December 7, 2008


Try and try again right? So the image above was my first attempt at a character I have been working on for a series. His name is Sergeant Hook and he is 1 of 4 characters in a band of assassins for the Mexican Army. The story takes place during the Texas-Mexico revolution of the 1800s. Their job is to assassinate Davy Crockett to avert the historic Battle of the Alamo. So as you can see I have my story pretty well thought out; I usually try to do this so I can give my characters a sense of believability. This is crucial because if you do not believe in the characters you design what makes you think your viewer will?

When I started drawing I was content with the shapes I was using and felt pretty good on how the character was coming to life. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I got stuck. After I finished the face I was noodling around with the body and arms and felt like something was missing from the overall design. I wasn't feeling the character in the sense that his personality did not feel strong and his believability was falling into question. I found myself erasing a lot and redrawing the same thing over and over again. I pretty much got stuck in "the artist's corner." After a few hours of frustration I stopped, stepped away, and decided to go back to the sketchbook to figure out what was not working.

I went back to basics and did a few thumbs of the character on a small scale concentrating on the silhouette and his basic overall shape. I began a page in my sketchbook then started putting yellow Post-its on top of that page so I could flip back and forth between iterations. The Post-its made it faster for me to look through all my designs and I found using them very liberating. I know a lot of visual development and animation story artists use Post-its so why the heck not. I finally found a better shape in A (circled in red above) and talked out the character with a buddy of mine. We figured he was a very volatile character who could explode at any minute. Since he was the explosives expert this fit perfectly with his personality and archetype. His overall shape also resembled a bomb waiting to blow.

Before I attacked the line drawing I did some studies of the face and his hook arm. He has a prosthetic arm cause he held on to one of his explosives a little too long. B (circled in red above) is the face I decided to use so I combined that with the silhouette and took it into Photoshop. Next up are studies I did for his hook arm.

Above is the reference I gathered for Hook's prosthetic arm and below them are my marker and pen studies. I did a search of prosthetic arms from the 1800s because I really wanted to the prosthetic arm to exude a gritty feel with its buckles and leather intertwined with metal. I wanted it to grab your attention but not have the prosthetic arm be the focal point of the character. The arm is a secondary player and is meant to enhance my character. Doing this page of studies helped my hand get more familiar with the reference so that when I started drawing I had a visual vocabulary to draw from and did not have to stick verbatim to my reference.

Above are a few process shots showing the evolution of Sgt. Hook. Most of my costume references were taken from images of soldiers in uniform similar to the one on the hook reference page. I used a lot of shapes and colors that I saw in them. Again, if I did not have these references to borrow bits here and there I would have been drawing "generic" uniforms that would not help me place my character in a context or time period.

(A) I scanned my sketches, composited the body and face into one, and then took it into Photoshop to play around with the silhouette. This helped speed along the initial phase of the design. I printed it out and slapped it onto a light box for the next step.

(B) A lot of my design time was spent in this phase. I tried to maintain the energy of the sketch in the final lineart, but we all know that is easier said than done. I tried to make sure the design read well but was concentrating more on the simple big read and silhouette. I especially paid attention to my forms to make sure it overlapped correctly; for example, making sure his belly fat wraps over the belt logically.

(C) I begin laying in my flat colors, not worrying about shadows but thinking about the big simple tonal read.

(D) Here I added a color layer to push some color variation to his face. After laying in my flat colors I move in on the face to start painting.

(E) Always make sure you know where the light source is coming from. In this case it would be up and to the left on screen. Establishing this will help light the forms and planes of the body. I like bringing the face up to a semi-finish because it gives me a standard of what the rest of my painting needs to look like.

(F) I bumped up the contrast in the image and played with the curves and levels a little bit.

G) I added a brightness contrast adjustment layer and a color balance layer in order to reduce the dark values in the face. This will also help to harmonize the whole figure.

(H) I desaturated some of the colors a little so that it doesn't feel super bright. What made it feel super bright was the white of his shirt. To offset that I added a a yellowish tint to his shirt, making it feel gritty or dirty. Now the white of the shirt is no longer a distraction.

The next step is to finish off painting, add some highlights, and viola!
Finally, he's done in all his glory--Sgt. Hook! I hope you enjoyed this; forgive my talking too much, I'll make sure to post more work next week to compensate for all the words you had to go through.

Thanks again for dropping by. More to come!



Martin said...

Awesome illustrations as usual, show us the other three!

I'm curious though, once you develop these characters, where do they go? Your very own comic?

JP said...

'Awesome to read through and learn the steps used to create such an interesting character. So, yeah... are these gonna be for a comic? I just wanna read more of this whole crocket assassination plot...