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Lackadaisy - Patreon

Journal Entry: Sat Nov 30, 2013, 1:24 PM

I've recently left my job in the game industry so that I could focus more of my time and attention on Lackadaisy.  Patreon is my weapon of choice in trying to see this to fruition.

If more Lackadaisy comic updates, illustrations, tutorials, mini-comics, books and other things interests you, please do check it out!

Support Lackadaisy on Patreon


Notes on Character Design


I received the question pictured below at my tumblr blog.  In case it's useful to anyone here, I decided to go ahead and use this otherwise dormant journal to share the article I put together in response.


character design question


Character design and drawing are tome-sized topics and even if I had all the answers (I don't - I have a lot to learn), I'm not sure I could communicate them effectively. Here are some thoughts an ideas that might help, though.


First, some general things...

- Relax.
Let some of that anxiety go. This isn't a hard science. There's no wrong way, no rigid process you must adhere to, no shoulds or shouldn'ts except those you designate for yourself. This is one of the fun parts of being an artist, really - have a heady good time with it.

- Be patient.
A design is something gradually arrived at. It takes time and iteration and revision. You'll throw a lot of stuff away, and you'll inevitably get frustrated at times, but bear in mind the process is both inductive and deductive. Drawing the wrong things is part of the path toward drawing the right thing.

cat sketches

- Learn to draw.
It might seem perfunctory to say, but I'm not sure everyone's on the same page about what this means. Learning to draw isn't a sort of rote memorization process in which, one by one, you learn a recipe for humans, horses, pokemon, cars, etc. It's much more about learning to think like an artist, to develop the sort of spacial intelligence that lets you observe and effectively translate to paper, whatever the subject matter. When you're really learning to draw, you're learning to draw anything and everything. Observing and sketching trains you to understand dimension, form, gesture, mood, how anatomy works, economy of line; all of the foundational stuff you will also rely on to draw characters from your imagination. So, spend some time honing your drawing ability. Hone it with observational sketching. Hone it good.

  • I don't think I've ever seen anyone do this sort of thing better than Claire Wendling. In fact, character designs emerge almost seamlessly from her gestural sketches. It'd be worth looking her up.

- Gather inspiration like a crazed magpie.
What will ultimately be your trademark style and technique is a sort of snowball accumulation of the various things you expose yourself to, learn and draw influence from. To that effect, Google images, tumblr, pinterest and stock photo sites are your friends. When something tingles your artsy senses - a style, a shape, a texture, an appealing palette, a composition, a pose, a cool looking animal, a unique piece of apparel, whatever - grab it. Looking at a lot of material through a creative lens will make you a better artist the same way reading a lot of material makes a better writer.
It'll also devour your hard drive and you will try and fail many times to organize it, but more importantly, it'll give you a lovely library of ideas and motivational shinies to peruse when you're conjuring characters.

- Imitate.
It's a powerful learning tool. Probably for many of us, drawing popular cartoon characters was the gateway habit that lured us into the depraved world of character design to begin with. I wouldn't suggest limiting yourself to one style or neglecting your own inventions to do this, but it's an effective way to limber up, to get comfortable drawing characters in general, and to glean something from the thought processes of other artists.

- Use references.
Don't leave it all up to guessing. Whether you're trying to design something with realistic anatomy or something rather profoundly abstracted from reality, it's helpful in a multitude of ways to look at pictures. When designing characters, you can infer a lot personality from photos, too.
horse reference horses

And despite what you might have heard, having eyeballs and using them to look at things doesn't constitute cheating. There's no shame in reference material. There's at least a little shame in unintentional abstractions, though.

shame


Concepts and Approach:

- Break it down
Sometimes you have the look of a character fleshed out in your mind before putting it to paper, but usually not. That doesn't mean you have to blow your cortical fuses trying conceive multiple diverse designs all at the same time, though. You don't even have to design the body shape, poses, face, and expressions of a single character all at once. Tackle it a little at a time.

The cartoony, googly eyed style was pre-established for the simple mobile game goblin character below, but I still broke it into phases. Start with concepts, filter out what you like until you arrive at a look, experiment with colors, gestures and expressions.

Carl the goblin accountant cyber-monkey-death-bots


- Start with the general and work toward the specific.
Scribbling out scads of little thumbnails and silhouettes to capture an overall character shape is an effective way begin - it's like jotting down visual notes. When you're working at a small scale without agonizing over precision and details, there's no risk of having to toss out a bunch of hard work, so go nuts with it. Give yourself a lot of options.

Above sample silhouettes from an old cancelled project in which I was tasked with designing some kind of cyber monkey death bot. I scratched out some solid black shapes then refined some of them a step or two further.



Design:

- Shapes are language.
They come preloaded with all sorts of biological, cultural and personal connotations. They evoke certain things from us too. If you’re ever stuck about where to go with your design, employ a sort of anthroposcopy along these lines - make a visual free association game out of it. It’ll not only tend to result in a distinguished design, but a design that communicates something about the nature of the character.

Think about what you infer from different shapes. What do they remind you of? What personalities or attitudes come to mind? How does the mood of a soft curve differ from that of a sharp angle? With those attributes attached, how could they be used or incorporated into a body or facial feature shape? What happens when you combine shapes in complementary or contrasting ways? How does changing the weight distribution among a set of shapes affect look and feel? Experiment until a concept starts to resonate with the character you have in mind or until you stumble on something you like.

Lucky Charms rejects


If you don’t have intent, take the opposite approach - draw some shapes and see where they go. (It’s stupid fun.)

monster shapes


- Cohesion and Style.
As you move from thumbnails to more refined drawings, you can start extrapolating details from the general form. Look for defining shapes, emergent themes or patterns and tease them out further, repeat them, mirror them, alternate them. Make the character entirely out of boxy shapes, incorporate multiple elements of an architectural style, use rhythmically varying line weights - there are a million ways to do this

Here's some of the simple shape repetition I've used for Lackadaisy characters.

And for potato shaped characters, use potato shaped shapes.

- Expressions.
Let them emerge from your design. If your various characters have distinguishing features, the expressions they make with those features will distinguish them further. Allow personality to influence expressions too, or vice versa. Often, a bit of both happens as you continue drawing - physiognomy and personality converge somewhere in the middle.

For instance, Viktor’s head is proportioned a little like a big cat. Befitting his personality, his design lets him make rather bestial expressions. Rocky, with his flair for drama, has a bit more cartoon about him. His expressions are more elastic, his cheeks squish and deform and his big eyebrows push the boundaries of his forehead. Mitzi is gentler all around with altogether fewer lines on her face. The combination of her large sleepy eyes and pencil line brow looked a little sad and a little condescending to me when I began working out her design - ultimately those aspects became incorporated into her personality.

expressions


I discuss expression drawing in more detail here (click the image for the link):

expressions

- Poses.
Rendering poses is another one of those things for which observational/gesture drawing comes in handy. Even if you’re essentially scribbling stick figures, you can get a handle on natural looking, communicative poses this way. Stick figure poses make excellent guidelines for plotting out full fledged character drawings too.

Look for the line of action. It’ll be easiest to identify in poses with motions, gestures and moods that are immediately decipherable. When you’ve learned to spot it, you can start reverse engineering your own poses around it.

line of action

- Additional resources.
Here are some related things about drawing poses and constructing characters (click the images for the links).

expressions


expressions


Lastly…

Tortured rumination about lack of ability/style/progress is a near universal state of creative affairs. Every artist I have known and worked with falls somewhere on a spectrum between frustration in perpetuity and a shade of fierce ongoing contrition that'd make Arthur Dimmesdale wince. So, next time you find yourself constructing a scourge out of all those crusty acrylic brushes you failed to clean properly, you loathsome, deluded hack, you, at least remember you’re not alone in feeling that way. When it’s not crushing the will to live out of you, the device does have its uses - it keeps you self-critical and locked in working to improve mode. If we were all quite satisfied with our output, I suppose we’d be out of reasons to try harder next time.

When you need some reassurance, compare old work to new. Evolution is gradual and difficult to perceive if you’re narrowed in on the nearest data point, but if you’ve been steadily working on characters for a few months or a year, you’ll likely see a favorable difference between points A and B.

Most of all, don’t dwell on achieving some sort of endgame in which you’re finally there as a character artist. There’s no such place - wherever you are, there is somewhere else. It’s a moving goal post. Your energy will be better spent just enjoying the process…and that much will show in the results.

Add a Comment:
 
:iconrifkamarie:
RifkaMarie Featured By Owner 7 hours ago
I love the message you put in this helpful hints sort of tutorial. I actually took out the original pencil sketch of my first drawing I ever liked enough to post here... and all these years later, I finally knew how to fix the one issue I had with it, but had to leave because I didn't know how to fix it. (long braided hair that just didn't look right somehow...)

But now I don't have a scanner, lol. I can't upload the updated copy. OH WELL. *I* know I fixed it. That's good enough.
Reply
:icondandy-l:
Dandy-L Featured By Owner 1 day ago
OMG I want the card deck!  Actually been wanting it since the first time I saw the drawings with the spades.
Reply
:iconaenonn:
Aenonn Featured By Owner 1 day ago
Good Luck!
Reply
:iconlordofarabia:
lordofarabia Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Have you ever considered turning Lackadaisy into an animated TV show?
Reply
:iconsnk911:
snk911 Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
You won't see a penny from me, but you can bet your fluffy butt I'll be standing on the sidelines, cheering you on! Good luck!
Reply
:iconmisstresshero:
Wooooooooooooooooooooow ur great
Reply
:iconmelliebels:
MellieBels Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Student Digital Artist
AAhhhh wow I can't believe I haven't had the pleasure of reading Lackadaisy all these years! I've always followed you and kept up with your fantastic art and INCREDIBLY helpful and knowledgeable tutorials, but things got in the way for me to focus and read your comic. I'm so happy to say that I finally have time to soak it all in and read it! And I'm so happy for you that you have enough support on Patreon to follow your heart and create what you're passionate about! That's always the most important <3 If I had continuous finances myself I'd definitely be a patron. Perhaps soon! Your comic is so wonderfully paced and the art has so much love put into it. The story so far is just wow *w* I love the research put into it as well! And the perspective and background work is so grand. So many things going right with this! I'm so happy for you! Congratulations :heart:
This is such perfect timing. I can't wait to keep up with your comic. <3

-Mel
Reply
:iconmrnuclearpsychopath:
MrNuclearPsychopath Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
La is puking Rainbows Rainbow Voimt :rainbowfrog: Seizure Kitty Dance Foxy's MLG Victory Dance (Chat Icon) Rainbow Sheep :awesomerainbow: Lily's Rainbow Box :FeelingFree: :rainbow: :rainbow:Rainbow La -plz account- Rainbow doge emote RAINBOW LA ThowUp Rainbows so much info that I'm puking rainbows.
Reply
:icon6milk:
6milk Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2015
I'm SO EXCITED you're going to be dedicating more time to Lackadaisy, it's my favorite webcomic ever and I really hope you get the support you need to continue on it! I'll happily introduce all my friends to it so you have more readers, too. Wishing you the best of luck, Tracy!
Reply
:iconsaymynam3aga1n:
SayMyNam3Aga1n Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for presenting all of this Love Emoticon 
Reply
:icondeviantxtyx98:
deviantXTYX98 Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015  Student General Artist
I did one of the things mentioned in this today in class, and honestly, it didn't turn out that bad. It was pretty good for MY doodling. I don't doodle at all, because it just ends up as random scribbles. : P
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015
Well, glad to hear that this was at least a little helpful!  Doing that sort of thing often is really how you get better at it, though. =)
Reply
:iconkatheb:
katheb Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015  Professional Filmographer
Funded already Heck yeah, Someone as skilled as you if you did not get the funding I would have been so surprised. Congratulations!
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015
Ah, thank you.  That's very kind of you to say.
Reply
:iconkatheb:
katheb Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2015  Professional Filmographer
Just stating facts, But you're welcome.

I showed my colleagues at work and they were amazed at your skill and dedication to detail.
Reply
:iconwoodswallow:
Woodswallow Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much on those "notes on character design". There is a ton of useful ideas in it and I'm so eager to try them out! I have been unsatisfied and stuck with one of my characters (and her story) and now you gave me a new point to start from. Also, thank you for the realisation, that a character is never finished developing. That helped me a lot! :)

And that little video is great :D
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015
Well, if this has helped at all, I'm thrilled to know it! Thank you! Good luck fleshing out your character.  =)
Reply
:iconsaltyarts:
SaltyArts Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Support Tracy on Patreon Here:
www.patreon.com/lackadaisy

alot of great incentives
Reply
:iconppleater:
ppleater Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Definitely pledging, or whatever it's called... Anyways, you got my money! I love your art to death.
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015
Thank you!  I appreciate that very much!
Reply
:iconferettoko:
Ferettoko Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Good luck! I really like how lively your work is, like a step away from animation! I look forward to when my artwork is less stiff. Racing Girl Emoji (Ehehe) [V4] 
Reply
:iconmaximwolf:
MaximWolf Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Student General Artist
You know......you kinda look like a cat yourself.....I wonder why........cat face 
Reply
:iconartsicat13:
artsicat13 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist
Oh, wow!
Coincidentally, I've been thinking about Lackadaisy all week, and then I see this awesome update. 
It's great to hear that you're going to be working on Lackadaisy more often, now!
I'm looking forward to it, Ma'am! I really enjoy your work! :aww:
Reply
:icontabaxion:
Tabaxion Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
This is Awesome!
Reply
:icondunklen:
Dunklen Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Thank you so much the information! :D
Reply
:iconspinester:
spinester Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just became a patron.  Love your work.
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Thank you very much!
Reply
:icongagethewalrus:
GagetheWalrus Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Professional General Artist
you're awe inspiring!
Reply
:icontinstaafl55:
Tinstaafl55 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
I plan to sign up first thing in the morning. I have all ways been amazed at your art. This is a wonderful way to support the artist. Thank you for sharing your world with us.

James. 
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
It's my pleasure to share it.  Thank you for your generosity!
Reply
:iconmystictriana:
MysticTriana Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Just wanted to say-- congrats on meeting your Pateon goal!  That's wonderful.  ^_^
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Thank you!
Reply
:iconkrisadilli:
Krisadilli Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Tracy, you're very brave to be doing this, and I'm exceedingly grateful that you're so helpful to your fans. You have my support, and I look forward to your work! :)
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
I'm not sure it's entirely brave, but self-employment is a pretty scary road to travel down.  Hehe.  The support and encouraging words I've found here have done a lot to reassure me, though.  Thank you!
Reply
:iconkrisadilli:
Krisadilli Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem! :D
Reply
:iconchristinted:
christinted Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  New member Student Filmographer
Congratulations on the brave move towards working on something more personal Tracy
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Thank you very much!
Reply
:icontwisteddisaster:
TwistedDisaster Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
this journal was very helpful thank you 8D
Reply
:iconmikusakurakoji:
MikuSakurakoji Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Love your kats!
Reply
:iconscribbleykins:
Scribbleykins Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015
Ma'am, you had me at 'Patreon'.
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Ah, well, thank you. =)
Reply
:icondamushroom:
DaMushroom Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
I'd love to help fund you, I just don't have the funds to give on a monthly basis. I hope you make it! This story is really worth investing in
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
No worries! I appreciate the sentiment and kind comments.  Thank you!
Reply
:iconannacstansfield:
AnnaCStansfield Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Professional General Artist
This is all so fantastic. Your work is amazing and inspiring! 
Thank you! 
Reply
:iconlightcurse:
LightCurse Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love your ambition and style! I really wish I could achieve your style of drawing and painting! Just amazing. I've been following your work for years, Love them!
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Thank you - that's very kind!
Reply
:icondagrayfox:
DaGrayFox Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Wow, this is nice. But I wanna dial back a bit. You said that you worked in the game industry? I wanted to ask, what was your job, and personally how did you feel while working there?


Best of luck in your endeavors!
Reply
:icontracyjb:
tracyjb Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
I worked in games for many years doing a variety of things from concept art to 3d modeling, texturing, rigging, animation and art direction.  Most recently, I was animating Lara and various monsters on this project:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dTrHt…
Not released in the US just yet, but should be soon.

While I very much enjoyed the team of people I worked with, it was an alternatingly gratifying, heartbreaking, physically exhausting experience.  It's hard and challenging work involving a lot of milestone deadlines and long hours.  A lot of your work gets thrown out in the end, and a lot of projects you pour your time and energy into for a year (or two...or five) wind up getting canceled or flopping in the very saturated marketplace.  That's rough.  It also pushed me to improve and learn new things constantly, though.  I did a lot of growing as an artist in that environment.
So, to answer your question, I have a lot of mixed feelings.
If you're pursuing about a career in that arena, I wish you the best.
Reply
:icondagrayfox:
DaGrayFox Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Cool, to tell you the truth, I'm going to college for computer science. So if I do get into that industry, I'll probably be a programmer of some sort.

It's interesting to get this info. I do realize that it's competitive out there. So the job looks to be a bit of a bumpy road.

Either way, thanks for telling me a bit of what you did. I really appreciate it.
Reply
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