mononoke is another favorite film. Like Snow White, princess San has their own woodland companions, Giant, ancient spirit wolves. The world of Princess Mononoke is filled with unique and sometimes grotesque imagery, but it's balanced with the wide-eyed innocence of the story's main characters. It's a different approach to character appeal but just as effective. Like Disney, Ghibli understands the importance of staging when trying to tell a good story. We can understand a lot of the character of San, by the way this scene is staged. She's young and needs to be assisted by her adopted mother, a wolf goddess. She's led down a narrow path surrounded by demons, the environment sets the tone and without a word of plot, we're establishing the stakes of San's journey. The environment of Princess Mononoke is more of realistic and often violent, but not in an evil way, but in the way nature can sometimes seem to humans. As the story of Princess Mononoke progresses, we learn more and more about the monstrous creatures that inhabit it's world. We see their sadness and their anger. We see their fear of death and acceptance of life. The hero's journey in these stories is not to conquer what seems evil, but to learn to empathize with it. Many of Studio Ghibli's films look at the timeless struggle between the spirit of nature and the demands of civilization. But My Neighbor Totoro explores a more grounded side of Studio Ghibli's storytelling. The story takes place in an isolated countryside centered around a single house. The location is filled with amazing detail and feels very real and familiar. We meet Satsuki and Mei, two sisters living with their father. They try to keep busy as they wait for news of their hospitalized mother. The girls explore their small world with the familiar enthusiasm of childhood. Just as concern for their sick mother begins to weigh them down, they meet the fantastic Totoros. But these magic creatures don't sweep the girls into an epic adventure. My Neighbor Totoro, is about learning to face things beyond our control and how imagination helps us deal with realities, mysterious bigness. The characters in My Neighbor Totoro show us that our imaginations can guide us through very real experiences. 16. A Few Thoughts: There's so much more to say about narrative art.The ways we use it to examine the human experience, the every day characters, the legendary characters, the way we see ourselves, and the way we want to be remembered, for better or for worse. These characters may spring from our imaginations, but they end up being part of the very real story of human experience. The working principles we've looked at are just the tip of the iceberg. But for now, I'm going to wrap up this part of the class with a quote from art historian, Dr. Charles Aldridge. ''Some of the stories told in paint are rather straightforward, easily read by most viewers; simple pictures. Others convey content through more obscure symbols using details famed with personal, often cryptic meaning. Complex images that perhaps reflect the complex circumstances of their creation. But all suggest a basic and enduring fascination with the story well told and a tail well painted.'' 17. Class Project: Concept: Let's start the class section of this course with a look at the final piece I created. I call this Gill and the Trident. I didn't come to this part of the course with any preconceived notion of what I was going to create. All I knew was, I was going to use Gill, or mascot for the course in some fantasy context. I knew it would be really cartoony and try to embrace all the ideas and principles we covered over the course of the lecture. I'm going to rewind to the beginning of my creative process and look at the four main sections, composition and planning, sketching, inking, and color. I'll talk a little bit about the technical side of the software I use. But for me and my course, the main takeaway is no matter what tools you use, take your work seriously and be prepared to spend the time with the project, and let it reveal itself to you. That really just takes time, creative processes isn't a straightforward journey. Sometimes it loops back around on itself, or you hit a dead end. You need to be prepared for that, if you want to create something with real narrative depths, you're not going to get there on the first try. I'm leaving in all my little sidetracks and the little roots I take that eventually led me to this, which is something that is cooler than I thought it was going to be. Let's rewind back to the beginning of the project and start with my composition planning. These are the things I think about when I'm drawing in the order of importance. I'm not writing them down. When I'm doing this, I'm writing them down for you right now. For me, the most crucial part of a drawing is the concept behind it, the story point. In this case, the conflicts of the main character, Gill. We want to create a moment of intense action, even if it's not a action-packed moment, we want a moment of high drama. In this case, the concept I'm going to deal with is the responsibility of power. When I sat down to decide what context I was going to put Gill in, the image of young King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone popped into my head, so that's going to be my jumping off point. For me, the theme of that image is responsibility of power. The second most important part of my composition is the emotional energy. What does Gill feel? What does the image feel like? Fear is going to be an aspect of this. Then also a little bit of child-like curiosity. For me, that's always an element that's in everything I do. I don't want to take anything I do too seriously. I feel like there needs to be a balance of lightheartedness, and curiosity often evokes a bit of that. It's a fearful image, but fearful and a kid friendly way. Then I'm going to start to really consider the overall appeal of the composition, not necessarily the appeal of the main character, but the form of the whole drawing. What draws you in to the image? What are the dramatic angles or intriguing forms of the composition? Then I consider the way of the character. How does the character fit and exist in this space? That usually takes me the longest, because I have to position my character before I can really get a sense of how the Physics affect them. Then I'm going to consider the point of view of the audience. What's the best way to show this story point? Sometimes that means I go back to those four steps and reconsider all of them and start the drawing over, or it might just be quick tweak, or a bit of stretch of a sketch. Step five can go a lot of different directions. After that, once the whole image is in place, I consider the rules of the environment. This means aspects of wind, or light, or weather conditions, the temperature of the scene, the types of landscape, the characters are in. These would be more of the special effects of the drawing. But for me it needs to function as a black and white image or just in its state of final line work before I really get into the effects. Especially when you're working digitally, there's so much opportunity to play with that stuff. But you really need to make sure you've got a strong composition and story bit before you get to these flashy environmental aspects. This is a quick little narrative I created to inspire my image. I might not follow it bit for bit, but it's going to tell me a little bit about the image I'm going to create. I'm often working from a script, even if it's a real loose outline of a story I need text to inspire an image. It helps me get in the right mindset for the composition, especially something like this where I'm only drawing the character once. I don't have a whole lot of time to explore them visually. I'm going to write a quick little narration about Gill, inspired by the Arthurian legend and the pulling of Excalibur from the stone. My little narration goes like this, "When young Gill pulled the legendary trident from the cursed reef, he felt the strength of all the Sea Lords run through him, he knew they would be watching him on his journey." I've got a lot of great elements to work with here. I'm switching Excalibur for a trident, because Gill is more of a Merman type a character. I've got the cursed reef instead of the stone, because we're underwater again. Instead of the legacy of this mythical sword, I'm giving it more of a Lord of the Rings Middle-earth history as if there has been a history of Sea Kings that have owned this trident and now it's time for Gill to take up the mantle. I'm going to actually start drawing, so it's thumbnail time. Just some quick little sketches to give me a sense of where the composition's going to go. The best thing about a thumbnail is, you can draw a million of them without burning too much creative energy. Let's start with the iconic image, just to get it out of my brain, of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, the image straight from the Disney adaptation of the story. For me, that image is very clear, reads very well, but just as a stagnant illustration out of the context of the animation, it's very bland and straightforward, but it's a great jumping off point. What if we just tilt our camera a little bit and make Gill more dynamic. Now he's really working at that trident, he's in a different story moment, he's now mid pull. I like this a little better, but it's not really telling me much about the world. We get a sense of the reef and the trident and Gill, but the whole legacy of the Sea Lords isn't really coming in. This angle of the story just doesn't really work for me yet. Now that we know our main basic staging, let's try to get closer to it. I'm going to keep the same tilt of the camera, but now I'm working in this one-point perspective up to the far left top corner of the screen. We're following the stem or handle of the trident up. This is more dynamic, but I don't like the angle of Gill's body, he's like split right down the middle, he looks a little cross-eyed. That's got some energy, but the character does not look cool, this doesn't work. Let's see if we can figure out this Sea Lords. If you go back through a lot of my work, I do love this angle, the back over the shoulder look. I don't know why, that's just something that's come up in my storytelling a lot. I'm imagining a bit further in the story. Now that Gill has pulled the trident from the stone, he evokes the legacy of the trident, and the Sea Lords are swirling around him. I like this idea, it gives me a lot more room to work with, and gets me excited about that environmental element of the story. I can do some fun things with the fantastic ghostly trail of the Sea Lord swirling around, I like that. Let's do another round of thumbnails, inspired by that fourth one. 18. Class Project: Sketch pt. 1: Okay. Keeping the over the shoulder, look, let's build in some more staging details. We need this reef to fill out a little bit. So Gil is standing at the top of a rock outcropping and you can see where exactly he's pulled the trident from the reef. Before I go any further, let me break down my object hierarchy. This is something that's also running through my head when I work and especially if you're trying to tell a story with your image, think of what's important and when and where you're revealing the information in the story. What do I mean by that? Okay, here's the new narrative of this image. I want the viewer to be introduced to the sea lord. This kind of sets up the mystery. We've got this strange, fantastic character swirling around the top of the screen. Then our hierarchy connects to Gill. So we see the connection between the two characters. Then we look deeper into the image, down into Gill's hands. We see the trident, then we see the reef where he's standing, the setting and then behind that, deep and vast unknowable ocean. That's the story of this image as told by the hierarchy of the objects. Now I'm going to do another thumbnail, a little cleaner this time and try to figure out the body language of Gill and how I'm telling this exact story. Something I got to really consider is the angle of Gill's arms he's not confident, right? I said he's curious, which implies it is a younger character. He's new to this world, he's just acquire this object and maybe he's hanging onto it for dear life like it's her, life raft. I'm going to do a couple little sketches here to try to get the angle of the shoulder as I want it, but also that tight grip on the trident. I could try turning the head the other direction away from the camera. But as a rule of thumb, I don't like to do that it separates the viewer from the scene because now the character's less engaged. It's like when an actor in a play turns away from the audience, you lose a bit of your connection. I'm going to move away from that. Let's get back to Gill looking at us and put the trident maybe a bit more up behind his head. Because otherwise I lose that little space above his leg where I put part of the reef where he pulls the trident from, to me that's an important part of this story. Now here's a version of Gill looking in a little more intimidated. I want a high angle like we're seeing more from the point of view of the sea lord and my object hierarchy, that's the character we want to meet first. If we're looking down on this character, I think it's going to put the sea lord in a more prominent part of the, the image. Here's a little trick I do with my digital illustration, I use the transform tool to skew the image to usually a single vanishing point so at this point I've stretched the top and pulled the bottom and that's a quick cheat that I use to get a bit more dynamic energy in the image. It's really subtly pulling us down the drain of the drawing. This is a tough angle to draw from, but I'm going to try to work through it. I'm having a lot of trouble getting the legs right. I don't mean right as in the right angle for the camera, but just looking appealing, I want them to be stretch, I don't usually put my characters with their legs together. Usually they're made movement, they're shifting their weight. If I get a better sense of the overall just geometry of this three-dimensional space, it might help me. I'm going to draw this open cube over the composition and see if it gives me a better angle on Gill. Now I've really stretched the trident, which at the end of it, it's not going to be that drastic of an angle, but it helps me get where I want to go. Let's try Gill kneeling down. This looks too formal. I don't think this is going to work, but let me just take a minute here and work out the trident and the reef he's standing on. I'm liking this angle a lot, I'm considering putting a bunch of coral growing up almost almost fire surrounding like he's sitting on a funeral pyre. Not sure what I'm going to do with the sea king yet. Let's just do a generic ghost with the crown. I like this composition, but I need to put Gill back on his feet. I'm going to sketch over top of these thumbnails. You see at this point, I'm using my older thumbnails as a reference, keeping what I like and then drawing a new version of the parts that I want to change. I have to position his legs in a way that it really feels like Gill is standing on something. All right, it's really time to stop playing around with all these little details. I think I'm happy with this let me just get Gill positioned on this platform. I think the reef should have a bit of a dramatic field to it, like it's twisting down. Maybe he's walked up a staircase or something, he's at the real pinnacle of this mount. I don't want it to feel like he's standing on the flat ground and this will be a good opportunity later to draw some real dark space below his platform and surrounding it. Notice the way everything's bursting out, those lines. I don't know what they'll be exactly yet, but really at this point they're just implying the energy of the drawing. It'll be cool to make the sea ghost here moving through those spirals. I don't know how I'm going to do that exactly yet. But every sketch I do makes the story a little deeper and gives the viewers something more to look at. You can follow the main narrative, but you can also engage with other aspects of the setting. 19. Class Project: Sketch pt. 2: This is now going to be my final sketch. I'm going to slow it down and I'm going to really try to work out the look of this rock formation. I know that I want to show the viewer where the trident was pulled from because we've moved past that moment in the story. It's important, but it's a thing we've seen enough. The sword from this stone pole, this is the moment after. Creatively, it just seems like a more challenging, interesting space to work in. There's the little top of the mound, I've got three little holes where the trident was pulled from. I'm going to do a little bit of texture work. If you're drawing feels a little flat, you can always use more line work to enforce the angle of something. These little stripes that are put around the block, they help the viewer understand the angle, and the shape, and the form of the drawing. Without doing too much shadow work, these extra lines just enforce the form. This is a tricky angle, but I think I can show a little bit of the spiral staircase that Gil walked up to reach this platform. Now let's start drawing Gil. I'm not going to put him in the little '70s track shorts that he's wearing, in the class lecture chapters, I'm going to put them in a more monk-like robe, something that can get caught up in the swirl of the sea lord. If I put him in a robe, then I can show the bottom of the robe being pulled along by the water current and it's fun to draw hoods. Now he's got a little hood. The reason I like drawing hoods is because I'm bad at figuring out the back angle of the neck, this is a good way to hide that. I'm pulling his shoulder up a little bit, I don't think we need to really see his mouth, enough of his emotion is captured in his eyes. His shoulder is blocking the mouth, which is fine and I've staged the hands so you can see the way he's holding the trident. He's holding it really close, he's hugging it. He's not a trained warrior and I got to make sure I get the length of the trident right, the way it cuts down in front of his body, and then we see it's stamped into the stone below him. This is probably the most crucial line in the whole image. It's the balance line of the whole composition that everything else is moving around, that central spear point of the trident. I need to make sure that that's right. I'll build out the side points, not sure of the technical name for those things. That's just a fork, I guess, a fancy fork. I'm going to refine some of this line work. I don't want to overdo it. Sometimes you get caught up in these fun early stages when you don't really have to commit to any final work. Let me just explore the surrounding elements a little before I move on into the sea king. I don't know what they are, they're not coral, they're some undersea organism. Again, what's important is their role in the composition. If they're not serving a purpose, I'm just going to take them out. If they're not there, you're not going to miss them. But again, I would like to create something for the sea lord to interact with, as he twists up and around the rock formation. Let's just sketch in some of these things. I do want something in the foreground, it just adds more depth and flavor to the scene. Gil is overwhelmed by this situation, he's hopping in in the midst of a story. He's not the first sea lord, he probably won't be the last so I'm going to bury him in the scene just a little bit. I'm adding some little twists into the sea kings form, to show that he is more of a tube like a living water current. Let's turn his head the other direction. I feel like he should be more eel or snake-like. Maybe he's actually a king, we'll try this mustache and beard look, that could work. Let's give him an arm, why not and maybe I'll have long scraggly hair flowing out the back of him. Now it's time to start inking, I think I've got enough of a sketch here. I don't want my line work to feel too restricted by the sketch, I want to be able to move with the flow a little. 20. Class Project: Ink pt. 1: I'm going to start with the face of Gill, one of the more important aspects of the narrative. I usually do the eyes first because if you get lost in your image sometimes you forget exactly what the eyes are doing and the eyes tell the most important part of the story, they tell us what the character is engaging with. So Gill is looking directly at the Sea Lord. Once I establish the eyes that can help me further refine the positioning of the Sea Lord. I need his cloak to flow with that squash and stretch, I can reference Goofy. Like the rolled-up sleeves have Goofy, they're always saggy, they're always lagging behind and showing his movement in a Goofy cartoon. I'm going to use those shapes. They show you where the arms have been. This looks like Gill has grabbed the tried and pulled it close and his leaning back a bit and the sleeve is trying to catch up with the position of his body. I'm not adding too much detail, that'll come in when I do my environmental elements, I just need to get the crucial lines that define the objects. So I'm not doing too much with the wrinkles in the robe, just a couple of key lines to show where the robe connects and meets the body and where it flows away. I like this idea of the robe pushing between his legs, it gives it a bit more of a dynamic energy. So his legs are really far set and the robe is pulled between them a little and also flowing around the outer side. I'm going to move into the rock formation which needs to have its own personality. It's really craggy. I don't want it to feel like Gill, it's going to have a bit more of a rough edge to it, whereas Gill is very soft and curvy, it's like a soft serve ice cream and this is the cone of the ice cream. I'm showing the three holes of where the trident was pulled from and then I want to enforce that we're in a dangerous location, we're high up on this rocky pillar, there's a coral forms growing along the side of it and in the foreground here is some strange organic tenacly thing, not sure what I'm going to do with that yet. It's just a way to give the image more depths for right now. If you remembered my final composition, the object I use here doesn't quite look like this and this is about the moment when I realized that I don't like this shape, it's got too much of the curve of Gill's head, it's taking attention away from Gill, which is not good for the story. The story is not about a weird, mysterious tenacle, it's about Gill and his trident and its relationship with the Sea Lord. Just push through the drawing of this shape, knowing that we're going to erase it later. I love spiral stairs, but they're so tricky to draw. Now I'm going to get into the background coral I have just this little bit of form deep in the background, all I know is that I don't want that space completely empty. I want a bit more of environmental information. So this is going to track with the shape and form of the stairs, it's going to reach up and have its own character but it's just a way to make the stairs stand out from the background. That's the completed for now inking of Gill on his rock formation. Let's try to figure out the seeking. He's a specter. So I'm going to be pretty loose with the drawing right off the bat I know that I'm not into this king face. I'm going to make it a bit more of a monster, something a little scarier. I come from a background of inking with a calligraphy pen and one of the rules of a calligraphy pen is to create your line in one single motion if possible. So you can see me reworking this curve over and over again, I can't stagger it, it's going to lose the flow. This is an important curve of the image, this form of the swirling seeking body needs to feel right. So the line I'm doing is very crucial and if I don't get it right, I'll just redraw the whole thing, but I'm not going to sketch part of it and then come back to it, it'll feel choppy. I'm pretty happy with that angle. I've deleted that tenacly creature in the foreground and I'm going to try to create something a little bit more rigid and coral like something that stands apart from Gill but it also gives us an interesting foreground element if something for the Sea Lord to interact with. You can see a little of my Looney Tunes influence. This shape reminds me of the cactuses and formations that Southwest vibe of Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. I've to stage this in a particular way where the seeking flows right through this little loop, that seems like a fun little visual element to add. Because this is in the foreground, I'm going to add a little bit more detail, I'm going to put some rings around it to enforce the roundness, I can't overdraw this element because it'll take away from Gill. One of the principals, the Disney animators and artists would use something that's mentioned in the illusion of life that I don't think I talked about in the lecture was the dryness usually densest at its most interesting point, like if two characters are face to face, the details of the faces are both scrunched and close to each other. As you move away from that central point, the drawing should thin out, there should be less details in the clothing or the hair surrounding environment, so we're focused on the face. I almost go the opposite approach, sometimes my settings have a lot more detail and the faces are stripped down. A lot of cartoonists do that, if you've ever seen Tintin. Tintin has a very blank simple face that makes him relatable and a certain type of way because he's just a blank avatar and then his settings in the world building of his stories is very rich, which works for those narratives because they're about world travels. So we want to understand the places this character is going, but the character themselves is shallow. Like I don't know a lot about Gill, I've spent more time thinking about the world that he's in. I don't know, you made a lot of protagonists in stories that way. The Hero isn't always the most interesting character of your story. 21. Class Project: Ink pt. 2: My Sea King doesn't look very king-like yet. We'll get to the crown later, but I need to figure out the curves of his body. I got to keep the flow of the image going. So when I draw these fingers, they can't be too rigid. They can't feel like they have bones in them. They have to feel more tube-like. Now it's time to work out this crown. I'm going to start with a quick sketch and just some really basic geometries, spiky spires. When you're drawing a crown, you have to figure out the angle you are drawing it at. You don't want to draw too many points because it makes the drawing too visually complicated. Just draw a few. In this case, I'm using five, and put them in the right spots. I want the crown to feel like it's stuck to this character's head like it's a bit more of a burden. So that's a little bit more narrative for the Sea Lord. I want to add a little bit of roundness to the face and a little more of an animalistic nature. I'm going to give them a tongue and a little beard shape here. I'm not sure what I'm doing with those eyebrows yet exactly. We'll get to that later. A little bit of a shape of the trident in the crown just to connect it visually to what Gill's doing in the foreground and the mid ground. When I ink this, I need to think about what purpose my lines are serving. I want to add an ugliness to this character. He's got some wrinkles around his sunken eyes. He's got this scraggly little beard thing. His tongue is worm-like. He's ancient, So that's the role of the eyebrows here. They feel like big-old-man eyebrows. I'm going to draw some wrinkles to show where the crown sinks into the head. The crown is almost made of the same type of material as the rock ledge to give it a heavier feel that's craggy and broken and old. I've completed my line work. Let's just take a look at this for a second here. Now I'm going to move on to coloring. 22. Class Project: Color pt. 1: I'm going to build my color palette from real-world references. Let me look at my Pinterest page of coral to build a quick color palette. I'm going to pick some bright vibrant colors that come from the coral and then some colors of rock formations. I'm not going to use all these, but it just will give me a jumping off point. I think a lot of us defaulted darker, more realistic colors to just be literal so people don't get confused with what we're inking. But if you build a restrictive palate that's just appealing on its own, and then figure out how it can fit in your drawing, you're usually going to be better off, your image will just be more engaging as a piece of art. I'm also going to sketch what's called a tonal plane. It's just a breakdown of the layers of the image in terms of light to dark. My notes here are Gil needs to pop, the coral needs to pop. The spirity sea lord is going to be a mid shade. He's like a highlight in the image. Those are the main forms and the background is just empty space, which could be light or dark. I could invert this design. This reminds me of my object hierarchy a little bit. I start with just a base set of colors. I'm just basically using the Paint Bucket tool and filling in the forms. A lot of my coloring is reactive to what I've done before. I know Gil's green and because he's connected to the sea lords, the sea lord's is also going to be a shade of green, and that also means the crown needs to be more of a complimentary color. On the other side of the color wheel from green is more of a reddish orange. That makes the crown pop a little bit. I don't want my palette to be too varied. I'm making a bit of a restriction. I might use some purples for highlights or things like that but I'm keeping it to warmer tones on the living objects and then using just a deep cool gray in the rock formation. 23. Class Project: Color pt. 2: Let me show you my workspace a little bit. On the left, this will show you the brush types I'm using. They're not really anything special. There are just types of pencils and later a little bit of air brush. Nothing too fancy, there are things you'd have if have any drawing program. On the right, you can see my layers and my color wheel at work, and I'll try to remark on the way I'm using my layers. It's a big part of how I color, texture and environment stuff. I'm starting with a pencil and I've set my layer to color burn, and you can see the little pink bar that shows up along the left side of the layer in the layer tab. That just means the layer is responding to the main layer right below it. Layer 18 is the layer that the color is on, and layers 28, 26, and 27 are engaging only with that layer. When I add these textures, it doesn't color outside of the color space of layer 18. I switch between the different layer styles; multiply, color burn are ones that I use for shadow. My shadows are often based in purple, or they're based in a slightly darker value of the base color. Right now I'm adding shadow to the coral in the background. I don't want that shape to be too dynamic, so just a brownish shadow works. I don't want to draw the attention within a analogous color, they're too much visual complexity. I also don't want a lot of hard edges in my shadow. Contrast draws the eye and I want to keep the contrast more in the foreground elements. So the coral on the background needs to be a little out of focus. I'm going to save contrast for gill and the seeking, and then to add some texture to the rock, I want the top of the rock to stand out, so I'm going to lighten that space a bit, and I also want to just warm it up a little bit. It doesn't feel organic enough, if it's just a plain shades of gray, that's too boring. Most rocks aren't really a flat gray. This rock needs a bit of character. I'm going to add some shadow to gill. The shadow for now is going to be a little more dynamic. I want to make sure its face stands out, and later I'll figure out where the light is emitting from in this drawing more specifically. But right now, I just sort of alternate spaces. The space between gills, legs is dark, so this other section to the right of it is light, and then back to dark again. I want to emphasize the forms of his body. So by putting a shadow on the lower edge of something, it makes the form just pop a little bit more. Anything that overlaps gets a bit of a shadow running up from it. The top of his head is going to be the lightest part of his body, but anything below that really is cast in a little bit of shadow. Odds are the light is emitting from above in this image. Now I'm going to add a layer of airbrushed highlight. I've got some textures, I've got some hard to edge shadows, and I'm just using the air brush to soften those transitions. So everything below gills face is cast in a bit of shadow. Let me brighten up the trident a little so it stands out as a prominent object. Now let's get to the fun part, figuring out the textures and the tone of the sea king's body. I'm going to use my fast sketch pencil, which I was using earlier for shadow, but I'm going to make it really big. So it almost becomes kind of an airbrushed tool, and I'm applying that to that base color of the sea king, trying to give him a bit of roundness. I don't want to do anymore line work on him because I want him to feel a little supernatural. I also need the lighting to tell the story of his movement. He is emerging from the background so that needs to be darker, and then his face is the brightest point. So I'm going to keep that the lightest. So he has a gradient going from the background to the foreground. I want him to be a little illuminated, so I'm going to add a layer behind the color. It's not an air brush because an air brush just too soft, I'm using this pencil, dust shader. I guess it would be the equivalent of taking a pencil, a dope pencil and drawing on the side of it, and that gives a kind of a fuzzy edge. Then I'm going to go back in and sketch with a really tiny sharp pencil. Some little noise like almost static electricity emitting from the sea lord. Now let's move into the face and make him look a little more menacing. I'm going to add kind of a gritty texture to the eyes and the mouth. There's a glow coming out of the center of the mouth and from the eyes. Maybe he has just a central point of energy there, somewhere in the back of his throat that's bursting out through his face holes. The point where the trident overlaps with the sea lord's head, that's an important part of the image that I'm not sure if I'm dealing with in the best way, but I guess it's a great way. I should maybe have made the trident fully visible, but actually because it's overlapped, I can show the opacity of the sea lord. You can kind of see through him a little bit, because there's no other objects in the water. You don't get that sense anywhere else. So we can use this little opportunity to create a supernatural feel. Now I'm going to up the contrast a little bit, make the depths of the ocean a little darker. So we lose the origins of the sea lord's tail and the stairs disappear down into nothing. The bottom of the image is super dark. It also helps the color pop out in the foreground there a little bit. Now, just like in the sword in the stone image, I want to make a magical illuminating light radiating from the trident. That's just one of those tropes of visual storytelling. The light emitting from this sacred object. I could use yellow, but I'm going to use a shade of green, and it's also going to push the dynamics of this image. It's bursting up out of the trident through the head of the sea lord, which helps guide the image just a little bit. For the last part, I'm going to come back into gill, and he just needs a little bit of texture, he's a little brand. I'm going to I use the dusty pencil to add some text stylish fabric, and I'm just going to height in these highlights a little bit, make him seem a little more magical, even out the sea lord's glow just a bit, dark in the foreground, so we don't have that hard edge of the coral. There we go. This is gill and the trident. I hope I deconstructed some of the magic it takes to get to this stage. Remember, that composition stage is crucial. About a quarter of my time spent working on this was just sitting there thinking about what this image was going to be and indulging all those little details, hoping that they might play a role in the story. Let's wrap it up. 24. Wrap It Up: It feels good to finish something, doesn't it? But don't go away yet. Let me just tell you about a couple of things. If you liked drawing imaginary characters, you might enjoy my other classes. I have one on concept art, drawing imaginary worlds, a creative illustration class focusing on sea monster design, and creating rich creatures. Illustration by design is a pretty unique class. I look at the Art Nouveau movement and how visual artists were embracing graphic design skills. I made this class as a way to help illustrators think more about their composition and design skills. I've got some basic cartooning classes. One that focuses on faces and expressions, another that deals with bodies and poses and a class I call Ink and Illustration, an overview of some of my favorite children's book illustrators and how they influence my style. I love when people have nice things to say about my class, but the biggest compliment you can give me is to create some work and share it in the class project section. I love to see how what I've made inspires what you made. Make sure you're following my Skillshare channel. I'm doing this thing called Class Pairings, where I send out basically a newsletter where I talk about some work of my own, and artists and illustrators in creative projects that are inspiring me. Last but not least, I have a website where you can read a bunch of my books for free. I've got a sci-fi thriller called The Exploit, a pirate sea monster adventure story called the Aquarium Drift, a creepy supernatural tail called Witch Knots, and all other things I hope you might enjoy. Thanks for sticking around and I'll see you next time.