Character design – choosing colours for the cast

Over the last 3 months I’ve posted my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family, all the Viking characters and the two villains.

This post gathers all the colour reference versions together so you can see the links between them.

I’ve made some notes on each major group of characters and their colours. Most of the time my colour choices were a matter of gut feeling, and it’s only after the fact that I can figure out why certain combinations seemed to work.

 

First up is Josh’s family.

I didn’t intentionally make Josh’s costume out of primary colours, but it turned out that way – yellowish hair, red helmet and shield, blue shirt. Add a bit of green and you’ve got a bunch of bright happy colours, which all help Josh stand out from whatever moody background he’s in front of.

Wolverine’s colander helmet and collar are the same shade of gold and red found on Josh’s chestplate. This sharing of colour is a simple way to link Josh and Wolverine together.

Josh’s siblings are in blue and red shirts – the same blue and red found in Josh’s costume. Their shorts/skirt are darker shades of the blue and red respectively. All three children have the same colour boots. Again, it’s about linking Josh with his siblings in the eye of the reader using colour.

Nan is the only one in the family to wear a shade of purple. I find it a loud colour for some reason; I don’t wear it a lot, and it seems to clash with a lot of colours I normally use. This fits with Nan’s no-nonsense, outspoken personality. I made it a soft, warm shade of purple though (at least to my slightly colour-blind eyes) as it seemed like a colour a loving, caring (but feisty) Nan might wear. The sneakers have purple trim in the same shade.

Pop is all in shades of grey – warm shades, tinges of brown in there. The dark vest is a strong contrast to the colour of his skin, shirt and pants. His colours seem warm and masculine and strong to me. Bright colours just didn’t seem to suit Pop; he’s silly and child-like, but he’s strong and grounded. I imagine he would give very big bear hugs. His colours make him stand out, not only from his wife but from all the other characters in the family.

character-sheet--family-550px

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Character design – the twins

Between now and the launch of The Last Viking Returns (Sept 1st, 2014), I’m doing a series of posts showing my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

Next up in the family are the twins.

 

The twins only appeared once in The Last Viking – on the very last page. I didn’t give a lot of though to their design. I didn’t think I’d need to draw them more than once. I was wrong.

Norm has fleshed out their personalities in The Last Viking Returns. It turns out the twins are not all sweetness and light – they are berzerkers in the making.

I needed to refine their appearance, make them look a bit older and cheekier, and practice them before trying to do any final artwork.

These are my sketches and notes.

twins-1 twins-2

I made a standard colour version of each character too, so that I could keep their colours consistent. Here’s the colour sheet for the twins:

twins-colour

Point to note: the twins have never been officially named. I’ve been referring to them as Timothy and Tabitha (which aren’t very Viking-like, but to be honest neither is Josh).

Have you got some names in mind? Give us your best ideas in the comments.

Character designs – Wolverine and the lady dog

Between now and the launch of The Last Viking Returns (Sept 1st, 2014), I’m doing a series of posts showing my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

Next up in the family is Wolverine, Josh’s faithful companion.

 

As with the character of Josh, I’d already illustrated a whole book with Wolverine before, but I hadn’t drawn him very much at all in the 3 year gap in between. I needed to practice drawing him again.

Wolverine
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Character design – Josh/Knut

Between now and the launch of The Last Viking Returns (Sept 1st, 2014), I’m going to do a series of posts showing my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’m starting with the family characters. First up is our main man Josh.

 

Even though I’d illustrated a whole book with him before, it had been almost 3 years since I’d drawn him regularly. I wanted to feel more confident at drawing him consistently, so I sat down and worked out how to draw him again. These are my sketches and notes.

 

Josh-1 Josh-2I made a standard colour version of each character too, so that I could keep their colours consistent. Here’s the colour sheet for Josh:Josh-colour

Next up will be Wolverine, along with his new friend…

The goodbye scene

There’s a scene in Last Viking where Josh arrives at Nan and Pop’s house, says goodbye to his mum and dad, and watches them drive off. Sounds simple enough. It took Norm and I a few goes to get it right.

The text and pictures would have to achieve a number of things- introduce Nan and Pop, introduce the setting, and show Josh’s close relationship with his Mum and Dad. The text and pictures couldn’t show Josh’s parents leaving in a way that implied they were dumping him so they could go away for the weekend together… it had to be sensitive.

The first and second goes didn’t achieve these things :p

earlier-goodbye-scene
First go
early-goodbye-scene
second go

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The all important opening scene- part 4 (final colours)

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve shown the process of developing the opening scene of Last Viking. I covered the first roughs, some more developed ideas, and the final pencils.

I’d gotten up to here:

p2-3-pencils-final
final pencils

and now this week: the final colours.

My first go wasn’t too bad- but the night-time panel wasn’t dark enough. It seemed like early morning, and Josh would (should) be asleep by then 🙂 I wasn’t sure about the colours in the day-time panel either. But I liked the blur of colour from the left-hand panel across the gutter.

p2-3-colour-v1
The light is too bright, almost like a spotlight, or a UFO

When I had tried colours for a few pages, I started to see that sometimes it looked good if just a few things were coloured in, and other parts were left white. So I tried that. And I darkened up the night-time panel.

Continue reading “The all important opening scene- part 4 (final colours)”

The all important opening scene- part 3

Over the past two weeks I’ve shown the development for the opening scene of Last Viking. Here’s the first roughs, and here’s some more developed ideas.

This week I’ll show the final rough and pencil outlines, and how I got there.

I’d decided the scene would take place in Josh’s bedroom. He’d be in a cubby house with his dog at night, and there’d also be a panel on the right set in the morning.

Here’s the closest I’d got so far:

p2-3-v10_4-text

My next experiment would be trying a more dramatic birds-eye perspective. I did some smaller thumbnails:

p2-3-v11-thumbnails
a small note on the post-it wonders if Josh might yawn like a lion in the morning: to go with the phrase, "But other than those things, Josh was as brave as a lion".

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The all important opening scene- part 2

Last week I wrote about how opening scenes work, and showed some early roughs of the opening scene for Last Viking.

I tried various options that didn’t quite work, which helped me become clearer about what I wanted the opening scene to achieve. It needed to do several things:

  • Introduce Josh and Wolverine, and show the closeness of their relationship (who)
  • Show that Josh is a creative, imaginative and resourceful kid (who)
  • Introduce Josh’s problem (fear) and have the reader empathise with his feelings (what)
  • probably show Josh in his room- night-time would be easiest to show fear, but daytime would be easiest to show Josh and Wolverine playing (where, when)

So with those things in mind, I kept sketching. I did a little set of thumbnails where the double page spread would have two panels. One would be big and dark, showing Josh’s room at night time. Josh and Wolverine are visible only as silhouettes, seen in a cubby made from a blanket. The bulk of the text would relate to this panel and go in a column at far left. The thinner panel on the right would show Josh and Wolverine poking their heads out from the cubby the next morning, with the line, “But other than those things, Josh is as brave as a lion” written close by.

p2-3-v8-roughsHere’s a bigger version with some tone added. There is still a silhouette of a dinosaur on the far wall. Josh’s skateboard is on the floor next to Wolverine’s cushion.

p2-3-v8-text Continue reading “The all important opening scene- part 2”

The all important opening scene- part 1

The opening scene of a picture book is so important:

  • it introduces the main character/s (who)
  • it introduces the main problem or conflict (what)
  • it introduces a world (when, where)
  • it sets the emotional tone (via the writer’s voice and the illustrator’s pictures)
  • and if it works, it can hook readers in instantly.

But if an opening scene doesn’t work, people won’t want to read the book. As Norm has said to me on many a facetious occasion – ‘no pressure, Picasso’. It took me a while to get an opening scene I was happy with, so I’ve put together some posts outlining the process.

The opening text for The Last Viking doesn’t spell out an obvious scene, so I found it quite a challenge to illustrate. The text goes like this:

Young Josh is very brave.

He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.

Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.

But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.

Sort of.

The text introduces the character (Josh) and the main conflict (Josh suffers from fear). So, we have our who and our what. But it doesn’t specifically say where or when the scene takes place. This would be up to me as the illustrator to decide.

Norm had seen some illustrations of mine, where I’d drawn a young boy dressed as a knight and various other characters. So his initial idea for the opening illustration of Last Viking was to have Josh dressed as each of the characters mentioned- a ghost, a pirate, a dinosaur, and so on. However, I couldn’t imagine Josh dressing up as characters that he was afraid of, and I didn’t think it would set the right emotional tone. That is, if Josh is afraid, the picture needs to be scary.

Here’s the very first sketch, and a stretched-out landscape version.

p2-3-original
original thumbnail sketch
p2-3-original-landscape
original thumbnail, adjusted to landscape format

Continue reading “The all important opening scene- part 1”

Recent Developments

As I’m currently busy with final artwork, I thought I’d take a different tack for this week’s post- rather than focus on a specific character and their development, I’d show you some more recent sketches and sculptures.

I’ve been looking more closely at ravens lately- though I wish I’d done it sooner. I’ve almost finished all the pencil outlines for the book, and I’ve realised that the ravens in the first three-quarters of the book look like dirty pigeons. The ones I’ve drawn more recently are looking much more accurate, because I’ve been looking at reference photos. Who would have thought that drawing from life was the way to go.

Here’s some studies and some final artwork for the ravens on page 28… (when pages have been tricky, I’ve sometimes been drawing the backgrounds and characters separately, then stitching them together with photoshop).

p28-20101024-ravens-scan

I’ve discovered that ravens have very complicated bodies, and their bodies look different all the time- they can hunch their back, pull their shoulders up, bob their head up and down- and then of course you have all the different movements involved in flying (and then, how to show those movements from different angles). Without reference photos I’d be stuffed.

Here’s another raven drawing- this guy goes on page 25.

raven

I’ve made another Josh sculpture too- I was having trouble getting his profile right, so I put this guy together. He’s more accurate than the previous sculptures I’ve done.

Knut-head-sculpture

At one point I was feeling very stuck- I didn’t know if what I was doing was good enough, and I was fussing over unimportant details. One of my illustrator buddies, Karen Blair, suggested I pull the stick out and draw with some charcoal. Here’s the result- it’s just over A3 size. After doing this sketch, things got a lot easier and much more fun. Cheers Karen.

Josh-charcoal-20100911

Charcoal helps me loosen up my drawing. Here’s a more realistic Westy sketch I did recently in charcoal.

Westy-commission-20100921

And finally, as a super special treat, here’s another sketch- but it’s not by me, it’s by Karen. It’s her take on Josh and Wolverine. Josh’s rosy cheeks looked a little like he’d spent too much time in the sun, hence the caption.

severe-sunburn-boy