Character Proofs

Posted on by Marnie Galloway

Progress is slow but steady in the Monkey-Rope Test Labs. I've been working the past few weeks on developing and designing the three primary characters for the Storytellers book project. My original drawings were too literally based on human anatomy and portraiture, but I quickly shifted to exaggerated proportions and cartoonish styles as I thought ahead: these characters will have to be recognizable even in small cells, and able to be consistently drawn over and over again, so simple lines and geometric caricatures would work best. I've never been very good at working in just one notebook, so my test drawings are on paper scraps and the back of utility bills, but they occasionally find their way into nice sketch books.

I shared with a confidante at Slow Industries that it has been a challenge for me to not jump directly in to drawing pages for the book. While I know that these early tests are good practice, it's hard to not become impatient; working for hours and without being able to point to a finished page is unsatisfying. However, previous projects suffered for my overly eager rush to the last step, and I think this project deserves the time it will need. She suggested that I post about my preliminary trials here. I feel a little red-faced sharing incomplete drafts, but I'm confident she is right.

Some early aimless sketches...

...turned into purposeful tests...

...and on to more detailed measurements of proportions and movement.

This is the first draft of formal character portraits. I'm not satisfied with the color test, and the style still feels stiff (the word I used when describing my daydream for how this book will look is "lush" and this ain't lush), but every new version feels closer to what I want.

For giggles, I drew a quick test-scene with the main character, to play around with color.

The rough inked drawing, scanned in...

Color test #1 (black & cyan screens)

Color test #2 (just blue)

I still need to do more planning: I will have to lay out floor plans and details of important locations, get a better feel for the three characters visually, learn a lot more about how to build a wooden boat, and design page layouts...but I'm practically there. Right?