November is a time for giving thanks, but for many writers it is a time for battle. Every November, writers take on a challenge called NaNoWriMo where the goal is to write a novel in one month. How is this event related to painting? Writing descriptions of characters can be easy if you can perfectly picture characters in your mind, but often descriptions do not translate to paper. Other times you have an idea for a character, but are having trouble putting it into words. For this, sketching characters and playing around with their appearance, sometimes in wild ways, can help you form a character. Sketching is the brainstorming of art. For some, sketching can be difficult and you need help to loosen up your art to try new things.
Welcome to my sixth blogpost! I go by Artsy Bat Brooke on all my art social medias and you can find me on Instagram at @artsy.bat.brooke and on YouTube at ArtsyBatBrooke. I am writing to you from the trenches of NaNoWriMo where the goal is to writing 50,000 words in a month. I have been trying to get a novel published for a few years now and something I have never done is sketch out my characters to try out different appearances. Though it is imperative for book illustrations, what I am also pursuing, it can be helpful with novel writing as well. Join me as we do two different character developments.
When I do character developments, I like having a long piece of paper so the earlier iterations are on the left while more solid ideas are on the right. You can do it any way you want; this is just the way my brain organizes it. Other supplies are pencils, waterproof pens, and I am using Smiling Hippo Watercolors.
First, I am going to start with the goofier of the two characters for a children’s book illustration. I have a cat that is going to jump out of a bush to chase the characters. For the first page of the cat’s appearance, I thought it might be cool to see it poking out of the bush. Just to try the poking out effect, I tried two concepts looking over the bush and through the bush. I then draw out multiple versions, but kept the expression blank.Expressions can transform the look of something, but I wanted to look at the colors alone affecting the look without the influence of the expression. Do not be afraid of trying a crazy color. Children often enjoy more fantastical representations of things.
Once I have a few colors I think will fit what I am going for, I try them again with different expressions. These expressions do change how the color seems to fit what I am going for. In the end, I didn’t decide on a final color scheme, but trying out a few different iterations has helped me decide the color: either orange or a mischievous grey. Perhaps, I will try to figure out a way to make it shine different when the page is turned.
Drawing a character for a novel doesn’t need to be detailed or of artist quality. It is an aid to help you visualize your character to describe them better or see if your description gives the impression you want it to. In this blog, I will be playing around with the appearance of a character who doesn’t have a story. I want to write a story inspired by the line “He was a dark and stormy knight.” This line was a parody of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s line “It was a dark and storm night” that Charles Schultz had Snoopy type.
To explore this character, I need a bunch of knight blank slates. I just looked up a bunch of helmets for references, then I drew them out with a generic face with a smile. The multiple types of helmets came from many different time periods to figure out the look I would want. After lining them, it was time for the paint.
You could start off with the skin tone, or start with the helmets as I did. Remember, these are just brainstorms and not the final piece. Try experimenting. I did do a few more traditional metallic looking ones, but I also experimented with maroon, blue, and a light grey which shines blue in light. Could the character’s world have metal which is a different color?
Next, I tried out some skin tones and really stepped out of our world’s norm. Could alien colors work and make the story more science fiction? The story could be more of a fantasy with the knight being some type of fairy with green skin. Is it dark and stormy because of a menacing black stare from the helmet eye holes or because they have grey skin? Maybe they have glowing neon pink eyes.
Go out of your comfort zone while trying these out. It is when you go out of your comfort zone that you might come up with an idea you wouldn’t have otherwise. Your character might not have glittery skin, but maybe they will trip in a craft supply store and get covered in it. Let the creative process be loose to allow new ideas to come to you. Take a break and try it out.