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

Continue reading “Character design – choosing colours for the cast”

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
Continue reading “Character designs – Wolverine and the lady dog”

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…

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 a  clay model of the round-cheek version of Knut.

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!