What will you create
Being a comic book artist, one of the questions I get most often is: “I don’t know how you manage to draw the same character over and over so that it remains recognizable!” Even for artists who successfully paint people, this can be a difficult topic, and so I decided to devote a whole lesson to this.
This is the next step in learning how to draw people: learn how to draw a character several times from different angles and at the same time keep it recognizable. This is not the most necessary skill for of all illustrators, but for artists working on a book, comic book, or any other project where a character appears several times, this skill will be extremely useful.
The easy way to maintain consistency and recognition of the character is the same clothes, which means that a certain character always walks with the same hairstyle and wears the same clothes. This method is a bit old and now seems even a bit childish, but is still often used in manga, and artists learning by copying such manga acquire the bad habit of relying on hair and clothes as identifiers.
And then what should an illustrator do when you need to change clothes for a character? The example below shows the same character: in this case, different time intervals mean different clothes and style, and even the color of the eyes has changed, but it is still the same person.
This lesson is not about such secondary identifiers. Let’s figure out how to draw a character as if it were a real person, and the first step in this process, no matter how obvious it sounds, is to know what the character looks like.
1. Know your character’s traits.
Do you know what characterizes your character? Or do you paint the eyes, nose and faces of the same, common shape? This first part does not require artistic abilities, but only the ability to really see them in my head. At first, it is perfectly acceptable to base your characters on people you know, while similarities in your head change to a variety of reality.
Think of a close friend, or someone you can imagine very well. Can you describe the shape of his nose? Eye? Lip? Does this man have a jawline? Are his earlobes separated from his face? Most likely, you will not be able, since you have a general image of this person in your head, and small details will disappear when you try to remember them.
Change is easy, you just need to start paying attention to the individual traits of a person. The next time you see this friend, look at him carefully and write down what you see. Notice i said write down, rather than draw. We cannot understand what we cannot name. By describing the identifying features that you see, you will make the understanding of the difference between this person and others conscious, and you will understand what you are painting. You can do it in your head anywhere and at any time, looking at people around you, and the process does not end on facial features, as we will see later.
The face is where we look first of all in search of the greatest number of details. About the features you can read more in this lesson. There you can find charts and tables with the names of the forms of the eyes, lips, nose, and, of course, you will find that in fact there are more forms than I have brought.
If you have an old journal at your fingertips, you can write down descriptions right on the photos from there, training your eye to immediately notice the characteristic features. It is very useful to compare the faces of people of the same sex and age like this, since even if they first look similar, you will surely find features that make them unique (a bonus to your copying experience, if you describe people of other nationalities. Silly old myth that “all X look the same” is nothing more than a reluctance to look for these differences).
Later, when creating your own characters, you will see that you no longer draw the noses of a general form, and that you can’t draw more at all without specifying details …
Below are three secondary female characters from my comics. Their different features indicate completely different characters. Guess who is friendly, who is a princess, and who has a hard character?
Although, perhaps, you will not need to draw large hands, if, nevertheless, such a need has appeared, do not neglect this part of the body. Remember that male and female hands are not similar, and moreover, we will most likely recognize the hands of friends and family. Long fingers, short fingers, narrow palms, rough palms, hands of a man with hard work, hands with a neat manicure …
Have you ever heard that you recognized someone from a distance by their posture or gait? Pose is another identifier. We are constantly told to straighten our backs, so perhaps we tend to draw people standing straight, but in reality there is a great many poses. Each of us has a characteristic posture, like the characters in the figure below, each of which stands differently.
Please note that this is about style man and not about attire. You are not drawing clothes that the person will wear all the time, unless it is a person in uniform (policeman, priest) or someone who has certain reasons to wear the same clothes. In my comic, Malaac, one character, Adrian, always wears the same T-shirt and scarf, which underlines his unusual character … but he has reasons for that!
But in life, people rarely wear the same clothes all day long, most have their own style of dress, and this is a very important aspect of the character. This style not only creates consistency, but also shows the individuality of the character and / or the situation.
Students may have some clothes, but, for example, a young lady who watches fashion is unlikely to be seen twice in the same outfit. Modest people wear unsightly clothes, while rebels can put on the most unusual things. Mostly men’s clothes are much smaller than women’s, and the wardrobe’s color range is smaller and so on.
There are a lot of sources around from which you can pick up ideas for developing a character’s clothing style, so watch the people around you. You can start with the following question: does this person dress to look good, or from the question of practicality? Do they want to stand out from the crowd or mix with it?
My main character, Malaak, was raised modestly, and she dresses beautifully, but not too much to stand out. But her friend Zayna, who loves to attract attention, always puts on something unusual and catchy, and good taste in her clothes is definitely not always present. On the other hand, Yeraz, a student studying archeology by day and wushu at night, is currently dominated by sportswear in her wardrobe.
The nature of my characters can be seen even in the selection of their costume for Halloween …
Create a piece of information about a real, existing person. Your grandmother, best friend, teacher — anyone you can calmly look at and make sketches for some time (or, for example, take pictures).
Collect and record information as if you need to create instructions for someone else on how to draw that person correctly. Observe and note what is not particularly noticeable in this person: all the tiny details of the face, hair, silhouette and posture, clothing style, and basic character traits, so that your imaginary assistant knows what facial expressions are characteristic of this character.
Since this is your first experience of this kind, do not be afraid to go overboard with the details. With time and a certain amount of practice, you can get rid of unnecessary details. Enjoy the process! As an example, I created a leaflet with information about my friend, from which I drew my character Adrian. It contains a lot of details about him, one of which is forever impassive facial expression.
Now do the same, only for your character. There is no way to do it “right” or “wrong”; you can start with certain traits and, based on them, develop a character, or vice versa, or create a character with a certain style in dress or role. What is important is that when you finish working on a character, you will know its features as if it were a real person!
Tip: do not try to copy the “sheets with the character” from sites consisting of a single picture and a lot of extra details. The purpose of this exercise is to know and understand how the character looks down to the smallest detail, and not what kind of tea is his favorite. A well-designed information sheet will help you in the future; I myself constantly peep into these sheets when working on a comic. Despite the fact that I know each of my characters as an old friend, they help me not to forget their true face (in every sense :)), even considering that my style progresses with time.
2. Know how to draw these features from different angles.
Once you understand all the features of your character, you need to make sure that you can portray these features. Here the answer to the question “How to make my character always look right?” Is often “You need to learn how to draw.”
It may sound harsh, but this can not be avoided; if a person has not reached a certain level in drawing, if he cannot draw simple shapes from different angles, then one should not expect success in this more complex stage. I really understand your desire to immediately draw something more fascinating (for example, people), but only from calmness, perseverance and practice is the only true path leading to long-term results.
You will again need a friend who is ready to help, or you can choose a celebrity, as it is easy to find a bunch of their photos from different angles on the Internet. Work only on one feature at a time, drawing it from different angles. This process should not be burdensome, since you will notice that from some corners the line will look almost the same, and that you will only have to draw its front, side, three-quarters, top and bottom views. Here, for example, I drew Samuel Jackson’s nose:
And here is the shape of Audrey Hepburn’s face:
This way you will get a good understanding of these forms in 3D format. If the process is problematic at first, you can simplify complex features to geometric shapes. And do not forget to compare different features at similar angles. For example, how do different eyebrows look from afar? Do they differ from each other or do they all look the same? I checked and found that, despite the fact that the shape of the arc becomes less noticeable with increasing distance, eyebrows still retain their individuality.
At this point, you probably can’t wait to take up the practice, filling in the gaps in your knowledge and pursuing your goals. You can write a thousand pages describing every detail of a miracle called the human body, but I believe that after a certain amount of theoretical material, what you really need is to observe people in real life and practice – and and the other should not end! I hope this lesson was useful and interesting.