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Sep
28

Craft: “In the Weeds” Character Designs

I’ve been working more on character designs for In the Weeds, refining some of the characters I’d already got rough versions of and adding a few secondary characters.  I’ve still got a girlfriend or two, as well as a pastry chef (for some reason, I’ve saved the female characters for last) to get together visually, but this is the basic cast–enough for me to move on to getting the narrative structure nailed down.

I’ve long felt that my character designs aren’t great. I just can’t seem to get away from the basic “oval on a stick” design for the head/neck, and my body shapes tend to be fairly similar. I’ve hopefully, though, succeeded in creating designs that are sufficiently identifiable from one another based just on face shape and details. About half of the book takes place in a restaurant kitchen and this presents a prickly problem in that everyone will be dressed the same. It’d be really easy here to fall into an “Alien 3″ situation here where you’ve got a bunch of (mostly) white guys running around in the same outfit and you can’t tell who’s doing what or saying what unless you’re seeing a close-up of their faces.

If I’ve not been successful in this respect, all I can say is that it’s certainly not for lack of effort. I usually arrive at my character designs by laying out “grids” in my sketchbook and just drawing faces over and over again, gradually refining the design until I get what I can live with. Usually it’ll take at least half a dozen iterations before I get something I’m reasonably happy with. I think I got one design here in two iterations, but that’s the exception, not the rule.  So, just for the heck of it, here’re the sketchbook grids that gave rise to these few characters:

Man, that’s a lot of drawing for just a few character designs….

2 pings

  1. Sketchbook: Ben Towle creates some characters | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    [...] Ben Towle has been working up his characters for his next graphic novel, In the Weeds (which sounds like it will be set behind the scenes at a restaurant), and he shows off his thought process at his blog. The book presents some challenges: About half of the book takes place in a restaurant kitchen and this presents a prickly problem in that everyone will be dressed the same. It’d be really easy here to fall into an “Alien 3″ situation here where you’ve got a bunch of (mostly) white guys running around in the same outfit and you can’t tell who’s doing what or saying what unless you’re seeing a close-up of their faces. [...]

  2. Portrait Night 5/3 (Grant Achatz) » Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo says:

    [...] Tonight’s #PortraitNight subject is chef and restaurateur Grant Ashatz.  This is actually one of my favorite  portraits so far, I think because it’s so stripped-down, cartoony, and not over-rendered as some of my past ones have been. It also looks like a character design that I’d actually do for one of my comics. I wonder if unconsciously–because I was drawing a chef–I made him look like one of the characters from my culinary-themed graphic novel in-progress, In the Weeds? [...]

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