Writing: My Character Design Process

I'd like to write a couple entries describing how I go about working. I figured some people - mostly other artists - will be interested.

I'm as analytical with my character designs as anything (Computer Science will do that to you.). Do note, however, although the initial idea can crop up at any of these steps, I usually do all of them to flesh it out before I consider the character worthy of releasing.

I tend to form them from a general archetype at first. I feel this is because a character too weird, people won't relate to it. It has to be mildly familiar. For example, Kaiaden's base idea is "pirate youth." So he's brash, arrogant, and a prodigy naval strategist.

Then, I try to put a twist on that idea, make it something less like every other archetype character out there. Kaiaden again - is both a "pirate" and a "teenage father." But he's still a good dad - something you wouldn't expect from a pirate. Bonus, the kid is from a relationship with his adopted sister.

The setting. If I have a story already going, great. If it's for an RP, figure out how that character evolved in that world. Kai is from a world where magic used to exist but is dying out. Those who still have it war with one another for power. Therefore, he is less a classical Carribbean pirate and more a very smart boy, with a boat and an ideal.

Then, I work on some history on how they ended up in that position. Kai was abandoned by his dad, a merchant, and groomed by a rebel leader because he showed promise in strategy. This explains why he acts much tougher than he is - because he never wants to admit his spoiled origin.

And then, I work on the physical stuff. This stage tends to be the easiest or the hardest, never in between. When it's easy, they come out full formed. When it's hard, it requires sketch after sketch after sketch to perfection (plus lots of research). Usually, I have a basic costume idea but never really set it in stone. Kai was one of those who was fully formed. Red headband, blond hair, freckles, and green coat. And like, while green coat is the trademark, it's length and cut aren't very specific and up to artistic interpretation.


Writing: Anime Convention, Social Norms, and Identity

I chose to discuss the Eron Rauch photo essay because its content intrigues me most. After struggling with the convoluted words and lengthy sentences, I realized there was no point in searching for a clear thesis statement. It is the opposite of an academic essay: a personal musing about experience with subculture. Thus, even though it provides no conclusion, it calls a very interesting point into question: what is the relationship between fandom and identity?

Most anime conventions cater to fans rather than industry. When members of a subculture gather, they become comfortable enough to express their interests, to the point where they purposely alter their behavior to breach social norms, which in turn forms new social norms. For Rauch and tens of thousands of others, anime conventions create bonds of eccentricity, and otherwise improbable events, like cosplay sex, can occur. The irony here is that, at the convention, fringe behavior becomes the main stream. When groups form, they begin to cultivate their own ideals – like cat ear headbands – and reject others – like business suits, an “us vs. them” situation. Take, for example, the 2008 commercial released by Sakura-con. It asks, “What if, for one weekend, the tables were turned?”

I feel this may be tied into American attitudes towards individuality. As we have learned, in Japan, cosplay outside of certain locales is frowned upon, and boys’ love forms only a fraction of the anime and manga market. However, here in the United States, cosplayers purposely wear their outfits at ordinary eating establishments to see how locals react, and boys’ love readers ridicule those who prefer heterosexual couples.

Personally, as an artist, I go to conventions with business in mind. I straddle the alley with one foot in fandom – because all anime relies somewhat on art – and one in reality – because I cannot give any series the same dedications as I do my own creations. While Rauch is accepted in this fan world, I am silently rejected. My work has been criticized many times over for having a visual style far more realistic than most manga and anime. However, as an outsider with no romantic or sexual intentions towards conventions, I felt Rauch’s essay gives a decent glimpse into the mind of another integral member of convention structure: the entrenched fan.

Sakura-con Advertisements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEUcxGhl9Rk


Sketches: Aari Falconer

Weekly drawing of the same character you've probably come to expect. Despite his unadvertised political weight, Rivek is far from wealthy. As not-really-a-citizen, he gets paid two-thirds of what average soldiers do, and sometimes nothing at all (but he does get free room and board). Therefore, he has a hobby for some extra income by exploiting a talent which runs in his family (magic lets you get away with things)- archery.

To enter tournaments un-noticed, Rivek doesn't shave for a few days, takes on a fake accent, adopts a different costume with foreign colors, and bandages his most notable trait - the scar over his right eye. Instead, he tells everyone he lost it in a bar fight because people tend to respect that. Thus, to everyone else, Aari Falconer is a little-discussed but well-respected archer who has never gone home from a tournament empty-handed... he's smart enough not to take first every time. People in the limelight attract too much attention. He also uses this name to book rooms at inns and sign checks he never intends to pay back.

Aari is his initials, "Ailinar Ailinar Rivek Ildorus."

If I had to compare Rivek's personality-looks-nationality-religion with anything real, I'd say he was part Japanese, and part Jewish. Yes, two of my favorite things.


Sketches: PE LoveFest I

A sketch for Lelenia. She is amazing - her work is so dynamic, and I love her style. Her characters are great, and I really like their humor. I draw a lot...


Sketches: Dominance War 2009 III

More Dominance War. The orthographic projections this time. I like how the one on the right turned out, but I forgot a few items (i. e. pistol, because he doesn't want to, uhm, die). Design is almost finalized - I wanted to go simpler in the clothing layer - to show off anatomy more, more complex on accessories - because he's gear-reliant as a character, and more gritty on the texture - for the sake of making things look cooler and more worked.

I think I'll be there after one or two more, posed, sketches.


Sketches: Dominance War 2009 II

The big challenge has begun! I will be entering Dominance War for my Figure Modeling final. Here is my character's story:

He is an intellectual prodigy who graduated from a magical/medical school at twenty-one. He had been of wealthy ancestry and considerably sheltered from too much physical activity in favor of more academic pursuits. Therefore, when the war began, he applied to be a clericon.

War, of course, does not distinguish between soldier and healer. Especially war with demons. Two or three months since his enrollment, he received a victim who had been infected by a Death/Darkness demon. His previous knowledge proved useless, and the soldier died. Much to his chagrin, he contracted the disease as well, through a cut on his right palm. It warped his muscle tissue and caused his skin to flake, pale, and sprout yellow lesions.

Through fevered study, he created an item to stop the disease from spreading. The magic bandages could not bring back his self-amputated arm, but they became tentacle-like replacements. In place of his infected eye, he crafted a clockwork (non-magical) magnifying glass and linked it directly to his occipital lobe.

Despite this, he remains a diligent doctor and continues to tend to the wounded, now specializing in demonic attack. However, he suspects the disease may have entered his brain, because he has recently been hallucinating before bed.

I began with some contour sketches. When that failed, I moved on to just defining his equipment and gear, which ended up helping. I chose to refine the design on the far right - dropped the lab coat and priest ideas in favor of the field medic one.

Draw him bigger, so I could see exactly what he was wearing. This ended up way too stiff to be a final sketch, but it's a much better idea of the clothing detail. Unfortunately, it doesn't give too much view of anything anatomical.

So, here, I just did some sketches with stance and figure. I hope they're not too light. I wanted something less straight-up-and-down for the contour, so I widened his shoulders and shrank his waist.

Right now, I'm working on an orthographic projection, the base mesh, changing the clothing in minor ways, and a more interesting "final" sketch to work off of. And a name (I've been using "surgeon general" so far...). He hasn't got a name. I think the part I'm most worried by is the poly-count. I'm at 1500 so far, and that's not including head or clothing.


Art & Sketches: PE Round 75 + 12 Count Sheets III

Let's start with the good stuff. Phabreescia is a Selenthian, so she looks kind of like a deer. She's a fortune teller and trapeze artist belonging to Pariahsdream.

I ran out of HB lead in the middle of class. Luckily, I was carrying some 4B, so I switched, and I re-discovered how wonderfully smooth it is... as well as how often it breaks and smudges. Still love it. You'll be seeing more. This is Vespee's waiter.

A second commission for Kokoryta on Gaia from the auction. Her bad boy, Drake. Sideburns are fun.

This turned out so bad. It was for yoshimichi of her character, Riley, who is much prettier than this.

Got a couple more sketches and commissions to do, and then I'll have nothing on my plate. Can't wait to do original, non-class, illustration again. Not that I will until the end of the year... my friends are so distracting. So is algorithms.


Sketches: Rivek, and Other Character Headshots

I guess it's become a de-stressing tradition (despite any chagrin from my professor), to draw Rivek during my three-hour Japanese Popular Culture class. Work beats you up, that's just what happens. You bandage yourself together, and, once the bruises are gone, you go and do it all again. For Rivek, it's just a matter of business.

Also, I decided to re-vamp my characters' profile summaries and store them online. Here are the first batch of headshots and one-sentence summaries.

Jean Deloeil (top left) is a hedonistic, sadistic vampire who particularly enjoys the term "to play with one's food."

Yahrel Fjonn (bottom left) is a jealous, determined invoker who trains very hard to impress a girl, and gets ignored because his is too distant.

Ailinar Vaulkner (center left) gets the girl because he has a sense of humor, despite his shrapnel-torn face. Unfortunately, he underestimates the willingness of his friends to turn on him.

Lucient Deloeil (center right) is a vampire-human anomaly whose half-dead brain has warped the tenets of the Catholic church into an eternal quest to murder his twin brother.

Kaiaden Voluska (top right) is a brash boy who'd like to think he's pirate because he is a naval strategy prodigy but hides the loss of his father behind his pride.

Willowren Solan (bottom left) is a naive princess shaken by the responsibilities she acquires and the feelings she develops which she believes she shouldn't.

Sketches: 12-Count Sheets Dump II

For Kokoryta, I drew a picture of her doll, Smartie, with another Doll whose name I forgot. THey met in a restaurant and became friends over laughing at others.

For || Son Zack || - only this time, he requested Harry Potter. I love that series!

For sweetdeily on Gaia, who gave me some cool discussion about art and motivation for art.

A picture for my friend, Hinabi, who has some of the coolest ideas and graphic designs I know.


Sketches: 12-Count Sheets Dump I + Trades

Massive art dump today, all the sketches I drew over spring break. Most are from the Gaia Auction I am holding, or are mildly related to it.

We begin with the lightning round from PE, for http://myre.deviantart.com . It's her character, Sidae, a swamp necromancer.

Next, another PE sketch exchange, Aidan for http://phoenixelement.deviantart.com . I think her character is really cute, but I don't think I did her justice.

This is Froshtine for http://pirate-cashoo.deviantart.com . The pose is a little awkward. THis was done during a phone interview.

A commission for a good friend, http://cartagia.deviantart.com , of her friend's character, Xenoar.

A sketch trade with http://sizerlyxdxthh.deviantart.com/ , whom I just met on Gaia Online. I think my torso anatomy is getting better, but I feel anime urges overtook his face and spoiled it.

Hewbert for http://w6apav72.deviantart.com/, her sexy, red-headed doctor. Another cheap torso shot, but they're attractive nonetheless.

Went crazy on the limbs, but this is a Gaia Commission for || son zack || from an auction I previously had.

This one is also for || son zack ||, but it turned out much better, I think. I feel my anatomy is getting stronger overall, though.

For http://artisticxheart.deviantart.com - you are such a sweetie, and I hope to see you at Fanime next year! I think your characters are beautiful, and I apologize if I didn't do them well.

A BL commission for Kohl XII on Gaia. I haven't drawn something like this in awhile. Hehe. Minus the dangling hand on Charlie (right) , I'm pretty satisfied. I think I'm doing better with sylistic faces and angling them.

Finally, another character for http://w6apav72.deviantart.com/ , a girl this time because I like to draw girls after indulging in BL. Curves are very fun to draw, so are happy, expressive characters.

Bonus, a bad picture of Rivek which I never will finish because the pose was too awkward.


Art: Wild, Bianca

We watched Peter and the Wolf in Special Topics in Animation on Monday. I really liked it, especially the similarities shared between the two titular characters. I sometimes simply can't believe how fluid stop-motion can be. It really impresses me, how they can build entire worlds like that and patiently move these little dolls. His eyes were so haunting.

Also, a sketch commission of Bianca, for Dan Howard.


Sketches: Rivek, Crap

I always draw Rivek on Fridays during my Japanese Popular Culture class. Bad habit, I know, but it's a week's-end stress reliever which worked its way into a tradition. I decided he needs a better outfit. The other one had torso armor that look unfortunately like a male corset. I want him to look clean, professional, but not effeminate (his facial features are supposed to be potentially androgynous, not his body). This one is inspired by Jen Zee's version. Getting closer to a workable solution, but I probably shouldn't have added billowing ribbons if I was going for "masculine." Old habits die hard.

Also, some crap that will never see the light of day.