Five Tips To Make Your Character Designs More Dynamic & Believable :: PWP #9

Rapunzel-Glen-Keane-Sketches
How can character design strengthen the emotional impact of your story?

Are turnarounds really a waste of time?

How can you avoid cliches in your designs, and make your characters both surprising and memorable?

In this episode of The Paper Wings Podcast, Chris and Lora give you FIVE tips that will help you make your characters more dynamic and believable.

Press PLAY, and get ready to learn how to set your characters apart, and take your stories to the next level!

READ ON to DOWNLOAD our FREE Character Design Cheat Sheet to learn how YOU can enter to WIN a WACOM Intuos4 Tablet and to download the episode Cheat Sheet!

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Comment and Share:

What is your #1 creative dream?

  • How close are you to achieving that dream?
  • What are the obstacles that are in your way?
  • What would it mean to you if that dream came true?

 

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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Wiser

Awesome podcast! I just realized that as I’ve been working more and more on the personality, I’ve moved away from the “turn-arounds.” It kindof surprised me to hear you say to avoid them, because I’d been told I have to plan out what my character looks from every angle, so I love your point that when we focus on personality, this happens naturally…that’s so true.

I’ve been thinking alot about Bud Lucky’s work on Toy Story and how he drew 200 versions of Woody and how Lasseter chose the right “one” (And they were all amazing). Do you have any insights into how he found so much variety in one character idea?

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Chris Oatley

Great to hear it, Scott. Let us know when you post those drawings.

I would say that it’s hard *not* to find that much variety in one character idea.

There are an infinite number of possible combinations of personalities, costume, silhouette, posture, etc…

A lot of the character design process is just exploring those combinations with the character’s internal life as our guide.

I think that once the character designer decides to push past the easy and obvious solutions, infinity opens up.

The problem I always run into is not having enough time to explore as many possible designs as I want to.

You’ve probably run into this often when animating scenes. Once you get past the initial challenge of starting, and *certainly* after you get to the heart of the scene, you can’t stop dreaming up different ways to approach it. It’s the same with character design.

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Scott Wiser

You’re absolutely right…nice, simple explanation. I do get so many ideas of how to approach a character’s acting and the time I set aside to explore them is so valuable in discovering which choice really is the best. Multiple-avenue exploration sounds like a great exercise for any creative idea if you set aside time for it.

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Samuel Kirkman

Another great show guys! And so nice to have you in my ear while I’m working.
I’d like to Address the questions you posed on our #1 creative dream without sounding too desperate. Jokingly in a similar discussion over on the illopond, Mark Harmon and I discussed what fueled our progress and dubbed it a desperation Doobie, but in all honesty, desperate I am.

My #1 Creative dream is to simply live by means of my creativity. To kiss the soul sucking day job goodbye.
Don’t get me wrong, Having a job in this economy with benefits, and vacation time is a huge blessing, but when your days are void of meaning, strapped to brainless tasks with no use for creative expression… Ah, I’m about to get maudlin. Sorry. But you know what I mean? I watch the special features on the Lion King for instance, and I see the incredible creative energy of the team that put that masterpiece together and I long to be a part of something like that.

How close am I to achieving that goal?

Ya ever heard the story of the Kid that was lead to a room, knee deep in horse poop? A huge smile spread across his face as he yelled. “Quick! Some body give me a shovel! There’s a PONY in here somewhere!” Well, I’m still busy shoveling!
It could happen any day. I’m 9 pages away from finishing the third installment of my four part kids comic. I’ve made huge improvements in my craft and I really feel like I’m ready.

What are the obstacles that are in the way?

Same ones that we all face. Getting noticed in a sea of incredible talent and all that goes with that.
The mortgage, the day job, the bills, my age… When it comes to obstacles, I try to approach the ones I can do something about, and go around the ones I cant.

What would it mean to me if that dream came true?

It would mean finally getting on the right bus. Years ago I got on the wrong one.
It’s what I was meant to do, but, being to busy doing what I had to do, I never did it. That make any sense? Ah, I’m living the dream. I’d do what I’m doing even if the “Dream Job” never came. But being a responsible husband and father, it would certainly legitimize my efforts!

Thanks again for all you do in the creative community guys! I appreciate having a place to share.

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oats

Wow, Sam. This is eloquent and moving.

Such great stuff.

I would like to offer you just one encouragement now and then we can address the other kinds of things in time. But my one encouragement is this: I think everyone who works with you at Illopond and I, myself, believe that you ARE on the right track.

Sure you’re “shoveling” and I know that’s not fun but it sounds to me like you are really on target . And your track record proves you can deliver quality and consistency over a long period of time. And that’s tremendous.

Hang in there. Keep doing Illopond and any cons you can. And we’ll continue to do our part here at PWP to provide you with as much information as we can to help you shovel faster. ; )

You are the flippin’ best, Sam.

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Lora

Have you read “The Dip” by Seth Godin? It was great for me to read and realize “Hey, I’m just in a dip, not a room full of horse… you know what.”

I hope we never give the illusion that “making it” in our respective fields comes easily or as quickly as we’d like. Both Chris & I could answer this question ourselves–what is our dream job and what would it mean to get there.

We’re all in this together, and it takes awhile. It sounds like you’re doing the right sorts of things. Hopefully Chris & I can continue to give you guys great content to help what you’re already doing have more impact.

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Samuel Kirkman

Thanks Laura! I’ll have to check out The Dip. sounds interesting. As a matter of fact I think it would be really nice to hear what your dreams and aspirations are. What we are talking about is something that is never over. Once a milestone has been reached its on to the next one. So nice to have those further up the path leave a few cairns along the way. Thanks guys!

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Scott Wiser

Great works…great work, Samuel! I checked out your stuff and can see you are definately on fire. Keep inspiring us!

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Samuel Kirkman

Thanks Scott! I really appreciate it! :o)

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S

Thank you so much for these tips and your podcast! I haven’t listened to all of them yet but I’m well on my way and I’m already feeling extremely inspired. I apologise in advance that this comment is not entirely related to this specific podcast.

However, a lot of the tips about “making it” aren’t entirely applicable to me as I live in a country where there are very, very few jobs and schools relating to the visual arts at all, with absolutely nothing in the field I’m interested in. Having this additional obstacle on top of all the others that artists face is extremely discouraging as I don’t have the funds nor capacity to relocate, let alone enrol into college. I understand you’re fortunate to be where opportunity is richly abundant (relatively) so you may not have answers, but do you have any tips for people like me?

I’m not willing to give up without a fight but as passion, networking nor mere effort will get me anywhere, it’s hard to not feel like I’ve hit a cul de sac. Thank you in advance!

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oats

S, thank you so much for sharing. The good news for you is that the world is quickly becoming a global economy and you won’t be hindered by location for much longer.

In fact, I would say that you’re not artistically hindered by location right now – as long as you have an internet connection.

I know I say this a lot but the best advice I can give is to do great work and be great to work with.

That seems to be the common thread between almost every successful person I know.

So do a web comic or an animated web cartoon or something like that and just start getting your stories out into the world. That’s the best possible first step I can recommend.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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S

Chris, thank you very much for the advice and encouragement. I’m certainly glad at the opportunities and connections the internet presents!

I’ll do my best and keep you updated.

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Lora

I agree with Chris! I know of a lot of webcomic creators who do their projects from outside of the United States. Just tell a great story, and post it on the web, and people can find it from anywhere in the world!

Doing something like that (Your own webcomic, or animated short series) might even open opportunities for you to relocate down the road.

Even in comics books, I know that some jobs are outsourced. For some reason, there seems to be a lot of Brazilian artists and colorists working. So don’t give up hope! It might not be as much of a closed door as you think it is.

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S

Thank you Lora! It’s really encouraging to hear that maybe borders and huge expanses of sea aren’t obstacles as big as I thought. I’ll work as hard as I can and hopefully some of those doors will open.

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Scott Wiser

Yeah, the quicker you can get to working hard and loving work, the better. I’d definitely listen to the time management podcasts and create a plan so you can get a lot done with the time you have…It’s opened up tons of possibilities for me. You’ve certainly come to the right community to get inspired. Good luck!

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oats

Scott, can you share your time management plan with us? Just email me if you’re willing to divulge! No matter how “normal” it might seem to you, people could really benefit from knowing how you set it up.

Thanks!

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Scott Wiser

It will take me a few days, but I’ll get them to you with explanations.

Thank YOU!

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S

Cheers for pointing me towards those, I’ll listen to them now; effective time management really has been a big issue for me lately so I’m sure they’ll be more than helpful.

I’m certainly glad I stumbled upon this place and I greatly appreciate these comments too. It’s really touching to have people take the time to offer encouragement and advice. Thanks Scott!

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Amber Martin

this podcast is really inspiring and has got me thinking about my old characters and how i can change them to be better posture wise, as well as more believable

my number 1 creative dream really is to work with Dreamworks, Pixar, or Disney, those companies have been my soul purpose of why i want to become an animator. i love the work i see that the bring to the movie industry and that i would rather watch one of their movies over a live action movie any day.

I still have a long way to go as of now, college is the first thing i need to finish before i move on to the next goal in life and this has got me inspired to pick up the pencil, or tablet pen and start to draw even more.

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oats

Great to hear, Amber! That’s why we’re here! : ) Thank you SO MUCH for sharing.

Please keep us posted if you end up re-vamping your characters. We would love to see how that goes for you.

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Lora

Even though college *seems* so busy, now is actually the BEST time to pick up your pencil again! Once you’re out in the real world, with a real job, you realize exactly how much free time you did have in college after all. But hindsight is always 20/20.

I’d just encourage you in this. To take the time now to scratch that creative itch & see where it gets you…

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samuel kirlman

I LOVE YOU MAN!!! (A manly cyber hug ensues)

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Kris

Thank you SO much! This is the first podcast I’ve listened to and now I’ve GOT to listen to the others. I have this aristocratic character with the typical, cliche design and development was going nowhere. I used your advice and his design didn’t change too much, but enough that he’s more interesting. Each change was carefully thought out, relates to the character’s history, and with a more developed history, the personality developed as well. I’m really excited to work further with this character now, so thank you! Turn-arounds have always been boring for me, so it’s good to know different postures (with different angles, of course) are the way to go. :)

My creative dream is simple: Don’t lose the passion. I had this history teacher who used to be a graphic designer, and the job just sucked his creative energy out of him like nothing else, so he became a teacher. Sometimes when I was stuck on a drawing, he would help me and gave good tips, so it’s not like he wasnt good at his job, just lost the passion. I really hope I don’t end up like that, especially if I’m in the middle of telling a story (I really hope to create graphic novels). An incomplete story is the most heart breaking thing I, as a writer, can think of. How do you keep from having dry spells?

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Lora

I think dry spells are unavoidable. It’s sort of impossible to keep them from ever coming. I had one in my webcomic that lasted over a year. I think the way to survive without quitting is to have a steady work routine set up, where you can sit down and work every day anyway, whether you’re inspired or not. Sometimes I’m inspired, sometimes I’m not. But I’m almost always working, lol! My webcomic/graphic novel has been going non-stop for four years now. My husband & I decided at the onset that this was a story we wanted to tell, and I set out to tell it. And I mean to finish it! My poor readers if I didn’t!

That being said, there are things you can do to help re-inspire yourself. Something we’ve talked a lot on this blog about in the past. Chris & I actually plan on covering this topic very soon on the show.

So glad to have you on board! I hope you enjoy the rest of the episodes!

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AngelBolt

Wow, seems like a nice community here!

Myyyyy creative dream! Is to run Pixar.

… And I’m serious.
Y’ever notice how many times, in youtube comments or the like, you have people talking about Pixar, and how they want to work there, and then you look at their art, and it’s a bit… meh?

I think that’s because people miss the point. Pixar’s goals aren’t to make just really cool art- It’s to make a great enough story, with art that showcases it like a beautiful frame or book cover, to make it immersible enough, enough to be admired and revered and passed down. It’s like the movies are Pixar’s children, and they just want the best in life for them. I want to enter their building with the goal of preserving that, because I like the idea so much, and I think it’s what the art community really needs.
I’ve been in the middle of working things out with the Savannah College of Art and Design to help with a degree in illustration and sequential art, but I also privately study photography, creative writing and business, because I think those are either closely related enough to add something new, or give it a certain sense of longevity.

It really hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve been fighting myself most (re: all) of the way, and money is definitely a limiting factor. I get by on a budget, saving up money, building my portfolio, but it’s like there’s a minimum amount of money that has to be spent to get the right courses or stay in creative balance, like exercising or eating a healthy diet, that are hard to keep up on when you’re managing art, college, a job, and personal and family problems.

But I keep at it, managing projects to help people get better by themselves and with others, showing others how they can be smart, not talented. I don’t have much of a loyalty to one media or company, I just get really excited when I make something better than it was before, and I want to give people good resources to do that for themselves. Out of all the things I’ve done, it’ one of the few that makes me satisfied in life, and it’s something I cherish I’ve found, at such a young age. It would be, for me, a place in my world and others that I was never able to have before, the one little piece that makes me complete.

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AngelBolt

By the way, wanted to make a really quick shoutout to TV Tropes, especially their Playing with Tropes page. When you started talking about the first exercise with the columns, it reminded me of an interview I saw with some industry head (can’t remember who… OTL) about how good characters come from either playing something straight or inverting it, (ToyStory’s Rex and Woody and Slink come to mind) and either they exaggerate and become the expected character so much that it becomes a discussion about how they deal with it (Woody the hero having not-so-heroic thoughts), or their nature is so against their design it’s eye catching (Rex, the killer tyrannosaurus who is a meek, nice little guy that can’t scare a jumping bean), or they embody it so well, they become a representative of it (slink, not only man’s best friend, but loyal and really handy to have around). The Playing with and the tropes themselves are different ways to bounce and twist and flip around these little things that make up stories. Tropes are, in a way, the brush strokes or the bricks of a story. the idea of exaggerating or being efficient or being contradictory reminds me a little bit in function of the rules of animation and design, so I thought someone might find hem useful.

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Lora

I love TV Tropes. It’s easy to get lost there and spend hours, lol. I think even on the TV Tropes home page, it says something about how the goal is not to make fun of the stories that are on their sites, but to have fun with them. “Tropes” are really valuable. The goal is not to reinvent the wheel with every single character or every aspect of your story, but to make your story unique–individually YOU–and your characters alive enough that your viewers/readers connect with them. If you can tell a story and make people fall in love with your characters… that’s where the magic happens. And when they’re unique (as Woody is a unique character even if he’s a type) as well as believable (Woody’s not-so-heroic jealousies) I think that’s the groove you want to be in with your own characters.

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CC Rogers

Another great episode! I can’t wait to see more entries to the contest. You know, my entry was largely inspired by Lora’s FanFlow post on dealing with negative reviews. I hope you’ll consider re-posting that here, now that her FanFlow has shut down. I think everyone who puts creative work out for public review should read it!

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Lora

ha ha, well I might have to edit that. The fan flow was a super safe place to be real and honest. But before we even started Paper Wings, I told Chris that was a subject I’d like to bring up here. I’m glad that post spoke to you! It’s such a hard thing to get through…

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oats

Wait – so you’re not being real and honest here? Who are you? Is your name even Lora Innes?! Do you even HAVE a webcomic?!

; )

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Lora

LOL. I actually HATE history! shhhh!

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Jake Ekiss

Another great ‘cast you guys! I love the Cable reference. I’ve noticed “Cable design” a little less in comics recently, though it seems to have moved into video game design and built a Summer home.

I LOVE the center of force concept. Never heard of it before but I’m already jazzed about adding that to my toolbox. Seems like it would inform character motion in a lot of subtle ways. I’m really happy you mentioned both silhouette and keeping character design elements tied to the character’s concept. There’s a whole feature on the Indiana Jones DVDs about how they achieved a silhouette for that character using just the hat, and how specific that hat really is. It takes so little to establish good design (or rather, good design is often about less, not more), and often the smallest details are the most important.

As for my creative dream:

I’m a storyteller at heart, and that’s really all I want to do. I believe in the power of stories to change people, and I believe that it’s a responsibility of those with stories to tell, or with the ability to tell them well, to do so.

I’d love to have a broad spectrum to my work. I adore the medium of comics, and that will always be my home. I want to be able to cultivate an audience and them tell discreet stories across a variety of genres and themes. I don’t want to be the guy who works on only one project and I don’t want to be the guy who helps maintain someone else’s brand. I want to be the guy that’s churning out different work every year. I don’t want to be stale and I don’t want to stay fixated on one theme, genre, or even method of production. I want to experiment constantly, but only in service of telling a better story.

If I were a fiction writer, I’d want to be the guy who does novels every few years and breaks up the time between with short fiction. If I can have that in comic form (and there are a few who do) then that would be my dream. Telling stories, creating characters, and connecting with people through both.

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oats

Oooh… That’s a good dream. : )

Great post, Jake. Hilarious too. I’m wondering if you should have a separate blog just for your amusing pontifications… : )

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Jake Ekiss

Hehe, well my art blog occasionally features some rambling pontifications of all sorts. As a side note, maybe it’s just me, but it really seems like every successive post you guys put up you get more and more comments. Good on ya’!

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Margaret Hardy

I believe this is my first post, but I’ve been happily lurking and listening to each podcast as it comes out. Thank you Chris and Lora for sharing with us your awesome advice and creating this community!

This post hit home especially as I am about to embark on my first ever graphic novel. I didn’t write the script, but I basically need to design a large cast of characters in the next week or so. I just graduated from CCAD in May, and began teaching myself character design last year. My first character that was used for a friend’s thesis was started off with a turn-around. Ouch! It was incredibly painful to create a lively 3D model without much expressive pre-work and studies. What was I thinking? lol. It was my first turn-around as well, and took fooooooorever. A good learning experience though.

My creative dream is to have a satisfying and creative job that will let me pay off my school loans and live comfortably. This past year I discovered that I absolutely love working in a creative team to produce something larger than myself, like my friend’s thesis project group. So to work in a studio like Disney, Dreamworks, Cartoon Network, or Pixar would be a dream come true. I’m still trying to figure out what to focus on, such as pre-vis, background painting, etc.

To make this a possibility, a few classmates and I just moved out to LA a few weeks ago and are busting our butts working on our portfolios and applying to anything and everything. I think my graphic novel gig will help improve my character design, story-telling, and drawing efficiency.

An in-house studio job is definitely an important goal for me. I love drawing, painting, and stories and regardless of where I end up, I want art to remain a positive and beautiful thing and to keep the creativity alive without burning out and ‘losing the passion’ (which a few of you also mentioned in your replies!).

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Lora

Your work is beautiful, Margaret!! Be sure to share links here to your graphic novel whenever you get that started.

It’s interesting that you mentioned ‘pay off loans and live comfortably.’ In “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (a book Chris has talked about on the Podcast) the author mentions that creative types typically are seeking to have their needs met and be paid fair. But beyond that, we usually seek more intangible benefits than just a higher salary: things like a better, freer work environment, more autonomy, more creativity. Which certainly seems to be something which we hear from the Paper Wings community A LOT.

Thanks for sharing!! And good luck, you sound like you’re off to a great start… (p.s. Congrats on surviving CCAD!)

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Margaret Hardy

Thanks Lora! I’m not sure if I will be able to post any of my comic work-in-progess, it might all be NDA. We’re still working on the contract (which is a beast in itself).

My ‘live comfortably’ is a simple lifestyle, I just want to be able to do my thing without constantly worrying about money. You guys have mentioned the downsides of education… loans being a big one. I feel like the burden of them is shaping my path drastically. I can’t imagine what life would be like without them, but it would consist of a lot more freedom.

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Scott Wiser

That is some tasty artwork you have. Looks like you’re on you way to reaching your dream. Keep it up!

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Sarah

My ultimate goal is be an independent creator, to tell stories in whatever form best suits (comics, animation, games, etc). As Chris and Lora know my “big break” is this fall, but therein also lies the challenge. This is my chance to establish myself, and my goal is to use this opportunity to improve my prospects as I come out the other side. Goodness knows where I’ll end up, but if it leads to better gigs and more room for my own work, I’ll be happy.

I look forward to a future episode on inspiration and motivation. I want to be proactive to avoid falling into a “dip”, especially since I have less than a year to complete my graphic novel.

I’m loving all the feedback here from all the listeners. There are a lot of common goals, but it’s really enlightening to hear about everyone’s backgrounds and to see how different everyone’s motivations are.

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Scott Wiser

And a big YEAH! for your current big break. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Your story along is an inspiration and motivation to us.

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Sarah

Thanks so much! I wish you the best of luck on your own journey (I read your comment above), and I hope PW helps with that.

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Scott Wiser

It is already helping, more than I can say! Thanks, Sarah.

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Lora

The most we get to do is make the most of whatever opportunity is right in front of us at the time. You are surely doing that!! The rest is up to, as we would say at The Dreamer, “providence.”

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oats

Sarah, schedules and “budgets” (even if it’s just a time budget) are indispensable for staying on track and not falling into a “Dip.” Also, focus on progress and not on the project.

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Scott Wiser

Well I wrote this on my contest entry, but I think I should expound it a bit more and see if the community has anything to add.

My number one dream is to work with Chris Oatley. Oh wait, no, it was to direct an animated film – at least it was when I started studying animation. But since then, some people have rolled their eyes as I mentioned this dream – for various reasons. I also want to make sure I have time for my family, so the circumstances would have to be just right. So now I say my ultimate dream is “To be somehow involved in molding and directing the story and art of an animated feature.” I just love collaboration and working with every part of the process. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had an endless stream of story ideas whispering “draw me, play with me, make me into something!”

I hit one of my obstacles as I finished studying at Animation Mentor. I was reading a book on storyboard and suddenly thought, “maybe this is what I should have studied.” So I took two weeks after finishing and storyboarded like mad – even had a storyboarding retreat with a friend. We had a blast.

And now I work in the industry as an animator, so my big obstacle now is to make a demo reel strong enough to stay employed…and then find a studio where I can branch out and work toward my dream.

I also have this lifetime background in Musical Theater, story / scriptwriting, video, graphic design, etc…which I hope to keep in touch with and work into my career somehow.

Other obstacles include : drawing ability (which will will forever be a journey), time, stress, and just the overall process of discovering how to reach this dream!

I do have a document with possible goals mapped out to reach this dream, but I’m sure it will have to be modified. For example, when I wrote the plan I had no idea I would discover Paper Wings. I feel there is something special and it’s going to be part of my next big phase of “education”. I’m just not yet sure “how”.

So thanks to everyone here for your time, talents, and sharing your inspiring stories and dreams. I’ve enjoyed reading them and I’m sure that with time we will reach them!

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Lora

Chris and I are definitely working on further educational resources via Paper Wings, so you’re not far off the mark with that!

Sounds like you’re doing great on your path, Scott! Thanks for sharing so much!

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Bill Nagel

First, I love you podcast. It inspires and teaches at that same time, and that’s not easy to do. I especially liked the tip about creating lists of character qualities and then a list of contrasts and mixing them up.

Anyway, you are probably familiar with the blog “Temple of seven Golden Camels” but he had a post today about creating conflict and tension in a character that reminded me of your podcast. I recommend reading it.
http://sevencamels.blogspot.com/2011/07/two-sides-of-argument.html

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oats

I love the Seven Golden Camels site! I had not read that post and it was exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thanks so much for sharing, Bill! Nice art on your site, too!

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RobinofLeyLines

Dream Question

I mentioned this to Chris on Twitter, but I’m glad for the opportunity to flesh out my answer. I responded with: “Storytelling for a living,” and listed my greatest obstacle as “Learning the merits of patience and accepting the necessity of time.” I say “Storytelling,” because while comics are my media of choice, it’s the story that I value most. Some stories require a visual element, and I’m grateful that I’ve had the ability and time to learn how to USE visuals to enhance stories, but if I were to lose my hands and sight (shudder) I could still find value in living, because as long as I can talk, I can still tell stories. My current project is an online mythic mystery comic called LeyLines, and before that it was a philosophical drama called Shades of Grey, which I finished in 2010. So I’ve done enough storytelling to know that I love it, am deeply passionate about doing it, and want to keep doing it until the day I die. It’s the “for a living” part that’s tricky, and that’s where those obstacles come in.

Patience and acceptance. Two things I am not particularly good at!! Those perfectionist voices insist on chattering, “You should have MORE viewers, MORE work, MORE talent, MORE skills, and you should have them NOW, otherwise what good are you?” But I’ve found that frantically pushing things forward based on the shrieks of those impulses typically gets me farther away from where I want to be. I over-do everything. I burn out my creativity, I overwhelm potential friends, and I make myself so nervous and agitated that it gets in the way of what I really want to accomplish. Reading “Quitter” has really been helping (thank you again for the recc, Lora and Chris — Fantastic book!!) and so has, oddly, learning to garden.

I can’t rush a seed. No amount of fertilizer or water or fussing will make it grow faster. If anything, it will kill or warp it. All I can do is prep the soil, plant the seed, and wait. When it grows, I have to remember to just watch the plant. Check the soil. Observe the leaves. These signs will show me when to water it, and when to leave it alone. I have to accept that it will grow in a way that is natural to it, and I can’t force that. I have to be patient, and let it happen, and be aware and responsive without becoming smothering.

That’s how I’m trying to approach my own work, now. Learning new skills, reaching out to other creators, and connecting with communities is prepping soil and planting seeds. If something starts to sprout, such as a new friendship or the development of a new technical skill, I try to support that without over-doing it. Who knows? If I keep focusing on what really matters, and let things grow naturally, maybe one day I’ll walk out my door and discover an orchard where sprouts used to be.

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oats

Genius. The ‘garden’ bit is one of the best explanations of artistic growth I’ve ever heard.

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Derrick " Captain DUTZ" Utz

Goose Bumps…thank you very much.

reading this reminds me of how much I need to work on patience. I am generally quicker to the frustration and impatience because I want a professional schedule as much as the professional quality. the schedule will improve as I improve, they are connected. I should also be more appreciative that I have a quality that give me a good start to build improvement on. I am blessed, thank you for reminding to tend to the seeds and sprouts and to stop stressing the condition of the forest yet to come.

Worry for today, tomorrows trials will come in due time.

Captain Dutz

Chris, Lora..Thank you for the podcast.

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RobinofLeyLines

You’re welcome. I’m glad my perspective was helpful to you! I’m just continually amazed at the strange places life leaves these lessons. They’re never where I thought they’d be! In the dirt is the last place I expected to learn learn about tending to my dream, but sure enough, there it was, right next to the squash and tomatoes! Every time I get revved up and frantic about how I’m not “good enough yet”, I make sure to head outside, check the soil, and breathe in the fresh air.

Now, if I could just learn what Mother Nature is trying to say with all these thunderstorms lately, my life might truly make sense. ;)

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Scott Wiser

Hmm…thunderstorms analogy…how do I act during a thunderstorm? I bring an umbrella and drive slower (slow my pace find and carry on), sometimes I’m in awe of the beauty of the storm. And it’s often in the calm after the storm when I realize what I learned from the difficulty…either that, or I have some great story material.

Yep, RobinofLeyLines, you’re also on to something with this storm thing. There was one tough point in my life when I felt like I was climbing a mountain to avoid a constantly rising flood. I Had to remind myself to keep climbing even when I felt safe and never surrender to the exhaustion.

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Marietta

Great podcast!
I dislike turnarounds anyway. I never turned out like I wanted.
I prefer to play with the designs and make close-ups of important parts. (e.g. hair from the back, tattoos) Also, I write some notes for the plot on the character designs.

I like the silhouette tip. But I think some of my characters would fail this test.
Another useful tip for testing the variety of the characters: To draw them bald and naked. Even it’s a bit more difficult and more time-consuming than the silhouettes.

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oats

Cool idea about the “close up” drawings of the really important stuff. That’s super-important. We call those “detail drawings” or “studies.”

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shawn

Hi Lora and Chris,

I just started listening to your podcast and love it! Especially this episode. I have a question though. If you are designing your own characters for a “secret” project, how do you determine which design is the right one? It seems possible to cross-talk yourself into indecision and petrification. I.E. “Is this shape better round or straight? Is it better if the legs are short or long? Big nose versus small? ” etc.

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Lora

Trusted industry friends! I have several people I run everything by–my go to guys. I think if you’re doing your own project, you really need some outsider eyes on your project because we can get so inside our heads we loose track of what makes sense to other people OR we second guess ourself about things that are actually great the way they are.

My husband Mike is my #1 guy because he’s an artist too, and he’ll always shoot straight with me (for better or worse!) I also have a few writer friends and artists who are always up for giving me a critique. It always makes my work stronger!

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oats

Same here. And Mike is one of my #1 guys too. :)

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shawn

Thanks for your advice guys! I think I may have to join an online forum or something because there aren’t any industry professionals around these parts. Oh how I wish there were!

I thought since I’m here I might as well share my creative dream – to write a children’s book. How close am I? I storyboarded out the entire book and have written the overall story itself (both need work though). I have one illustration completed, 1 drawing ready to be transferred to board, and another layout in the works. I’m having so much fun doing this, I totally wish it was my day job. I guess that would be my major obstacle. For now, I come home, spend time with family and then burn the midnight oil.

What would it mean to me? I love so many forms of artistic expression and this book is seeming to tie them all together, which is amazing. It’s has a lot to do with my own personal life and that certainly makes it special. It would be wonderful if the finished book was received well and led to extraordinary new projects, ones that are beyond my imagination. :)

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Derrick " Captain DUTZ" Utz

Ahoy Me Maties!

Wow! I love the point about the silhouettes! Lora, I especially agree with how it can interact with a character’s pose to really nail home who it is. Chris, thank you for bringing up the point about the “weight/gravity” that is added to a character to influence the way they are perceived. I am still learning how to add this in to influence not only who the person is but even their mood at times.

I just wanted to add this in real quick and may also put this onto the next post since eI am so late in this one.

A while back I discovered this site and it has some awesome resources created for comic artists. You can print them out and go straight to using them for your book. I have and they have been a huge help. Ralph put page layout templates, character concept sheets, scene pages and sketch card templates on the site. Please send Ralph Contreras a thank you message if his stuff is helpful because he offers these for free!!!!!!

http://comicbookgraphicdesign.com/free-comic-book-resources-download/

Take care ye’ scallywags and till next post,
Captain Dutz

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oats

That’s a great resource! Thanks, Cap’!

And re: Power Centers: Try walking around and acting like your characters. Act out the scene that you’re working on. It will really help you find that power center and the character’s body language.

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Derrick " Captain DUTZ" Utz

Awesome, thank you! I always forget to just get up and be my character sometimes. Just like making faces when you draw them (Yep Lora, I do it too), being in character would help me draw them.

Thank you Chris!

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Bethany Wells

I totally agree with the turnarounds Chris! A couple of years ago I took an intro to animation class and we had to do a turnaround for our main character; let’s just say it was not a pleasant experience for me. I love drawing pages upon pages of expression heads of my characters (only over the past year have I forced myself to expand to what surrounds a character) and I always found it more interesting and inspiring to show expression than to have a stiff drawing. It also gives me an excuse to act weird and make faces in my mirror.

As for silhouettes, my brother introduced that concept to me through the Team Fortress games as a way to make more distinctive characters for a graphic novel my brother and I will be making sometime in the distant future. Although my characters aren’t as drastically different as the Team Fortress characters, I still can change them up enough that gives them each substance.

For my “creative dream”, my answer seems pretty close to everyone else: I want to be able to live comfortably by actually using my art degree. I believe I would prefer a steady paycheck to freelancing, but at this point, I really don’t know which way to go in the art field. I’d love to live outside the city and have a large studio, half for traditional painting and half for a digital workspace.
My inspiration mainly comes from early to mid-twentieth century illustrators and painters like Norman Rockwell, J. C. Leyendecker, Haddon Sundblom, and Robert Fawcett; plus, my artistic style tends toward that same realistic look. Yet, those illustrators were known for magazine covers and the such, an area that is dying out in today’s creative world. I’m currently looking into children’s books and keeping visual development of movies on the back burner (I initially wanted to be an animator until I took a class in it and found I preferred developing characters).

I guess my biggest obstacle is being lost in where to look. There are so many different areas for artists to go nowadays; I feel I really don’t know what I would like to do if I’m not aware of all the possibilities.

Also, I just did a blog post on the process for my entry (link to my blog above). Gotta get painting!

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oats

Great stuff, Bethany. I love that you have some specific images as part of your dream (the studio space). That’s important.

Keep us posted as you discover your artistic calling.

One question to think about: What’s the one thing you can lose complete track of time doing? Really think about it and be as specific as possible. “Art” as an answer doesn’t help. If you can, in time, discover that (it may change too) then you might have found your calling.

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Figgs

Wow, I really waited late to post on this episode.
Some of the stuff on here was just great! Especially the turnaround bit. That’s something I was doing but it really sucked a lot of energy out of me. And by the end of it, it really didn’t reflect anything about the character.

My number 1 creative dream I guess would be to help create the look and atmosphere of a game or animated film. I would love to direct, but in the end I just want to be involved in a process. Not so much passively involved, but to really dig in deep, and make a difference. I don’t mind being a small cog of a big machine, so long as I’m actually making a change. I’d also love to learn claymation, but that’s out of my expense range.

Only obstacles in my way are the facts that I really can’t afford to go to an art school, and am afraid if I took out loans, I wouldn’t be able to pay my debts. I also live in a very small town with little interest in arts of any kind and so it’s hard to get involved with people around here who are willing to work hard.

Not to say I haven’t been taking my own steps. I study and draw constantly, things like techniques and other artists. I’ve gotten involved with a community project over the internet, just to keep practicing on animation.

I’m inching my way closer and closer, but sometimes it feels like I’m not really going anywhere.

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oats

Figgs – thanks so much for sharing. We’re addressing this in the”not going anywhere” feeling in the next episode. We record tomorrow morning.

And the overwhelming amount of student loan debt with which so many artists graduate is one of the key reasons we started Paper Wings. More to come on this.

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Figgs

Hey, thanks for responding to such an old post. That’s really cool! You guys are doing such a great job. Both of you.

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Tyrel

Nearly a year ago, I doodled a little sketch in ballpoint pen. I didn’t even finish it, it was just mindless doodling during a botany class I was auditing for fun. That little doodle managed to wedge itself permanently into the folds of my brain, always in the back of my mind. It rattled around in my skull for a couple of months, when suddenly I came to a realization: I had a story to tell.

I’d never had a story to tell before. I’d been admiring and subconsciously studying the storytelling of others all my life: Bill Watterson, Hayao Miyazaki, Tomm Moore, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton… but I never gave doing it myself much serious thought. Suddenly that idea seemed attainable.

Ever since I’ve been working to make it happen, in graphic novel form. I’ve never put so much time and energy into a single project. I’ve been in one-man pre-production, drawing concept art and scriptwriting, doing everything from in-depth character development to designing a plausible ecosystem for the story to take place in. I’ve done research on everything from the evolution of feline coat patterns to the psychological effects of solitary confinement.

My dream is to create something utterly unique. I want to create a world that no one has ever even come close to imagining, with characters just as distinctive. By my reasoning, anything less than that just isn’t worth my time.

I’m fairly new to the world of storytelling, and it’s been a learning experience like no other. I’ve still got a long way to go.

I can’t thank you enough for creating Paper Wings. I can tell it’s going to be an invaluable source for inspiration and learning during my project. I don’t want to tread on any plans you’ve made for the podcast, but I’d personally like to hear advice for those taking on independent projects solo, and how to overcome the challenges that go with it.

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Liz Staley

I don’t feel so bad now about not doing “proper reference sheets” for my characters until over 100 pages in to my comic after listening to this. My characters really changed look (some of them are still “settling in” to their look even now because they got introduced a bit later in the story so far) for those first 100 pages and it wasn’t until after that when I really had them a bit established.

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Omar Ramírez

It is a little to late for mew to answer the question here, I had no time to do it before, but let’s do it anyway (if just for the therapy of it)

My #1 Creative dream is to own and direct my own cartoon / animated movie / Video Games studio. But in my dream I have also identified lesser goals I want to achieve (the things I think I need to ultimately achieve it):

- Land a good job in the entertainment industry (cartoons, animated movies or Video Games).
- Become a successful independent creator (in animation and comics).
- Make collaborations with talented artists and writters.
- Build a fan-base and a reputation.
- Start a small studio.

My main obstacle for landing a job (which I see as a firs step in perfecting my craft and mastering pipelines and processes) is my location. I live in Guadalajara Mexico, and the little industry we have here is mostly focused on advertising. I want to get a job in some good studio, and here is not the place.

The thing keeping me here, though, is my family, My Girlfriend and her Kids (from a previous marriage, but whom I love as if they were my own blood) But, mostly, my newborn little girl.

I know I can’t bring them all with me as fast as I’d like, and the fear of being apart from them is really sopping me in taking steps toward the job.

I’ve been taking steps toward becoming an independent creator, though, I’ve a Comic and an Animation project. But I really feel I’d miss a lot if I don’t get the job I want in the industry.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been wanting to say since I listened to this episode. Great work, guys, keep it up!n_n

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Scott Wiser

Hey Omar, I was reading a story and thought of you – It is in a free online book found here : http://squeezestudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Animation%20Insiders%20-%20EBOOK.pdf – And navigate through it to see Pablo Navarro’s story. The rest of the stories are also amazing. Good look on your journey and hope you enjoy this read!

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Omar Ramírez

Thanks a lot for the repgy and the link, the story was indeed really interesting, I think I’ll also read the rest of the book.

Again, thanks.

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Sarah-Owl

This podcast is so wonderful. I love the listing of opposite traits activity, and the interview with the characters has helped me SO MUCH with my current (somewhat evasive) characters. It’s also given me a lot of hope for when I start looking for a job in a month.

My #1 creative dream is to write and illustrate children’s books. Not traditional children’s picture books, though, but illustrated, independent reader or young adult level books. I came across one years ago, and it’s still my favorite book (The Secret Oceans by Betty Ballantine), and was the starting point to my dream. I have a lot going against me right now (economy, history major from a liberal arts school, and a dream field that is struggling (museums)). I’ve written many stories, however, and regularly practice drawing and sculpting. I often illustrate my short stories, and even longer stories have sketches dedicated to them. I have sketchbooks filled with images of the characters. My problem is that I don’t even know if my creative dream is one that publishers would even take a glance at. What would accomplishing this dream mean to me? I’m not really sure, to be honest. It’s something I’ve felt for a very long time that I need to do, as something completely and utterly for myself for a change.

My current career creative dream is to work in museums in public programming, especially history museums (and to get more specific, I adore living history, but I also want to develop programs for children with disabilities). I want to make a difference in the world with this dream. I want to help the kids that will never get into museums get into them and discover that history isn’t dead. I don’t know exactly where the two dreams intersect, but I know they will, in the end!

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Ibrahim Moustafa

This show is fantastic. Thank you!!!!!

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schultzee

Great episode! I was working on a character as I was listening. When you started talking about the power center, I realized how stiff and lifeless my character looked.The character is carrying a heavy backpack so I changed the posture to show the weight of it.

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Lora Innes

Oh, a backpack could really offset things and make it interesting. Slouching kids have a great silhouette. Glad you enjoyed this episode!

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Justin

I want to make a living from my Webcomic.

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Taylor Leong

Haha this website is so helpful and encouraging! As a senior in high school I feel like there are a lot of choices I have to make when it comes to college (currently applying to both Art Schools as well as Universities). For me, I’d really like to pursue my academic interests, such as History/Geography and Art History, but I know for sure that whatever I do, I still want to create great stories and characters as well. It’s a bit difficult since I’ve only recently really grasped the importance of story when it comes to creating, since for a long time I’ve only concentrated on my drawing skills and less on my writing/planning skills… it’s quite a boon to listen to all these podcasts and interviews and know that there’s so much to learn out there.

I’ve dreamed about running my own webcomic ever since seventh grade, and only pretty recently resurrected it, partly in thanks to this podcast. Although I feel like with my current skill level and at my point in life I would be better suited to work on a shorter, less demanding project like a one-shot to gauge my skills before I set off on the Big Story that’s shakily crystallizing in my notebooks and sketchbooks.

As for what it would mean to me: I’m kind of typical in how I’ve always loved being caught up in a good story, especially one through which I got to witness interesting perspectives and cultures, and would like to do that myself through making comics. As a history buff myself, I find some of the most interesting stories are the ones that take what happened and puts a twist on it (btw I haven’t read the Dreamer yet but it looks reeeally cool and I need to start it soon! :D)

Question to Lora: How do you go about organizing your history research for your comics? My story I’m working on is pretty fantastical, but It’s also really connected to history and I want to start from a solid base… I’ve been reading and looking up info a lot, but I always feel like my storywriting and research are disconnected… anyway once again thanks to you two for doing this project, it really means a lot to me! :D

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