Well let’s start with something I’m good at. Tearing apart my own work! I’ve been asked to do tutorials before, and never fully got behind the idea as I never felt especially qualified to be advising anyone on art matters. Still, it is fun to talk about process, both the joys and foibles of it.. so in that spirit, I figured, why not just ramble about that here? If anyone gets anything out of it, all the better.
These are a few sketches I did last night. This is Red, a character from a webcomic I started back in 2005. As most artists know, sketches are generally what we do to get to all the big awesome polished stuff. But before we get to those, we have to plow our way through a whole lot of mediocre stuff. I was not happy with the initial sketches (summed up in A, on this sheet), so I thought I’d explain why. Mind you, what I’m about to say is just what goes through my head while I’m drawing, it is most definitely not hard fact.
A - So here is one of the first I did. Just wanted to get a general feel for the proportions of the costume. It’s not great. Inconsistencies with direction everywhere. This tends to weaken a drawing, I think. There’s a lot to be said for the ‘flow’ of a picture, and this one breaks it up in a whole different bunch of directions. (Never mind the proportions being all wonky.) The downward lines of her cloak don’t make a distinct shape, they are much too parallel with one another. The bottom of the dress might be all right by itself, but it clashes strongly with the bottom of the cloak. All three are veering off in different directions. No flow.
B - This was a better attempt, though maybe by virtue of a totally different angle. The shape here is looking better. It’s got a more distinct ‘bell’ look to it, with the cloak providing more of a big open space to contrast the busier stuff underneath it.
C - This is the shape I was going for, and I found it helped me to visualize the cloak as two giant ‘arms’ hanging off the side. When I think more about contrasting size and shape, it’s much easier to make a design I enjoy. Now the cloak looks heavier, hung off her shoulders and much more ‘alive’ than it did in A.
D- Breakdown of shapes from C. Just wanted to show contrast again, thinking of a character in terms of a pile of shapes. All the concentrated ones collect in a line down the center, flanked by two much bigger open shapes.
I also doodled a corrected version of A, at its lower right. That’s the kind of flow I’m talking about. Lines that all complement a single point of view. The cloak now looks like it’s actually hung on something as opposed to just being flat and plastered on the drawing like in A.
Shapes are so integral to character design. It can make all the difference when trying to draw the same character from various angles and retain an appealing design. It’s also important to set your characters apart from one another with shape as opposed to simply their face/hair/etc. I’ve broken down characters of mine over and over again into simple shapes, and I found that, occasionally, through tweaking and resizing, it can solve a lot of design problems that crop up throughout the process.