View Full Version : concept art = blank canvas...

03 March 2010, 12:29 AM
What do concept artist do when they're stuck?
I've been trying to draw things other than what I'm studying. I've been studying anatomy lately so everything I've been drawing has been anatomy related. A post or two ago I asked something along the lines if it's wise to venture into other areas of art at one time. Lunatique's suggestion really got me in a great direction. He suggested taking my comic book script as a chance to explore the other areas in art that I am interested in. Taking it step by step. Character design for one. Learn the character, and develop him. Take this oppurtunity to work on my figure drawing, and costume designing and painting the finished concepts. Even produce a finished illustration from the concepts for each character. Then develop the enviroments and everything in it. Endless oppurtunities like he said. Well, I have been doing concepts of the main character and I stink at designing characters! I drew a front/side view, and various positions. Now I'm trying to design his look and I'm just stuck. Baisically I feel like whatever I come up with is not good enough. I'm thinking "what will make him different?". I wanted to know what other artist have done in the past or present while going through this. Should I move on to something else? It's very frustrating because being so crtical of myself is keeping me from moving on. Thanks.

Mr. D
03 March 2010, 08:35 PM

don't think about how you are designing this particular character, think more what is the type of character, and I want these are items that character needs. But don't fixate but is has to look like this, think I'm fleshing out a design. Take your elements and try them in various ways. Say my character has horns then draw a version with straight horns, curved horns, smooth or segmented ones. Same for body type short and fat, tall and skinny, anime style, disney cartoon look. You are not trying to make that character, you are trying to develope a look for the character first, then later you will take down and refine into your final design. At this point travel the web look at other art, see if there's anything you like in another design, steal ideals(never hurts) if you think it can help fire your own imagination. Do a dozen, 2 dozen possible concepts then go through them and start looking for ideas you think go along with how you want your final concept to look. Now start adding these ideas together and begin refining, more than likely that original idea you had will change.

Mr. D

03 March 2010, 11:16 PM
thanks for the advise. I like that approach. I tend to dwell on one specific thing too long which keeps me from getting anything done. I have a few versions of the character so I'll do some more. I've been trying out Cooliris lately. It's pretty cool. It gives me a quick look at my search results. Helps me filter in a way. Thank you Mr. D I appreciate you sharing with me.

03 March 2010, 12:47 PM
don't think about how you are designing this particular character, think more what is the type of character

quoted for agreement.

disclaimer: I'm no character designer (when we speak of painting) at this point, this is mostly applied methods from other forms of art, but imho usefull.

One approach is to think that our brain solves problems almost automaticly and blank canvas happens when we do not ask the right questions. Question "what should I do" gets instant asnwer too: "draw a kick ass character", but thats just lame. It helps to feed the brain with right questions, creating contradictions or smaller task for brain to solve and let the magic happen.

When you have decided the type and/or story you are just making questions like what is needed this to be possible - barbarian in needs certain gear to make a journe to the nort pole etc. It is quite a lot that same source what lunatique wrote about earlier - story and type almost make those decicions for you.

Creating contradictions comes in when you are missing a story or a character type. Picking two or more features to one character can create contradiction that forces brain to solve it and create a character. Like a barbarian troll who actually likes to paint still-lifes, but have to make living slicing those darn knights - how does it show when you create him in a battle scene? Characters inner and outer contradictions and their solutions to solve those, creates story and reflects to the looks of character and his/hers/its gear.

Or for example if we pic just one feature like "a fellow with horns" it might be difficult to make decicions, but if add an another "who is actually a nice guy" we'll might end up with characters like Hellboy or mr. Tumnus, both characters with some twist. Choosing some unexpectable feature to character and then explaining it turns on the part of brain which makes excuses - the endless source of stories (some of them better than the other). :D

Friend of mine was taking script wrinting courses and they did choose subjects by randomly picking couple of words. They came up subjects like "blind race car driver". Again something needing for an explanation.

Or you could use random shapes like ink spots or something and use them as (starting point of) character silhuette. Again brain has something to do and it usually works it out.

03 March 2010, 02:28 PM
When I'm designing characters I try to find ways to translate personality, sense of value, morals, profession...etc into visual qualities. For example, if a character is a manly tough guy, but he has a soft side and can be emotionally brittle when it comes to romantic involvements, then maybe I'll make him look like a typical broad-shouldered big guy with a cleft chin, but I'll give him slender waist and ankles and wrists, so that visually there's something vulnerable about him. I might also give him thick and short eyebrows that slants downward a little so he has a bit of a melancholic look. If his job requires him to be physical, I might give him really short hair that's logistically more practical for physical jobs. If he has a sly sense of humor, I might give him a slight smirk at the corner of his mouth...etc. This is just one very simple, and I'm sure you can fill in the rest.

03 March 2010, 07:59 AM
^ and just as a sidenote of that above - sometimes you can also communicate character qualities by the environment and characters relation to it. For example that sensitive troll mentioned could avoid crushing single flower to muddy battlefield while the same time trying to scare s...t of from the enemies. Or like in holywood - weather always changes by character moods. :D

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