Monday, June 1, 2009


Posting a few samples from the first critique, about as diverse as the range of students and their respective talents! This is the generally the first assignment I give out in this class.
w/6 basic expressions + environment & props

Create two characters that you can use throughout the class.
• One sheet each, Ink on Bristol, show them in proportion to each other in a front view, side view, rear view , and a distinctive silhouettes of the two characters.
*Include props + suggest an environment.
• Additionally, on a fifth sheet (6 panels per page) draw them with the following expressions:
Surprise - Anger - Happiness - Fear - Sadness - Disgust
• Finally, repeat the first frontal view page, but this time instead experiment by drawing characters either in a highly iconic, exaggerated & simplified style, or the reverse; a tightly rendered and highly detailed/realistic style.
* Refer to handouts for questions to ask yourself on developing their respective characteristics, personalities and appearances.
* Should be highly individualistic, unique & original concepts, easily recognizable and also fairly simple to draw quickly and repeatedly.
* A suggestion is to base one on yourself, or reference someone you know.
* Advanced students post on site.

The critique assignment serves a couple purposes: it allows for some experimentation with materials & techniques and also gives us something to work with for the upcoming assignments. I structure the course, uh, sequentially, so the characters can be utilized in other contexts (ex: worked into gag panels), or they can be trashed and new characters introduced as they see fit. Also it gives me some sort of an idea as to the particular style and stages everyone is at in the class. I remind them though, that the bulk of their grades are from successful completion of work more so than how well they can draw (we address that aspect later when it becomes more of an issue).
We discuss the importance of developing characters, and I always use the example of Peanuts to illustrate the power and depth of personality that's possible: when I sat "Linus" we don't just get a visual image in our heads of him, but also an amazing list of associated traits and accompanying attitudes.

A really great demonstration of how unique characters can be and how important it is to develop a distinctive look can be is immediately seen with this silhouette drawing. Also amongst the flood of handouts I include this reference to the six basic facial expressions, which is a fun experiment and especially challenging if the character is say a zucchini or an octopus. Then it's always good to point out how not just the facial expressions but how many other elements can be used to subtly impart an emotion, for ex: tails, ears, hair, tentacles etc., or even petals:

I just love how you can already get a strong sense of individuality and some hints of story just from looking at the character studies. Another point to consider is the complexity of the drawings: sometimes it's better to keep it simple so as to help with the repetitious nature of cartooning, especially if an individuals rendering skills aren't strong. Again, I try and provide a wide range of different examples of classic and contemporary artists who compensate for their relative weaknesses in particular areas by excelling in another. It's usuful to remind them of the mantra "a good joke will sell a bad drawing," but, that said, if everything's good it makes it all much better.

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