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Creating the character of Knut- part 5

I started attending a clay sculpture class in November 2008, the year before I started working on this picture book. I find clay a great medium to work with, especially for making models of characters. I’d made one sculpture of Knut already- the big-nose version- but I wanted to make an updated version.

Here’s the big-nose one:

big nose sculpture

and here’s the newer one, based on the ’round-cheek’ sketches:

round cheek sculpture

The head isn’t very big, it fits into the palm of your hand.

Then I started making the body over three sessions.

Firstly, I got the basic body parts in there. No detail at this stage.

sculpture-version-1
he looks a bit weird with no clothes on

I hollowed out a hole in the bottom of his head so that it could pivot on his neck. This kept the head stable.

The next time round, I added a base to give him stability, and I put in the details of some clothes.

sculpture-version-2
Much better with clothes I reckon

Then in the third session, I put in finer details- his fingers, the stitching and the wool on his ugg boots, and I shaped his shirt a bit.

sculpture-version-3
version 3- more detailed

I’ve left gaps in his hands to hold a sword and shield, and I’d like to make a model of Wolverine to sit beside him (that’s why the base isn’t symmetrical).

I’m glad I made his head separate, because I’d like to redo it. His face is a bit flat, and his nose and eyes are too high on his head. He also needs his viking helmet! Perhaps I’ll also make some cardboard armour.

So, that’s how the character of Knut developed. From next week, I’ll look at some of the other characters in the book.

Creating the character of Knut- part 4

At this point I had a meeting with Cate to show her my character design for Knut. She gave some great feedback-

  • The gap in the front of his teeth might need to go- kids usually only have those gaps when they’re younger, around 4-6 years old, and Knut was supposed to look a tiny bit older, around 6 to 7 years old.
  • The size of his head, arms and legs in proportion to his body made him look slightly too old- maybe 8 or 9.
  • Maybe reduce the pointiness of his chin, and make his cheeks rounder
  • Wolverine looked great and could stay as he was.

Based on that feedback, I revised the character design on my computer, fiddling with the body proportions.

round-cheek-version-1
revised character design- dated 4/12/09

From there I started resketching the character, making the face rounder and the chin less pointy. This version of Knut I call the ’round-cheek’ version.

round-cheek-version-1
Starting to take shape- dated 17/3/10
round-cheek-version-2
I'm really liking this version now...
Photo0287
...so much so, that I was caught drawing Knut on the whiteboard at work

The body proportions started to look better with this version, and his character was more closely aligned with the text- Knut is a very innocent, sweet and gentle boy. His hairstyle is more consistent now too, with the two little bits of fringe coming down on either side and the little curl at the end. It was a lucky design, because when Knut wears his Viking helmet, his fringe pops out from the front, making him still recognisable.

I had been working on Knut for a long while at this stage- my first sketch had been in June 2009, and the round-cheek sketches were from March 2010 onwards. Here’s how he progressed. Which is your favourite?

many-faces-of-Knut
The many faces of Knut

Next week- I show you how I made aΒ  clay model of the round-cheek version of Knut.

Our July Competition Winner

I was in Carnarvon this past week, doing workshops with Primary and High School students. Thanks to the Shire of Carnarvon for having me, and an extra special thanks to Natalie Whitley, Regional Librarian, for organising the trip.

While there, I met our July Competition winner, Rachel Loffler, who works in the library at Carnarvon Senior High School.

Here’s Rachel and I with her prize- 10 books from Fremantle Press.

The colander helmet seemed like a good idea at the time.

There’s still time to enter our August competition– you could win a signed copy of In Flanders Fields. But, you’ve only got until the 24th to enter. Enter here

Creating the character of Knut- part 3

I started working on a new version of Knut, one without the big nose.

pointy-chin-version-1
some very early pointy-chin sketches, with a little bit of Nick coming through
pointy-chin-version-2
lots more pointy chin sketches

You can see here that I’m trying to draw the same face over and over again while keeping it consistent. Well, I’m trying at least! I’m also trying some profile sketches so I know what Knut looks like from different angles.

I was pretty happy with Knut at this point. I had a meeting coming up with Cate, our editor at Fremantle Press, and I needed to show a watercolour sample of Knut. I used one of the big-nose sketches as a guide, but made his face more pointy-chinned…

Knut-sword-pose-version-1-and-2
Sword pose- big nose and pointy chin versions. I've added a colander hemet for Wolverine
knut-sword-pose-v2
Sword pose- colour testing on the computer before using watercolour
knut-sword-pose-v2-watercolour
the finished sample using watercolour- dated 11/10/09

I do enjoy colouring on the computer for the ease of use, the speed, and the amount of control you get- but you can’t beat the feeling of using a real brush, real water, and real watercolour paint. I reckon the finished product looks a lot better too.

Next week I’ll tell you what Cate thought of the character design so far, and the improvements that were made after the meeting.

Creating the character of Knut- part 2

The first version of Josh/Knut had a huge nose. I made a small clay sculpture which seemed to be cute… but when I translated it into drawings his nose was enormous.

sculpture and sketches
big-nose sculpture and sketches
big nose version image 1
You can pick your friends...
 big nose version image 2
...and you can pick your nose...
big nose version image 3
...but you can't pick your friend's nose.

His character was starting to come through here- alternately brave and afraid, with his faithful Viking dog Wolverine by his side. But the nose had to go, it’s far too big for a young boy.

Character design tip-
Did you know that our ears and noses continue to grow for our whole lives? Babies and kids have small ears and noses compared to their head size, but older people have much bigger noses and ears. If you draw a character with big ears and a big nose, it will make them seem older. Unless of course your character is a baby elephant. In this case I’d recommend making their eyes much bigger than usual. The babies of all animals have bigger eyes than the adults, compared to their head size. Except those blind cave fish, they don’t have any eyes. And tadpoles, they’ve got tiny eyes. And… sorry where was I?

Right, yes, I was getting rid of Knut’s big nose.

The next version of Knut is the ‘pointy-chin’ version, you can see his nose is much smaller:

pointy-chin-version-detail

I’ll show you some more of this version next week, including an early watercolour sample.

Creating the character of Knut- part 1

So, after building the ship with Nick, I used some of the photos as reference for character sketches.

pics of Nick
pics of Nick
sketches of Nick, and character ideas
ship building sketches 1
ship building sketches, featuring a very early 'Wolverine' (Knut's dog).
ship building sketch 2
Nick performing cardboard dragon dentistry

These sketches look very similar to the final roughs for the book- I’ll show their development in a future post.

From this point I started developing a very early version of Knut, which looks nothing like the final version… I call it the ‘big-nose’ version. Here’s a peek:

big nose detail
One of the first Knut sketches, dated 6/10/09

More next week!

Competition for August- win a signed copy of ‘In Flanders Fields’

This month, you could win a copy of In Flanders Fields, signed by the author Norman Jorgensen!

in flanders fieldsYour task is simple- think of a question you’d like Norman or myself to answer, then add your question to the comments section of this post before August 24th.

We’ll randomly select one of the questions, and whoever submitted it will win this month’s prize!

We’ll also select our favourite questions and record a video interview, which we’ll upload at the end of August.

Parkinson
Parkinson interviews James and Norm
Enough Rope
James and Norm appear on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. That's Andrew on the right. I think.

The fine print: this competition runs from 6 August to 24 August. Winners will be drawn on 24 August at 2 pm WST and announced on the blog on August 31. To be eligible, blog readers must submit a question for Norman and/or James in the comment field of this post. Employees of Fremantle Press or their families are ineligible to win.

Building a Longship- final construction (part 3 of 3)

With the cardboard cut and painted, it was time for Nick and I to put the pieces together.

First we poked holes in the side of the ship with a screwdriver, then bolted the shields on.

Nick activates the ship's deflector shields
Nick activates the ship's deflector shields
One side finished
One side finished. It was around this point that we started getting funny looks from passers by.

Then we attached the two sides to each other.

The ship stands on its own
The ship stands up pretty well. Nick is finishing the sail, painting over the last of the floral print
Nick cuts the curtain rod
Nick cuts the curtain rod, while our ship bobs serenely on the driveway
The sail dries in the sun
The sail dries in the sun. The crossbeam of the mast is held by a bolt and some wire

We cut a hole in the sail so that the mast could poke through the middle- all finished!

Nick tests the boat
"Oy. Don't even think about christening the boat."

Time to set sail. (…there’s an awful lot of seagrass here.)

Onward to glory
To infinity, and beyond!

This process gave me lots of ideas for a sequence in the book, and for the character design of Josh/Knut. Next week I’ll show you some sketches I made from reference photos…

Building a Longship- spray painting (part 2 of 3)

Nick, Roy and I had finished cutting the cardboard– it was time to paint it. Roy bought some silver and brown spray paint, and Nick and I got started…

Nick with a metal hand
Nick tests out the paint
Nick paints the side of the ship
Nick paints the side of the ship

Continue reading “Building a Longship- spray painting (part 2 of 3)”