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    Character design critique

    Hello there! It's been a loooong while since I posted in the critique center. These are some character designs I made last week. They're my first attempt towards building a portfolio.

    I know I have a lot to improve on anatomy but that area is covered. I'm working towards a better understanding of the human body every day at school in my Anatomy class and also life drawing sessions.

    Where I'm a little lost is in character design and gesture. I know I've got a slight grasp of both but I'd really like to push those areas even more, since it's where the "soul" is in my opinion.

    Another question I have is what can I do to make the layout more professional. Should I do turnarounds and several expressions for every character? Is that the usual in character design portfolios? I've seen a lot of people do that but I feel that doing that for every character would make the portfolio boring to read.

    Aside from these questions, any other critiques are very much welcome. Rip them apart!

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  3. #2
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    They look really nice to my mind. It looks like you are aiming for the casual games industry? Everything is cartoony and bright in tone. As for the modelling thing. Well someone more experiences might disagree but I don't see why you'd have to do modelling sheets for each and every character? I mean if you do one good one clearly labeled modelling sheet with orthographic maps of front, back and profile, it show you understand the requirement. Maybe show it on the first character in your portfolio? And then after that do something like colour variations, hairstlye, clothing etc... To tick another box?

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    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    They look really nice to my mind. It looks like you are aiming for the casual games industry? Everything is cartoony and bright in tone.
    Well, yes and no. I just drew whatever I liked for a week because I was sick and had no homework. By the end of the week my style looked like this and I love it. I love drawing the exaggerations, different body shapes, etc. But I didn't aim for the casual games industry specifically.

    However, I applied for some quick jobs with these drawings and got a couple gigs... in the casual games industry. So while I like earning money with my craft and I'm exited to start working on those projects, my "dream job" is elsewhere. I'd love to be an independent comic book artist and writer but my attempts so far have been very poor.

    On the character design industry I'd love to design characters for animation: tv shows, movies... or "hardcore" videogames, anything with a good story really. My problem with this is that every movie, tv show and videogame I love is in the past, and I don't see that kind of thing coming out in the market anymore except for a few rare examples that are not very commercially successful.

    So while I like drawing cartoons and exaggerations I don't want to work all my life to create meaningless web games... if that makes any sense. I fear that for the kind of thing I want to work on I'll have to switch styles, or maybe even switch to traditional because my drawings all have this "web" feeling. Aw, I'm a little lost here



    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    I mean if you do one good one clearly labeled modelling sheet with orthographic maps of front, back and profile, it show you understand the requirement. Maybe show it on the first character in your portfolio? And then after that do something like colour variations, hairstlye, clothing etc... To tick another box?
    You hit the nail on the head there I think, that makes total sense. Any other "boxes to tick" you can think of? I saw some character sheets from Batman: The Animated Series where they had the character in different full body poses to show their personality and behavior(not just the floating heads everyone does). I think I'll do that for one character, too.

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    Nice stuff! I feel the first sheet looks a little flat, but the other ones look really dimensional, so you seem to know what you're doing.

    There is a difference between 'blue sky' character design, where a designer cranks out ideas, and production design, where a designer makes characters ready for production, including turnaround, expressions, mouth shapes and poses. In the end, an animator needs to have a guide that tells him how a character acts in varying circumstances. I think it is good if you could flesh out a few characters, making them come alive through model sheets.

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    Well it all depends on the purpose. For instance orthographic modelling sheets are good for modellers and different full body poses would be good for animators. Say you were working on Avatar the TV series (what I wouldn't have given to work on that!). Well the animation director would go away and draw up a whole load of full body pose sheets - some close up sheets of all the different facial expressions etc... this would be so that the other animators junior to him would have an excellent source of reference. But that's in traditional 2D animation.

    So I guess you ought to tailor your portfolio to what kind of job you want to get. If it's games - well you don't necessarily need to do like whole sheets of expressions. I mean yeah maybe they'd be handy for animators - but you know, animators know their stuff (usually). Generally speaking they don't need YOU as a concept artist, telling them how to do their job. They'll have a far better understanding of gesture and pose than you will (unless that's been your specific background - i.e. you did 10 years in animation or something). Concepting in games is more about creating designs that the modellers can go off and make.

    If it's TV and traditional 2D animation - hence the animated TV series of Batman - then yeah you may want to think about that.

    Anyhow - someone may come here and correct me. I've spent a while in a number of industries but in concept art I'm a self confessed noob.

    There was a good article by the art director of D&D that Schaevarus (or whatever his/her name is @_@) posted up - if you ask him he might have the link again. Anyways - the guy talks about how people can get in a rutt with their work - they end up getting gigs and then they get stuck in a genre and aren't happy because it's not what they really want to be doing. He has some advice. I won't paraphrase!

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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque@xs4all.nl View Post
    Nice stuff! I feel the first sheet looks a little flat, but the other ones look really dimensional, so you seem to know what you're doing.

    There is a difference between 'blue sky' character design, where a designer cranks out ideas, and production design, where a designer makes characters ready for production, including turnaround, expressions, mouth shapes and poses. In the end, an animator needs to have a guide that tells him how a character acts in varying circumstances. I think it is good if you could flesh out a few characters, making them come alive through model sheets.
    Wait - eezacque - just contradicted me. I don't know you better ask him - he's probably got more experience than me in a games studio or something.

    Any of the animators that I've ever met have been pretty hot at their jobs and know gesture and pose like the back of their hands. I mean I worked with someone who'd worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a load of other Disney work before like uhm... Pocahontas (can't spell) - I wasn't about to draw up some pictures to show him how I thought the expressions and gestures should go - he'd own me

    But I guess it varies. Maybe some art director will jump online here and say something.

    K

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    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    So I guess you ought to tailor your portfolio to what kind of job you want to get. If it's games - well you don't necessarily need to do like whole sheets of expressions. I mean yeah maybe they'd be handy for animators - but you know, animators know their stuff (usually). Generally speaking they don't need YOU as a concept artist, telling them how to do their job. They'll have a far better understanding of gesture and pose than you will (unless that's been your specific background - i.e. you did 10 years in animation or something). Concepting in games is more about creating designs that the modellers can go off and make.
    I know a guy that every time he'd get a one sided design (just the front of the character or just the back) he would model something really hideous on the unknown area, just to piss off the designer and show how he was doing a half-ass job

    Just saying

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    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Wait - eezacque - just contradicted me. I don't know you better ask him - he's probably got more experience than me in a games studio or something.

    Any of the animators that I've ever met have been pretty hot at their jobs and know gesture and pose like the back of their hands. I mean I worked with someone who'd worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a load of other Disney work before like uhm... Pocahontas (can't spell) - I wasn't about to draw up some pictures to show him how I thought the expressions and gestures should go - he'd own me
    It all depends whether you're designing for old-school traditional animation, or for cheap Flash stuff. People Who Framed Roger Rabbit or did Pocahontas must be mummies, by now. It once more stresses the fact that OP must tailor his portfolio for the job...

    Grinnikend door het leven...
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    hehe - I'll let him know you think he must be a mummy - sheeet I'm half way there myself I can feel the drool building up...

    I think he was in his mid 40s when I met him - he teaches in an animation college these days.

    Anyhow - if Dina is trying to get a job in a reasonably sized studio - and only reasonable sized studios are going to be able to afford a full time concept artist - the chances are the animators are decent - there's lots of things to consider when it comes to facial animations - you don't know what kind of rig they are using. Whether they want to be using mocap data - whether its a one rig fits all scenario (usual)... I don't think it would hurt to do expressions and stuff - certainly shows the depth of your ability as an artist.

    Anyhow what DO you want to do Dina?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Quike Garcia View Post
    I know a guy that every time he'd get a one sided design (just the front of the character or just the back) he would model something really hideous on the unknown area, just to piss off the designer and show how he was doing a half-ass job

    Just saying
    Oh yeah - that sounds like me. Did you read my post in the portfolio reviews section by any chance?!

    The production team: a bunch of hairy arsed, pizza swilling 3D modellers who think concept artists are namby pamby artiste types who don't have a fucking clue how real shit gets done. They swan in and ruin my day with their ridiculous designs that fuck with my poly count and the worst thing is I've got an art director who's a concept artist too and thinks that I'm just a glorified photocopier for his prepubescent fantasies! Sheeeet!

    Only joking You can't please everyone. Sometimes the detail is just prescriptive - it doesn't give modellers (most of them are very good artists in their own right) a chance to explore. Sometimes the detail is just not there...

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    Wow I didn't expect so many replies! Thank you guys! You're being a HUGE help since I'm really lost when it comes to start being a professional.

    To add some background: I'm 19 years old right now (turning 20 in september - woah that's a big number!) and while I LOVE coming up with characters, it's not the only thing I want to be able to do. However it's the only thing I'm able to do at the moment (I'm not excellent but I have earned money so it's not a useless skill), so I figured it would be a good thing to put together a portfolio so I can at least do ONE thing right while I keep learning. If I went and decided to be a full time character designer and character designer only, I have a strong preference towards TV Series (think in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, the Gargoyles, The Gummy Bears, Avatar... yeah that's the kind of stuff I like. I just noticed I'm not at all drawing the kind of stuff I like. Silly me.) over video games because I'm always been crazy over traditional 2D animation. The cheap Flash stuff as someone mentioned... it's hideous. Just no. I cringe when I think of the way it's taking over the market. Why did I have to be a baby in the 90s? In short: Not for 3D, not for Flash.

    As for the "animators knowing what they're doing"... well I don't know much about the industry but I think that the process of designing a character for animation means designing both his physical looks (which a turnaround would show fully) AND his personality. Even though the writer sets the personality in stone, is it not the character designer's job to come up with the "trademark" expressions and gestures of the character, so that he can be animated consistently in every episode/throughout the whole movie? Right off the gut I'd agree with what eezacque said.

    By the way, does the kind of job I'm describing (if it exists) usually involve living in the area and going to work every day at the studio? Because I live in Spain where the industry is not precisely good. I already was an immigrant once (I was born in Uruguay) and while the languages wouldn't be a problem (I'm fluent in English and French, still learning German) I cringe at the idea of being an immigrant again. Wasn't nice for me so I'd prefer something I could do from home. It's not an impediment, if I got a dream job I'd obviously move but I'd like to know what I should be expecting.

    Thanks for all the replies guys, really. It seems I have a lot of research to do about my favourite movies, games and TV shows. I've always been crazy over all the "making ofs" and learning as much as I could about the drawings themselves but I never got curious about the way the industry works... until I had to get a job! Haha!

    Also I've been thinking and I won't be taking any more jobs in the casual games thingy. They pay well and I'm excited about the money (first year working woohoo!) but I don't want to dive deeper into that because my dreams are elsewhere, even if it takes me some more years before I can start working "for real".

    PD: To be clear (since I wrote a book here) I'd like to have the job of the guy who does THIS. I know have a loooong way to go before I can draw like that but I'd like to know what skills I'm lacking right now to get there. This thread got really interesting but I also wanted critique on the designs themselves, if that's not asking for too much

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    Last edited by Dina2342; February 20th, 2014 at 01:48 PM.
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    Hahaha - not laughing at you btw - just laughing at 20 being a big number

    Hey were are you in Spain? I'm right next to Spain - in the Pyrenees - oh yes!

    Anyhow - I don't know lots and lots about animated 2D work. BUT - the stuff you're showing is most likely from the animation director - as I mentioned previously. He kinda does the job that the art director does on a game - he sets the style, designs all the main characters, works out the expressions etc...

    Think Hiyao Miyazaki although he would even go as far as doing all the keyframes! But that's unusual - usually a senior animator would be doing that and a junior would be filling in the in between stuff whilst the director explains the action he/she wants.

    So hmmm... the stuff that you're showing - that's quite a ways down the career path I think. Where's Stoneseeker? Isn't he a 2D animator - he'll be able to say definitively - but in general I'd say all the juicy stuff gets nabbed by the people higher up the food chain alas.

    This doesn't mean that you shouldn't pursue your dream - just be aware that it might take a while to move up the ladder so if you're happy to be filling in other people's keyframes for a few years then go ahead! Comics... well comics are a hard one. I thought about it for a bit because I loved comics when I was a kid but again it's an industry that's squeezing artists. You don't get paid very much - not even sure if you could even make a decent living doing it... possibly one way to go is to do your own comic and hope it grows with a decent fan base. It's always way better to own your own IP. You could always do a kickstarter...

    Games is a lot quicker in terms of progression because the games industry in general is much much bigger and still growing so you're much more likely to be graduating from doing boring stuff to interesting stuff much more quickly. In fact it's bigger than Hollywood. That's right - the games industry employs more people and makes more money than the whole of Hollywood combined. So in terms of stability and job security - games is better than films and tv. The problem is that games is becoming really specialised. Games animators never draw - they never model - they just animate. Modellers never animate and concept artists just draw...

    Ubisoft Montpellier is a decent studio - they are one of the few studios out there still producing 2D animated games with their Rayman series and recently Valiant Hearts.

    Anyhow - you're young and if you're willing to work hard you'll get there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Hahaha - not laughing at you btw - just laughing at 20 being a big number
    20 IS a big number! There'll be a "2" where a "1" has been for a long time. The "1" earnt his spot, it deserves to say there for a few more years. No fair!

    Btw my boyfriend's birthday cake's been proudly sporting the "19" shaped candle for three years now

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Hey were are you in Spain? I'm right next to Spain - in the Pyrenees - oh yes!
    I'm in Cádiz, which is right at the bottom of the country. Awesome beaches and lovely weather here. I study in Seville though. Terrible weather and no beaches there


    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Anyhow - I don't know lots and lots about animated 2D work. BUT - the stuff you're showing is most likely from the animation director - as I mentioned previously. He kinda does the job that the art director does on a game - he sets the style, designs all the main characters, works out the expressions etc...

    So hmmm... the stuff that you're showing - that's quite a ways down the career path I think. In general I'd say all the juicy stuff gets nabbed by the people higher up the food chain alas.
    Yes I've done some quick research these past minutes and the Animation Director is the one who does those things. So there it is, I want to be an animation director! I've toyed a little bit with animation in the past and I can confidently say that it's not "impossible" for me to become a junior animator in the near future. At least I can consistently draw the same character in different poses and expressions which is one thing I see a lot of people struggling with.

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Be aware that it might take a while to move up the ladder so if you're happy to be filling in other people's keyframes for a few years then go ahead
    That actually sounds pretty good! However that's not the kind of job you do from home, isn't it?

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Comics... well comics are a hard one. I thought about it for a bit because I loved comics when I was a kid but again it's an industry that's squeezing artists. You don't get paid very much - not even sure if you could even make a decent living doing it... possibly one way to go is to do your own comic and hope it grows with a decent fan base. It's always way better to own your own IP. You could always do a kickstarter...
    Yeah comics were my first option two years ago when I decided I didn't want to be an engineer after all and started drawing "seriously". However seeing how most of the guys and gals I looked up to in the industry were unemployed or couldn't make a living out of their craft, I wasn't too keen about the idea. Still the one big thing that makes comics still an option for me (and it's a huge thing) is that they're usually a 1-3 people job. I could control the whole visual outcome AND even write the story myself!

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Games is a lot quicker in terms of progression because the games industry in general is much much bigger and still growing so you're much more likely to be graduating from doing boring stuff to interesting stuff much more quickly. In fact it's bigger than Hollywood. That's right - the games industry employs more people and makes more money than the whole of Hollywood combined. So in terms of stability and job security - games is better than films and tv. The problem is that games is becoming really specialised. Games animators never draw - they never model - they just animate. Modellers never animate and concept artists just draw...
    Well the that's not really a bad thing... "concept artists just draw" sound perfect actually. I'm not really a gamer and as I've said my favourite video games come from the 90's (The Last Express, the Tex Murphy series...) but some recent titles have been damn good ("The Walking Dead"...) so that's still an option for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingit View Post
    Anyhow - you're young and if you're willing to work hard you'll get there!
    Thanks! But I've seen some kids around DeviantArt that make me think I'm already too old sometimes haha! I'm certainly willing to work hard. Thank you so much for this perspective into the industry.

    One thing I learnt from this thread is that I'm not really drawing the kind of thing I want to draw for a living. I noticed every example I mentioned of the stuff I like is not as cartoony or bright as my stuff is. I'm doing this because it comes easy to me, but I'm going to focus on steering this ship towards more mature and serious waters because that's what I really like. As Spiderman says, it's easy being who you are - the hard thing is being who you want to be! (and finding out who you want to be, I might add).

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    Please don't say that! I'm 36 so that makes me... positively a mummy (as eezacque said)

    Anyhow - I wish you the best of luck Dina - if you're willing to work hard and never give up you'll get what you want. That's a truth that's behind every success story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dina2342 View Post
    20 IS a big number! There'll be a "2" where a "1" has been for a long time. The "1" earnt his spot, it deserves to say there for a few more years. No fair!
    Also, I'm an engineer AND an illustrator, so it's not impossible

    In other topics, in Madrid and Barcelona is where traditionally you would find most animation work, but I'm not sure right now of the job market in animation in Spain, sorry.
    I'm sorry to be the bringer of doom, but one day there will be a 3, and what is even worse, you won't mind.. much

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