Char­ac­ter­ful crea­ture art

Noukah shares her tips for adding more story and per­son­al­ity to crea­tures and char­ac­ters, and mak­ing the view­ers care

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

Fol­low Noukah’s tips for giv­ing an­i­mals a per­son­al­ity.

An­i­mals have al­ways been my favourite art sub­ject. There’s re­ally no limit to how much you can learn when it comes to draw­ing and paint­ing them. And be­sides, it’s awe­some to draw cute and funny crea­tures. How­ever, this work­shop will be less about anatomy and tech­ni­cal ap­proaches and more about how to boost your art and take it to the next level.

For me, it was all about mas­ter­ing the tech­niques in the be­gin­ning, which un­for­tu­nately led me to not pri­ori­tise sto­ries and orig­i­nal ap­proaches. This slowly re­sulted in strong paint­ing skills, but barely any good ideas. Ba­si­cally, I for­got what I wanted to say with my art. I re­gret this to­day, as I’ve come to re­alise that mas­ter­ing the skill of cre­at­ing per­sonal art can sig­nif­i­cantly boost your own com­mer­cial art­works. I’m al­ways on a jour­ney, and I’m still try­ing to fig­ure things out.

My goal with this work­shop is to give you some use­ful tips and tools, so you can turn up your art and char­ac­ter de­signs a notch. Af­ter all, ev­ery artist wants the view­ers to care about their art. Hope­fully, th­ese tips can help you make progress in that di­rec­tion.

1 Re­peat, re­peat, then re­peat again

I rarely nail a sketch at the first at­tempt, so don’t be afraid to pro­duce sev­eral re­vi­sions. I’m a per­fec­tion­ist (for bet­ter or for worse), so over the years I’ve de­vel­oped a habit for re­vi­sions. It’s be­come a good habit, be­cause I’m not only im­prov­ing with ev­ery sketch I make, but I also end up with lots of ver­sions I can go back to, merge to­gether with a new one, and cre­ate the best pos­si­ble re­sults.

2 Be cre­ative with your self­ies

Study your­self in the mir­ror, or record your­self on video. It’s ben­e­fi­cial to make crea­tures feel more hu­man, which can be in­flu­enced by our own ex­pres­sions. I like do­ing this, since I get an ex­cuse to make funny faces with­out be­ing ques­tioned by peo­ple who think they know bet­ter.

3 Study real an­i­mals

Watch photos, on­line videos and na­ture pro­grammes, study your own pets. Why not try record­ing them in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions? Af­ter all, a frozen frame from a video is much more au­then­tic and nat­u­ral than a staged photo.

4 Be per­sonal

Your memories and life ex­pe­ri­ences are price­less. Find your in­spi­ra­tion and tell your own sto­ries through your char­ac­ters or crea­tures. What makes you smile, laugh or cry? Con­sider adding your own pet to your art, or maybe some­thing funny and em­bar­rass­ing? I tend to draw lots of horses, foxes and cats, since I used to be one of those typ­i­cal girls who hung out a lot at the sta­ble, and the fox is a com­mon an­i­mal here in Swe­den. And I see our two silly cats do­ing stupid things ev­ery day, so it’s hard not to get in­spired by that!

5 Don’t be afraid to ask “what if…?”

Take my piece with the tiger chas­ing the bal­loon for in­stance. It all started with that tiger alone, reach­ing for some­thing. I wanted to try some­thing dif­fer­ent, and started think­ing that it would be hi­lar­i­ous to paint some­thing about a tiger and a scared bal­loon. To­tally ran­dom! Ask­ing “what if?” helps you ex­plore more ideas, for cre­at­ing in­ter­est­ing crea­tures and char­ac­ters.

6 Kno w your anatomy, to cre­ate be­liev­able art

The anatomy doesn’t have to be 100 per cent per­fect. But it does still has to be be­liev­able. Luck­ily, many an­i­mals share sim­i­lar anatomy, so you only need to fig­ure out the sig­nif­i­cant fea­tures of the spe­cific an­i­mal you’re draw­ing: pro­por­tions, pos­ture, sig­nif­i­cant de­tails and so on. The bones and limbs are at­tached in a sim­i­lar way, so if you learn how to draw one an­i­mal, you’ll get a short­cut to a bunch of other ones, too.

Anatomy doesn’t have to be per­fect, but has to be be­liev­able

7 Play with light to add story

Try out dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions be­fore set­tling on the fi­nal one. Think about the mood, and ask your­self, what do you want to say with your piece? Cute or ro­man­tic pieces work well with a sunny, back­lit magic hour light, while dark, hard shad­ows may be more suit­able to in­di­cate dan­ger. Study colour scripts for films to see how the stu­dios have solved cer­tain sit­u­a­tions and moods. Us­ing ac­tual photos as a base for colours is also help­ful if you want to cre­ate re­al­is­tic light­ing.

8 Pin­ter­est is great for get­ting in­spired, but can also be a trap

Don’t get too caught up in brows­ing other artists on­line for in­spi­ra­tion. Sites like Pin­ter­est or gallery sites like ArtS­ta­tion are great for boost­ing your own in­spi­ra­tion, but I would al­ways say to use your own sto­ries and ideas as a base. This is some­thing I’m con­stantly work­ing on.

9 in clude a sense of in­ter­ac­tion

I like art where you can see some kind of emo­tion in the char­ac­ters, be­cause that’s some­thing we all can re­late to. The char­ac­ters or crea­tures can be cud­dly, com­fort­ing, an­gry, sad… It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter, as long as you feel some­thing. Take the paint­ing I Love You Bro (above) for in­stance: some cou­ples have said to me that they re­mind them of their kids, or even them­selves.

10 use strong body lan­guage

It all starts with def­i­nite body lan­guage, so try to nail that be­fore div­ing into the de­tails such as fa­cial ex­pres­sions. To help do that, try to imag­ine how your char­ac­ter would pose them­selves if it didn’t have a face. I know that sounds a bit creepy, but it makes sense, since body lan­guage tells you much more than one might think. Play around with dif­fer­ent poses in your rough sketches, then you’ll be able to pin-point which one will be the most suit­able to tell your char­ac­ter’s or crea­ture’s story.

11 Pain t glossy, re­al­is­tic but car­toon y eyes

Here’s a lit­tle in­sight into my ap­proach to paint­ing glossy eyes in Pho­to­shop

I like art where you can see emo­tion in the char­ac­ters

Things just sud­denly fell into place – my cats clearly re­sem­bled Bilbo and Gol­lum!

12 En­sure that view­ers can re­late to your paint­ings

With my Hob­bit cats piece, peo­ple could re­late to it be­cause it was funny and fa­mil­iar. I even used my own cats as mod­els. Things just sud­denly fell into place – my cats re­sem­bled Bilbo and Gol­lum! It’s not a co­in­ci­dence that I painted this dur­ing the same time as The Hob­bit was show­ing at the cin­e­mas. The tim­ing was per­fect and in­spi­ra­tion struck hard.

13 Eco­nomic brush strokes

One way to make paint­ings or sketches look cleaner is to lock the Trans­parency on some of the lay­ers and keep paint­ing within brush strokes. I do this a lot to keep things nice and clean, and the brush strokes look much more con­fi­dent. This tech­nique can also be a lot of help when paint­ing hair or fur. You’ll gain more con­trol over smaller strains of hair, whiskers, eye­brows and so on.

14 Line of ac­tion

Try to think of your char­ac­ter or crea­ture as one sim­ple line of ac­tion and build the pose around that. This goes hand in hand with my tip on body lan­guage (see num­ber 10). Straight lines in­di­cate a more ag­gres­sive pose, while softer curves ex­ude a sense of calm.

15 Work with a lim­ited colour pal­ette to keep things sim­ple and clean

Ex­per­i­ment and see what com­ple­men­tary colours work with your piece. I like to de­cide on one sig­nif­i­cant colour and let that be the most sat­u­rated one. And I pick a less-sat­u­rated com­ple­men­tary one to sup­port it. The fastest way for me is to start with a monochro­matic paint­ing and save the bright colours to the last. Or just set­tle with the monochro­matic scheme.

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