Schoolism.com: Jeckyll and Hyde Part 2

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As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been taking a character design class online from Stephen Silver at Schoolism.com. Part 2 of this week’s assignment was to continue exploring possible designs for the story of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

This was a crazy busy week for me deadline-wise. I burned a lot of midnight oil, and having a storm knock out our power for a day did not help. So I didn’t get a chance to sketch these until late at night on the day they were due. I’m not happy with them, but I still want to post all my work for this class if for no other reason than to keep myself accountable and make sure I’m doing the best job I can with the limited time I have.

Hand-y Drawing Exercise

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking a character design class online from Stephen Silver at Schoolism.com. This week’s assignment was another two-parter. Part 1 was to sketch a page of hands.

Next to the face, the hands are the most expressive part of the body, and therefore one of the most important features in any drawing. Its easy to get lazy with the hands, because they can be so stinkin’ hard to draw. I think there are two reasons so many artists struggle:

1. Hands are incredibly complex. I think there’s something like 27 bones in the hand and 15 joints, not to mention all the little muscles, tendons, etc.

2. Hands are always moving, and they can move a zillion different ways. There is no “standard” hand pose.

Stephen spent a significant portion of his video lecture analyzing the hand and pointing out how to break it down into manageable parts to make it easier to draw. Then he told us to go draw a page of hands, using either our own hands or photos for reference. I did my sketches from this book.

This was a great exercise and I highly recommend it. It made me realize how lazy I’ve been getting with hands in my own drawings.

Tomorrow: Part 2 of the assignment.

Stormy Weather

Yesterday in the wee hours of the morning a nasty storm ripped through our neighborhood. My neighbor on the left had a tree fall into her back yard, my neighbor kitty corner from me also had a tree knocked over, and the neighbor on my right had a giant branch take out his telephone and TV cable lines before smashing into his fence. Another branch fell into the power lines, caught fire, and then the line snapped.

Fortunately I dodged the bullet. I had one branch down in my front yard, and in my back yard my gas grill was blown ten feet across the yard and then knocked over by the wind, snapping the handle off. Considering the gas tank was nearly full, that gives you an idea of how strong the wind was.

I’ve been swamped with projects lately, so I was up working on a deadline at 2am when the storm knocked out our power (our second power outage in two weeks). It would really mess things up for my client if I turned the project in late, so I had to pack up my computer and Cintiq and drive over to my mother-in-law’s house across town to keep working. The power is back on now and I’ll be heading back home later today.

All that to say…I’m behind on my blog posting. I usually write posts ahead of time when possible and then schedule them to publish one a day. I’ll have new content tomorrow, something actually worth reading, but for now I invite you to visit some of the excellent links listed over on the right side of this page (“Art Blogs”, “Fun Stuff”, and “Podcasts”).

Free Self-Promotion Calendar

Self-promotion is an essential task for any freelancer…and the need for it never ends. The other day I was reading an interview with the very talented Peter de Seve, a top-tier illustrator. Even with his stellar career, he acknowledged that art directors will soon forget about you if you don’t remind them that you are still out there.

Unfortunately, many art schools don’t do a very good job of teaching their students about self-promotion. So a freelancer just starting out might feel lost, not sure what to do or how to go about it.

The established professional often has a different problem: Finding time to self-promote. The cycle looks like this: You advertise, clients start to hire you, you get busy (too busy to advertise), new clients stop hearing aobut you, work slows down or even dries up completely. And there’s no guarantee that the cycle will start up again.

Thanks to the folks at HOW magazine (an excellent magazine, by the way), now you can have a plan. They’ve just published a free 2008 Marketing Calendar. The calendar has two tracks, one for “Rookies” and one for “Veterans”, and tasks are broken into simple bite-sized chunks to keep things easy and manageable. Just download the calendar and tape it above your desk. Or, if you are more digital-saavy, you may want to enter tasks from the calendar into your computer (I use iCal) to help you stay on top of things.

Download the free 2008 Marketing Calendar here.

Airplanes Are Turning Into Subways

Advertising is everywhere. You can’t escape it…even at 30,000 feet.

According to the New York Times, airlines such as US Airways and AirTran are getting ready to plaster ads all over the interior of their planes. The overhead compartment doors, the tray tables, even the napkins are all for sale to any advertiser who wants to shove their message in front of your travel-weary eyeballs…and keep it there for the length of your flight.

After all, buses do it. Subways do it. I guess it was only a matter of time before the airlines got into the act.

I understand that many airlines are running low on cash, and advertising brings in the bucks. But this is too much. Flying is already a hassle, and slapping ads all over the interior of the plane will only make the experience even less enjoyable.

It would be nice to find a public place where you could turn your head and not get smacked with an advertisement. These days you can’t even go to the bathroom without staring at an ad. Even my daughter’s diapers are stamped with licensed characters. An airplane was one of the few places where I thought I could give my eyes a rest. America is running out of blank surfaces. What’s next? The Amaco logo painted directly on the freeway pavement?

Maybe its time to start an anti-ad campaign. Hmm….now how would I get the word out?

Schoolism.com: Jeckyll and Hyde

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As I mentioned yesterday, I’m taking a character design class from Stephen Silver at Schoolism.com. Our assignment for Lesson 3 had two parts. Yesterday I described part 1. Today is part 2.

Last week we were told to choose one of two stories (Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, or Oliver Twist), and start thinking about designs for the main characters. Our first step was to fill up at least one page with thumbnail silhouettes of possible designs, thinking about what we could say about the character with just the overall shape. Stephen then critiqued our thumbnails and told us which ones were the strongest. As the course progresses, we will continue to develop our character(s).

I chose Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Part 2 of this week’s assignment was to take our best silhouettes and develop an actual design for Stephen to critique. This is what I came up with. I’m fairly happy with how Mr. Hyde is coming along (the big guy on the right), but Dr. Jeckyll….not so much. I like the overall face shape, it’s a strong silhouette, and both characters look like they could be the same person. But Jeckyll’s face feels “tacked on” to a generic body. The silhouette of the body doesn’t really echo the shape of the head. Also, I wanted him to have an anxious look, as if he knows he must give in to his internal monster and drink the potion, even though part of him doesn’t want to. But I don’t think it was successful. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t communicate deep anxiety and angst. Instead, the pose just feels noodly and awkward. Maybe I’ll see it more clearly after a good night’s sleep.

It’s frustrating because these assignments are so much fun, I’d love to spend days on each one. But I’ve been swamped with freelance work lately, so I’m lucky if I can spend half a day noodling around. But I’m still learning a lot, and the good news is I can continue to do these exercises on my own even after the class is over. As long as I take what I learn and put it into practice with future projects, in the long run I know I’ll reap the reward of being a better character designer.

Schoolism.com: Portrait Study

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As I’ve written before, I’m taking a character design class from Stephen Silver on Schoolism.com. I just finished my assignment for Lesson 3, which was actually two parts. Here’s what I did for part 1 (part 2 will be posted tomorrow):

For part 1, we were given photos of four different men. First, we had to do a straight-forward sketch of the person, not really pushing the shapes or getting too cartoony. Just do a standard portrait. Then, after finishing the portrait sketch, immediately put it away and get rid of the photo. From memory, draw the person again using three different shapes: a circle, a square, and a triangle.

The goal was not to do a dead-on likeness and squeeze it into the shape, because that would be almost impossible. Rather, we were to take the features that defined that person (i.e. eyes wide apart, big chin, small pointy nose, whatever) and play with those features within the shapes to create three new characters.

There are several benefits to this exercise. First, it forces you to really focus and study while drawing the portrait, becuase you know you will have to do the rest by memory.

Second, it forces you to think about the placement of your facial features within each shape. You can say very different things about your character’s personality based on how high the forehead is, or how wide the nose is, for example. Keep in mind that every feature effects every other feature (for example, as the nose gets bigger the eyes, in contrast, should get smaller and pull closer together). Its amazing how much of a difference it makes to simply play with the size of the facial features and their relationship to one another.

Third, it forces you to simplify. When you know you will be drawing by memory, there’s no point in trying to memorize every little line and shape on the person’s face. Instead, you train yourself to study the overall essence of the person and figure out how the individual features interact to make that person who he is.

It was a really fun exercise and I was pretty amazed at the results. Not that these are my best designs ever, but I was surprised with how much variety I got out of the characters simply by starting with a different shape and then making a conscious effort to really think about how the different parts of the face interact. I encourage every aspiring character designer to try this exercise.