In the Weeds Progress: More on Character Designs

As I mentioned in my last In the Weeds progress post, one of my post-Oyster War take-aways was that I need to spend more time working on character designs before I sit down and start drawing pages. To that end, I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks focusing on the badger character (I really need to give all the characters names!). I won’t give every single character this kind of time and focus pre-drawing, but since he’s the main character I thought he merited some extra attention design-wise.

I started out trying to get used to drawing his body in typical stage poses. I figured that if I could nail a few of these, everyday actions/poses would be pretty easy. Here’s one of the more successful ones:

body study 01

…and the photo ref I based it on. That’s Mike Watt, one of my favorite musicians of all time.


One thing I noticed when practicing full body poses was my tendency to revert back to more human-like body proportions, rather than the more animal-ish proportions of the original design. You can see that going on pretty clearly in the bottom drawing here, where I’ve inadvertently shortened his torso and lengthened his legs, making his body much more human-like:


This character was originally going to be the guitar player, but I decided just for purely visual reasons that the rhino character should play the smaller of the two instruments–so, this guy became the bass player. He’s playing a ’75 Gibson Ripper, by the way. I have handy photo ref of that particular model in the form of my bass from back in the Dark Ages of the 1990s when I was in a band:


Another thing I noticed when doing some of those full body drawings was that I was having a particularly difficult time drawing his head. I like the way it looked in the initial design, but I was struggling to draw it from different angles. This isn’t an uncommon problem; you can get a good looking drawing from one angle but be at a total loss to draw it from some other angle. The reason for this is usually a lack of understanding of construction—that is: the basic shapes that make up the form you’re trying to draw. Here’s a page of me struggling with getting his head to look right:


I continued for a while to try working out a good construction in my sketchbook, but wasn’t making much progress. Eventually, I decided to pull out the big guns and make a quick maquette of the badger’s head. I’m a bit wary of maquette-making for a few reasons, but I do feel like they can be really useful in situations like this because in making the maquette you’re forcing yourself to settle on a construction and learn it. I made a point not to spend a ton of time on it, but here’s the result:


As an aside: I was struggling with a similar problem with the rhino character a while back and tried building a model of his head with Silo, a 3-D modeling tool. I eventually gave up because I felt like I couldn’t justify the time I’d have to commit to learning the software vs. working on paper or with Sculpey. Some day, though, I’ll revisit some 3-D software. It’d be a great tool to know how to use.


Making the maquette seems to have really helped me out, as I had a much better grasp of basic construction after that. My final exercise with the badger was do do a round of facial expressions. I’d usually not do practice facial expressions to this degree of finish, but I’m still figuring out how I want to ink/tone these characters, so I figured it’d be good practice:

facial expressions

facial expressions

These aren’t perfect, but I’m definitely starting to learn my way around his facial features and basic head construction.

Now, onward to to some of the other characters (but maybe not in such depth)!

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