Character Designs Finalized

After spending what has seemed like FOREVER trying to determine the amount and types of animals that I want to use in the book, I finally narrowed it down to a snake, a giraffe, a seal, a peacock, and a monkey. There are several reasons why I thought this would be the best combination of animals to use. First (and most obviously), since the main character is a tiger, having a variety of exotic animals makes much more sense than using common or domestic ones. Additionally, the physical characteristics of many of these animals are not commonly seen – especially in the cases of the giraffe’s neck and the peacock’s tail – and are therefor easy to highlight when discussing characteristic qualities, as their uniqueness draws attention to begin with.

As noted in my sketchbook, I love this giraffe.. a lot. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to pinpoint exactly why. I think, in terms of my creative development, the design was significant to me because it’s a pretty drastic turn from my usual more sort of dark and sketchy style. My rule for this was basically “oversimplification”.. two-dimensional, clean lines, rounded corners, loose joints. I think that having his neck look a bit like wet spaghetti is much more effective at drawing attention to its length than simply having a standard joint where his head would be attached.

The snake was the next animal I moved on to design after the giraffe was finished, because I could follow the same loose shape idea easily. Initially, I had a much more complex and elongated tail for him, going around in various loops and zig-zags, but I realized it needed some editing as it didn’t match with the style of the giraffe. So, I opted instead to keep the one loop, which I think maintains the effect I was going for (emphasizing his shape and length) in a fun way for kids, while keeping it simplified. In my early draft I had also played around with a number of different types of textures to produce the effect of scales, but they were all, again, too complex and busy, so I just decided to go for very large noticeable ones on highlighted areas instead.

The seal was pretty easy to keep to a simple shape, as there’s not much to them really other than being cute masses of blubber. Breaking away from the 2D rule I’d established with the giraffe, I decided to make the flipper from his opposite side visible, because the whole point of including this animal was to talk about his flippers.

The monkey was a little harder to draw. I knew I wanted his tail to be the focus, so I lengthened it considerably, which was no problem. However, I had a hard time trying to figure out how to keep the rest of his design simplified. I wanted to keep details to a minimum, which worked for the most part, but his limbs presented a problem. I tried very minimal sort of spaghetti limbs – no discernible joints or anything, just curves – but it just didn’t look like a monkey. I wonder if this is because of how similar they are to the human form? The hands and feet, also, obviously require toes, and leaving them out altogether just looked decidedly odd and unfinished. So with the final design here I’ve reached for of a compromise, I guess. Joints are there, but still rounded, and fingers and toes are drawn just enough to indicate that they exist. His overall silhouette, though, I am very happy with.

Peacock – DEFINITELY the most challenging. Birds have never been my strong point, which, along with the sake of variety, is why I wanted to include one as a character. Probably the most difficult issue to deal with here was, predictably, the tail. I had to find a way to draw it in a way that expressed visual beauty in a way that stood out from the rest of the character designs, without getting too far away from the simplistic style that the entire book is based on. Once I realized that I didn’t have to draw EVERY tail feather, things got much easier, and I opted to draw just three overly large ones. I think the designs I’ve developed give the illusion of intricacy while at the same time being pretty minimalist for what they are, a result that I’m very happy with.

Afterthoughts on Character Design Process

I really – REALLY – wish I would have started these earlier. Because I knew I wanted a simplistic illustration style for the book, I’d assumed that I’d be able to knock them all out in about an hour. True, the physical act of drawing the lines that comprise the characters doesn’t take a significant amount of time, but I severely underestimated the amount of time and thought that needs to be put into the conceptions of such designs in the first place.

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