"I want my character to look like my son/daughter/cat/dog..."

  • SVS OG

    Hey all! I've been an SVS member for about 3 months and occasionally lurked here. Now I have a question for you!

    I have a potential illustration job with a local author for self-publishing. One thing that raised a red flag in my mind was that the character was like her little girl. That got me wondering, what do you say when the author wants to model a character after someone they know? They have a clear idea of what they want, so is it different from a made-up character?

    Past experience with portrait photography and illustration has taught me people are really critical of how they are portrayed (I look fat, my hair's a mess, can you erase my wrinkles, etc), so I think using a real child as a model might get into a sensitive area.

    My question is how much influence should real-life people or pets have on a book character? And how would you steer the conversation so the author is open to alternative character designs? I haven't discussed anything in-depth yet with the author I'm working with, I was just curious because the question must come up often enough in the realm of self-published works. I remember Will Terry saying once in a video that character design was his area of expertise as the illustrator. How much influence does the illustrator have?

  • SVS OG

    @carriecopa This is not a very good answer but if you have not seen it it is a video that Will posted a while back - it talks about having to make the character look just like the author’s child at 1:30 into the video - so i’m guessing that it is a common theme and is a pet peeve of many illustrators working with self published authors - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmjmZSbLMvA

  • I have another video to add- also from Will Terry. I believe he and Tyrus cover the topic in this video, though it may be in another one. It's a very long video, but worth it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZY_Fz4Lz2s If it's not in that video it's possibly in this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO8CA1kakiQ

  • SVS OG

    @tessw That first link was the one I was thinking of, thanks! I'll watch both videos. Will Terry's channel is full of inspiration and useful shop talk. This project sounds like good experience to pick up even if it doesn't pan out - at least I'll learn how to conduct business with self-publishers.

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