Crafting a story – Designing the protagonist

Continuing the crafting a story series, the following weeks will focus on the design part of the Reminiscence webcomic. I`m starting off with how I got to the final design of the main characters.
This week, the protagonist of the story: Bern.

Bern_profile
As the son of the two regents of the city of Narrati, Bern feels the responsibility to become a leader, just like his parents. But he`s unsure about his own wishes and keeps avoiding the tasks his parents set out for him to do. He`d rather be helping people practically, as he doesn`t feel he`s particularly good with words and being in charge. His friends and girlfriend Lilina have faith in him, but his mistakes in the past keep him from trying. Soft spoken, a thinker and a practical guy who loves to build things, Bern loves being outside and has been on the road a lot of times, visiting other cities in the land of Tarina.

The premise of the story was quite clear in my mind, some of the characters as well. But Bern was the one I had the most trouble with. He wasn`t as straight forward a character as the others.

Bern_01When his course in the story and his development wasn`t that clear yet, I imagined him more like an unlikely hero, a quit, friendly farmer type. I wasn`t sure of the style of the comic either so this was the first sketch I came up with. (you have to start somewhere, right?)
Disney character designer Glen Keane said in one of the documentaries of Beauty and the Beast that he spend a few months working on the Beasts` character design and was still having trouble with it. So I tried to keep that in mind and tell myself that even the pros take a long time designing a character. It`s getting more and more clear to me that I`ve been living with this weird idea that I have to get everything right the first time, which is, now that I think about it, ridiculous.

I took a different approach. A more realistic style and a complete opposite build. This felt more right. I decided that despite his timid personality, he has a strong build, to contrast his insecurity. He looks like a leader, yet he feels like he isn`t. This informed my choice of having him loving to build things in the story, to be outside rather than being in a palace running things.

Bern_03

Next, I wanted to find out what kind of face he has.

Bern_02 Bern_04I wanted the comic to be influenced with Steampunk and elements from the Victorian era. Slowly, Berns face got more clear:

Bern_05
I decided on his build and studied to simplify that:
Bern_06

I`m doing clothing design for my characters now, here`s a sneak peek of the process of finding the right outfits for Bern. It`s more or less trying stuff out that I find online and then mixing all the elements together. These are some of the styles of clothing which I found on the web:

Bern_07Nothing official yet for Bern. He is also the hardest to find the right clothes for than the others. But I`ll figure it out.

In the last year I found that character design is more of a search than it is actually drawing what`s in your mind. Sometimes you might have a clear vision, but most of the time, as not always, I do not. I see something vague, have a few things or words associated with a character that I want to use, and then have to go look for the character. There usually comes a point at which I will recognize bits and pieces in what I`m drawing and slowly the character comes out as the design is lining up with the vague description or the story in my mind. Sometimes the way it`s going can even surprise myself, when it turned into something completely different from what I first vaguely imagined.
I`ve grown to love the process of tweaking and experimenting to the point where I say: there, that`s him/her!

Next week: Berns friend, Max.

Want to see the design process of the other main characters? Click here:
Designing Max
Designing Ivory
Designing Robbie

Question: How do you like the blog so far? Do you enjoy reading about the process of how I go about making a comic? Would you like to see other things? I`d love to hear from you. You can comment below or you can shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

4 comments

  1. Gea says:

    Yay, great to share some scetches with us! I enjoy reading your blog. You take us with you into the process and into what’s going on in your mind while working on this comic. So for me, you’re blog is really interesting and fun to read! 🙂

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