Crafting a story – Designing Ivory
Back again, with the design process of the third main character of the Reminiscence comic, Ivory. This post will talk about how I try to incorporate not only the personality traits of the characters, but also the important elements of their own story-arc in their design.
For a long time all my characters looked the same. My visual library of facial features and body types just wasn’t very big. I had learned drawing by drawing a lot of the same stuff over and over, which served me well for a while. But to be able to draw a host of different characters is essential for making a comic.
As for the girl of my four-headed cast, I tried to make her different from my usual female characters and, since she was the first to be designed, was looking for a style a bit more simple than what I usually draw in. This is the final result:
Competitive and loving a challenge, Ivory`s first encounter with Bern and Max was in primary school where she, together with Robbie, challenged the two elder boys to beat her at the games at intro camp. Because of her brashness, Ivory earned a spot in the group that day. The boys all loved her and treated her as one of the guys over the following years. Together they`ve been climbing trees, making impossible contraptions for transport, played pranks, invented ways of making money and played tons of games. Being the daughter of the locksmith of the city she grew up learning how to handle a sword pretty well, even though she now prefers to make jewellery instead.
When Ivory was 16 years old, her father passed away. She was absolutely devastated, because she loved him very much and he had raised her on his own since Ivory`s mother left when she was four years old. She had to go live with her mothers` family abroad, which she hadn`t seen all those years. Ivory became more and more isolated from her friends and when she turned 18 she disappeared. Now she returns, but she is forever changed and bears a secret that causes a great rift in the relationship between the four friends.
Ivory is fiery and can get into trouble very fast. She appears to have learned a few things about life and how to handle herself around people so she can stay low. It causes her to be very closed-up about her feelings and about her past, as opposed to when she was younger. She is quick-witted and sarcastic, but fierce and compassionate when on your side.
Over the past few years I have tried my hand at breaking from drawing default character traits and looked at a lot of reference. For Ivory, I deliberately broke free from some of the stereotypes of drawing women for me: I made her eyes and lips smaller, I drew a simple nose and less eyebrows. She is thinner on top and more curvy at the hips.
For the face I saw in my mind a kind of elegance and youthfulness, yet a look that betrays her past experiences.
Because of her struggle in the story I made use of symbolism in both her appearance and her name. She has very dark hair and light skin. This “black and white” theme has very much to do with the story. The name Ivory is appropriate as well because she feels locked away inside herself, away from everyday life, and tries very hard to be unapproachable.
Her face was, again, a search that slowly made the character more clear until she came out in a way that I thought fitted the character and the vague image in my mind.
I`m currently trying to lock down her clothing. Because of her story arc, her clothing may vary to add more information about where she`s at and how she feels about herself in the course of things. This may not apply to every character, but clothing says a lot about a person so that can also be used to tell the story. (show, don`t tell is what is usually said in comics. Don`t add dialogue or text if you don`t have to)
The final character is still very clearly related to how I draw females, but I broke from it enough to be content with the end result. I also like how I can use her design story wise and look forward to drawing that.
In other news: in case you missed it, the Comic Creators for Freedom Drive is going on. Read about it in my previous blogpost and consider donating if you haven`t already.
Question: if you have a story, how do you use your characters` appearance to add to your story?
Action: watch an animated movie and look at how the characters are drawn, do their appearances help to tell their story?