Very stuck in character design class

  • So I’ve been on this character design class for months now. It’s the Unique and Appealing Character Design class. I get back into it, I get frustrated, and I have to take a break for a while. I can’t keep doing this but I’m really struggling to work through it.

    The issue I’m having is that shape based characters are so against the grain of how I would normally approach a character design. I include basic shapes to make my characters of course but to to pick a shape and mold them from there just feels like it is a technique that does not work for me. It is an excellent way to approach character design and completely valid but it just does not work for my brain. I feel like if I keep trying to force myself to do it this way I’m not going to get much out of the experience. Should I just follow along with the class in a way that is more comfortable to me or should I find some way to better understand how to make a shape based character, and if so what would you suggest?

  • Moderator

    @Griffin I think it's valuable to at least jump through the hoops and try to follow the suggested approaches. That comes from the "teacher" side of me. It's always useful to learn new techniques, and if you decide they're not for you then you don't have to keep doing them.

    I think it's important to remember that some instruction is "do it like I do" and other instruction is "here's what works for me". There are no grades at SVSLearn. No one is going to slap your wrist with a ruler and say, "Wrong! Do it like I told you!" But I think it's worth thinking about the fact that the instructors for the classes are good at what they do and are showing you what is most effective from a position of expertise and experience. You are going to have to balance that against your preferences and decide for yourself what will work for you.

    Be wary of being the student that says, "Well, that's just not my style," because often those students simply can't do it any other way. Those kinds of "styles" aren't a choice, but a habit. Make sure your style and way of working are active choices, not just the thing you do because you can't do it any other way and what comes out the other end of your fingers is a happy accident that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't...

    In my personal experience, I've learned that following processes and lessons for the sake of following processes and lessons can be a good experience sometimes--if for nothing else than to realize none of it fits you. But at that point, it's a conscious decision on your end, and your methods are purposeful and controllable and can be manipulated and altered to incorporate new ideas or become purer and more decisive and clearer (which can only be a good thing). Either way, you win.

  • @Coreyartus one of my concerns is what your brought up about being a "that’s not my style" student. But I know I can work in different styles because I feel I don’t even have a style yet so I’m always going all over the place with style. However when I begin any given piece I do think about what sort of style I want it to be in, what would be most effective and all that. The trouble that this class is giving me is that when creating characters based off of shape like is shown in the class, nothing comes to mind for style. I know what style I would use if I weren’t doing shape based characters. Shape based characters feel very limited to me. I tried to find examples of shape based characters but didn’t find much that fit with the examples we are given in the class. And in the class the instructor only designs two characters even though we are supposed to draw 5 which was a bit frustrating to me because it just seems to be further proving the point that this is sort of a restrictive way of creating characters. I suppose that goes against what I said in the post about it being a valid way of creating characters. I’m still struggling to figure it all out.

  • Moderator

    Well, not every class is going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's okay to say, "I guess that class didn't work for me," and try to find another one.

    Shape-based character development has roots in animation, because characters based on shapes are easier to animate effectively and logically. If a character is essentially a series of shapes, it's easier to create logical poses and the appearance of movement that make sense to viewers looking at consecutive images in a narrative sequence. It's not absolutely necessary, but I'd suggest making sure your particular method has as much structure and internal logic to it if you're going to draw the same character doing different actions in your stories.

    The use of shapes is just a tool to help narrative appearance, like most chocolate is made with cocoa beans in order to make it taste like chocolate. All artificial chocolate flavors are based on that particular original flavor, and emulate it to some degree. Whatever method you use your characters still need to have a logic to them that makes sense when they use different poses or have different attitudes or are viewed from different angles. They still have to taste like chocolate whatever ingredients you use.

  • @Coreyartus this is really great advice, thank you!

  • @Griffin you may be going about it backwards. Choose your traits and make the shapes match them. That's what I got out of the class. I wanted a solid jovial yeti. An oblong shape is rounded (friendly) and have some heft to them. So that is what I chose. Maybe if you think like that (traits first, shape to match) the process will be easier. Need someone menacing? Make him angled and sharp. Dependable? Go with a square. Turn the problem on its head. Hope this helps.

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