Amy Neebling

graphic designer & nonprofit specialist

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The Playthings :: tiny poltergeists

Babysitting makes you wonder how kids are always able to find trouble. Almost guaranteed to be in the last place you'd expect, too! Dealing with such precision accidents and unholy amounts of mischief during my side job, I ended up wondering if the adorable troublemakers didn't have some outside help.

Help from, perhaps... a little poltergeist?

All of the planning for the Playthings was done in my sketchbook, which I had a lot of trouble trying to scan from (and ended up with no luck). So we'll get right to the digital drawing!

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First Go: I knew I wanted the Playthings to be sneaky, so the first pose that came to mind was an arched crawl. Pintrest pulled up, I found a reference pose I liked, and got to work. 

This stage is mostly about drawing the force of the pose rather than the shapes. Loose anatomy can be seen with the arm and leg gestures, but that wasn't my focus. I always do this before I start any drawing to make sure I don't flatten out the motion (something I'm very prone to doing). Nothing quirky, and no character-building yet!

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Second Go: This is where I added the shape skeleton that I drafted in my sketchbook! The Playthings are primarily (stretched) triangles with some circles. Triangles have the dangerous playfulness that I wanted my little guys to convey, and the circles would act as appeal for their targets: young children. 

The force lines are underlayed in blue, so you can see how the force affected where I placed the shapes. I wanted to keep the anatomy humanoid, while retaining a creepy disconnect; that's why I chose the odd neck-to-head position, and a break between the torso and hips. The goal was to make it just a bit unsettling. Got the basic idea down!

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Third Go: I connect the shapes into a lazy complete form to give myself an idea of how the final product will look. It was hard to visualize from just the shapes! Here, I add the angler fish-esque ball light that the Playthings use to catch little kids' attention. The little poltergeists are only an inch and a half tall, so they have to pull all the lights and sirens! 

This is also the stage that I begin thinking about color. I rarely use black lines to make my line art because I prefer brown (less contrast, more saturation), so I needed to decide on the shade before I made my final lines. I chose two candy-inspired color palettes that I found online, then matched them up to some line colors I wanted for the project. The right one worked the best, so I found a matching brown. Ready to get the actual lines and clothing in!

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Fourth Go: Here I added in all the details that I'd laid out in my sketchbook beforehand. I was still waiting for inspiration on the finished face shape, but I got everything else taken care of. Making some adjustments, I re-positioned the arms and give more shape to the angler hook. I also thinned the body to an extreme between the upper torso and the hips in order to retain the triangular inspiration.

The Playthings manifest 'hand' and 'foot' forms for appearance's sake. They want to appear 'normal' to the children, but they're a bit lazy, and exert the smallest effort possible. Floating forms are close enough to do the trick, so I fitted them with ghostly unconnected fingers, feet, and toes.

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Last Go: Finally, I added in my colors and some small details to give the Playthings more character. Loud, bright colors are the attention-grabbers of choice. I decided on a face shape, inspired partially by my pet mice. Deciding against shading for time reasons, I added a drop shadow to give the drawing a children's book/sticker appearance.  

Usually, this is where I would add another step to clean up the errors I made, add more details, and really bring the character to life. Time got the better of me, though, and I was pushing too far past the 30 minute mark. But for a quick design, I think it turned out alright!

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Extra: The drop shadow as a silhouette of the figure!  

And that's my project! I had so, so much fun doing this, and I loved the class! Got a fun little scapegoat to blame when the kids find the one toy I didn't want them playing with. Again! Hope you enjoyed, and I can't wait to see everyone else's concepts! Have a super lovely, (hopefully) poltergeist-free day~

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