Character Development Design by Mary Begin
Begin states that it all starts with storytelling and discusses important aspects of a character, such as body shape and posture, facial expression, proportion, color, movement, backstory and archetypes. She begins by discussing some of her favorite characters including those from Willow Buds. As a fan of Hotel Transylvani, I especially liked her discussion of Carlos Grangel’s use of silhouette in his characters.
Next, she discusses how she starts with a basic description of her characters and their world. She explains Nick Kole’s process, which starts from a loose sketch, then more refined sketches and then color.
Begin moves on to discuss the tools she and other use. I was very interested to see that she uses layers of tracing paper, starting with a sketch of a skeleton on the bottom layer. This helps her maintain consistency and reality in her characters.
Begin states that she begins the development of her characters by considering the stereotypical personalities and behaviors of archetypes. Moving from archetypes, Begin also uses photographs of real people, such as her daughter and friends, to add realism to her characters. I really enjoyed the side-by-side examples of her friend’s photo and the resulting characters from Wind in the Willows.
Begin discusses how she develops gesture drawings of her characters by considering how she would animate them and how she develops her characters back story and their environment. She discusses how she used reference material, such as Pinterest and a mood board, to expand on her characters from My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea.
Next, Begin moves on to character construction and discusses the importance of a unique silhouette for each character to help define personality. She covers her use of turnarounds for defining the character costumes. From silhouettes, she moves on to the developement of a color palette for your character.
Finally, Begin explores the use of style, such as cartoon, realistic, funny and heroic, to develop your character’s personality and how to develop the supporting cast of sidekicks, villains and foils.
Mary Jane Begin is a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and an award-winning illustrator and author.
Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this article. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
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