CREATING THE CHARACTERS- 1

The evolution of SARGASSO depended largely on the ability to create characters that could be drawn- on short notice- with the need for few reference sources. Using tricks of the trade learned from reading good books on figure drawing like Jack Hamm's DRAWING THE HEAD AND FIGURE and the seminal work by Stan Lee and John Buscema, HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, certainly helped. However, there were times when the 'tricks' needed a little support to work.

I used Poser as the foundation for my work on the Kaiten Angels in the middle years of the last decade, forfeiting the pencil almost entirely as I 'went CG'. It did its job, but looking back, I see my early efforts as pretty crude and the later ones as problematic in terms of fitting my aesthetic tastes. So, with SARGASSO, I decided to return to my roots and work with pencil, seeking to create an illustrative appearance similar to images created by Gibson- creator of the Gibson Girl, Sheppard- illustrator of WINNIE THE POOH and WIND IN THE WILLOWS and Morgan- the creator of FLUFFY RUFFLES. Examples of their illustrations can be found easily with a Google search. In creating Poppy, originally the main character, I used a manga style, but found shoehorning it into the line rich techniques of the above mentioned illustrators did not work, as manga is very clean and simple in its representation. Sketchy ink lines are hard to find, except in the works of people like Yoshitaka Amano, who usually combines his lines with various washes and painterly effects. Range Murata uses a loose line technique in some of his drawings, but he too is an exception to the rule and I see less of this in his more recent work.

I sought a change of style and found a good gestural starting point in the Warner Bros. character design manual published by Chronicle Books, called DRAW THE LOONEY TUNES, an excellent reference book on so many levels. Below are some of the sketches that came out of that experience. The original source materials were basic shape gesture drawings of Bugs Bunny- literally ovals and lines on a page! I started there and built what you see from those really rough sketches.

Below is a close up of one of the gestures, revealing the guidelines I used. Guidelines in rough work are very important to me, which is why I like to look at sketches in books about animation. Milt Kahl, one of Disney's best character animators and designers, used them extensively in his work, leaving them in some of the final drawings later when the studio started using Xerox processing for cel work. If you look at some of the frames in 101 DALMATIONS carefully, you can see them clearly. In earlier films like ALICE IN WONDERLAND and PETER PAN, (he designed Alice and Wendy), they were carefully removed from the final cels, although the paper drawings you can find reproduced in reference books on Disney animation, or on the internet if you Google his name, will show the lines also.

For further stylistic purposes, once I got the motion down, I started developing an aesthetic look to the work. E.H. Sheppard, whose work I saw in the Pooh books more than 'the Disney version', became my starting point, with influences from Charles Dana Gibson helping along the way. Using a couple of poses from Pooh as a foundation, I created- also in freehand- studies of Poppy in action.

So there was the evolution. Most of Book One came together with these ideas in mind, but there were the odd poses where characters were doing more than standing and sitting inertly in the image. The tricks needed a few enhancements to work- ie. reference poses. For development work, observing the masters was one thing. For production art, however, I needed some resources with less recognizability. Poser came to the rescue again, as it did when I was working on the Kaiten Angels. Only now, it was going to serve a very different role, acting as the source material, rather than as the final production point. Just as Alex Ross uses photo referencing of friends and family to compose and light his work, I was going to use Poser to give me the same thing. The one part of this that improved on Ross' system- arrogant perhaps, but true- was that I would create virtual resources that could be at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All my characters had been sketched out before. I was going to use Poser to create them in the computer. Unlike the angels, though, where a lot of post work was required in Corel Photopaint to create the images viewers saw, this time, the more recent version of Poser, with better rendering engines and a couple of new base figures imported from DAZ, would allow me to make models that looked remarkably like the drawings- not the other way around. As Ariana was now the main character, most of the work in Book One focused on her. What follows are some early versions of her, as rendered out from Poser.

The first image is of Ariana using Poser's Jessie model as a base. The glasses and hair were already imagined from drawings I did, but the face seemed wrong. Just the same, I continued some sample development work with a 'toon' model called Sadie from DAZ I had modifed with bought costumes and my own created texture maps to 'act' as Poppy, now a living doll. The image below is a test I did with them posing outside a shop- actually a location in Centreville in the Toronto islands. I added the sign and 'aged' the composite to represent the era in which SARGASSO takes place.

It was a move in the right direction, but I then came up with the idea of using the 'toon' model as the foundation for Ariana herself. If you look at Book One, you can see how I modified her to fit the imagery. The image below shows the Sadie model- the little one next to Ariana in the photo- modified to act as the early Ariana in the book.

In Book Three, I revisited the model for flashback scenes involving Ariana as a child and younger adult, prior to meeting Professor Hamley and nearly being killed by the robot tank. In this image, Ariana is a child, as remembered by Mitsy during her early life. I gave the Sadie model new hair, combined from the Anime Doll model I had and Sadie's own hair styles. It worked.

Before Book One was finished, however, I decided to create a version of Ariana that reflected the different world she was living in since the attack which drove her into exile. Using DAZ Studio's Victoria 4 as a base, I got to work, using Neftis hair and Poser glasses to complete the ensemble. As you can see from the images below, she stayed true to form throughout her development.

This is Victoria 4- out of the box, in a manner of speaking. Add morphs and start tweaking. The result is...

 

Ariana- the final version. Of course, the work was only beginning when I completed her. There were costumes to fit, poses to create and much art to render for the four books in which she appeared. At the end of Book Four, something happened and Ariana was replaced by another character, Mallory Vivian Todd. Mallory, as seen below, was also created in Poser using Victoria 4. Come back and read the last sentence again after seeing the changes...

 

To see how the other characters developed, follow the links from the previous page or click below to continue the story.

 

 

Click here to Creating the Characters II

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