Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monster Talk



Character Design on Simple Shapes




Together, we are deviantART, an amazingly diverse community of fantastic individuals from all reaches of the globe. It’s a beautiful, creative ecosystem where the wildest voices can speak their minds and share their expressions. When designing this collection, I wanted to celebrate that diversity. When you’re at a concert, on an airplane, or sitting at a cafĂ©, it's sometimes fun to look at the people moving and talking around you, each with their own unique style and outlook. Be part of the big conversation, where all voices matter and everyone can be involved.


The characters in this piece spawned from a conversation I had while teaching a high school class on character illustration. The topic was making interesting-looking characters, and everyone seemed to agree that you have to make a complex contour shape in order to satisfy the goal. I countered by simply drawing a line of jelly bean shapes on the board. At first, it looked boring -- just a bunch of wonky ovals. Then, I made each into a character by giving them features, paying close attention to their placement within the composition.  The idea went from the chalkboard to my sketchbook, where I played around with it through many sketches. 

The idea of having a series of characters with the same basic shape was really intriguing to me. They became known as the “thumbheads,” and I had a ton of fun coming up with personalities for each of them.



I was doing my best to observe the characters in my everyday life, mixing their attributes with fantastical forms and exciting patterns.



I even went so far as to fill the shape with an entire character’s body, which was an interesting thought, but it got lost in the complex linework.



It's really gratifying to draw a subject so many times and in different ways that you suddenly realize you've got a whole series of related images.



The intricate linework of these drawings made them great candidates for a T-Shirt design, so I began digging in my sketchbook for other ideas I’ve had to more cohesively tie this group of monsters together. I came across this lockup drawing of the dA logo, where a bird and worm are having a funny interaction inside it. That doodle was enough to spawn the idea that the letters could be filled.




Searching for another level for the graphic, I came across a page in my sketchbook where I had slapped a dA nametag over another character, which gave me the idea to have each characters inside a speech bubble. I’d seen this basic concept before, but it was a great opportunity to explore it in my own style.




My mind was racing as I sketched each curious character. Should I put the characters in speech bubbles? What size should they be? Should it be characters talking about characters? Should it be sharp or hand drawn, solid or full of chatter? The only way to discover the answers to these was to try out every possible option!


 
A lot of the time, I will write random words in a consistent font to give me an interesting starting point to draw from. Most of the time, they make no sense, but they’re great for inspiration. I recommend trying it with your own sketches!



After working out the concept and translating it digitally, it quickly took shape in the graphic that you see in finished form: characters within the dA logo encapsulated by a speech bubble, inspiring conversations amongst each other and around the world.


To shop this and other new Apparel Collection designs in the deviantART T-Shirts & Gear Shop click here. 



The printed garment and an energetic model really set the mood for the completed piece during the photo shoot. The journey of this piece really drove home the importance of combining ideas and cross-pollinating concepts. I hope it helps you in your future artistic endeavors!