The Practical Bit …
Okay, picking up from the last post, once you have taken ownership of the story, inhabited the characters fully and approached your work armoured in integrity and honesty, (whatever that means!) there are a number of very practical tools in the illustrator's paint box that can help you tell the visual story you want to tell and invest its characters with, well, character.
1. Character Sketches
Whenever I begin a story, I always spend a little time doing some character sketches for the main characters. As I work fairly impetuously, often those characters come out whole cloth. Others I work through a bit more until I've got what I want.
This is a very important process and you should spend as much time as it takes at the beginning to make sure that you are comfortable with your characters. Be sure to know them in a number of different guises - surprised, angry, sad. Even in attitudes that aren't necessarily going to be used in the story, as this will help you to more fully inhabit the character and make it three dimensional (character-wise) when it comes to working on pages.
|These are my character sketches for Pedro, a panther that befriends (sort of) our two heroes in Hometown Otto. You can see how I'm working my way through this character, ditching the first couple of head sketches and getting more of a feel for him on the third try. About this time I think I actually went and took a look at what a panther looks like, flattening the forehead and raising the snout higher on the face in sketch four. I try Pedro out in a variety of expressions, trying to capture the friendly yet self-serving and somewhat shifty character that he is (and as are all cats!) You can double click on these images if you want to see them larger.|
|These are some character sketches I did for Snake (an evil - or at least not so good - carny). Again, you can see me working through the character, eventually returning to something closer to where I had begun. When my editor read my manuscript for Hometown Otto she thought Snake really was a snake so that was a good point of departure for this character. I made him long and sinewy, with snake skin boots and snake tattoos. The tattoos became simplified as I developed him, realizing early on that I didn't want to have to draw anything that elaborate over a multitude of pages!|
I'm not shy, as an illustrator, about reaching for archetypes when I'm creating characters. A case in point would be the other day when I was sketching up some ideas for a small town sheriff for Hometown Otto. My small town sheriff archetype would have to be Rod Steiger from “In the Heat of the Night” and as I already was working with a bit of a spoof on the movie anyway, I went to Google's Image Search and pulled up a few pictures of Rod Steiger. These then shaped the basis for my character sketches.
|Not shy of reaching for archetypes, when I needed a southern U.S. small town sheriff, Rod Steiger from The Heat of the Night, came to mind.|