The Woman of the Woods is a character I created for Rosetta and the Swan, my retelling of Swan Lake. (The version I’m working on is set around a fictional equivalent of the Baltic Sea. Also it’s the prince who is turned into a swan).
In my retelling of the story, the Woman of the Woods is one of many countless wise women who reside in The Woods. The Woods themselves are enormous and ancient. The people who live in Rosetta’s kingdom know of ONE Woman of the Woods – the one pictured above. She is hardly ever seen in her human form. Usually she is only spotted as a bear.
However, this particular Woman of the Woods has close ties to the royal family. And it’s she who blesses Rosetta with the ability to talk to animals.
All of this is to say…she’s available as a hi-resolution download. Check it out either on Patreon or Ko-Fi (she’s available for download on both platforms).
Ollie (short for Olive) is a half-orc druid I’m currently playing in my D&D 5E group.
And BOY is she a lot of fun to play as.
(Everything she says in the sketches above are things I’ve said in character as her. Like I said, she’s fun).
The thing about Ollie is: she’s wise…but she’s not smart. Her wisdom HAS to be high to be effective as a druid, and it IS high. Currently her wisdom score is at a 16.
Her intelligence is 8.
For the uninitiated, if your skill score is below 10, that means that when you roll a dice to determine how successful you are, you have to subtract a number from what you rolled. If your skill score is ABOVE 10, you add a number to what you rolled.
So any intelligence-based check Ollie makes, I have to subtract 1 from what I roll. Any wisdom-based checks I make, I get to add 3 to what I roll.
This not only makes the mechanics of the game more interesting… this also means more fun in my roleplay.
Imagine this scenario: you’re in the woods, and you see a pack of wild dogs running off a cliff. Only, there’s something magical happening: the dogs are floating down, their paws still kicking in the air, and then they touch the ground below, unharmed.
What does Ollie do?
She runs to the top of the cliff and runs off the edge to see if this is an area-of-effect spell.
(I learned the hard way: no. It is NOT an area spell. The dogs were just magical).
But this is the kind of personality Ollie is: she learns from experience, not from books. In fact, if anything, classes put her to sleep.
She is also charismatic as heck. Her Charisma score is at a 16. So that means she’s REALLY good at making friends with people. Her typical greeting anytime she enters a room is, “MY DUDE!”
She calls bullshit when she sees it (hence the “passive aggressive” quote above). And she’s handy to have around to diffuse a tense situation.
More often than not, though, if something gets too tense, and she thinks people are going to make a fatal, terrible decision, she will physically pick them up and carry them out of the room.
(Hey, she’s still a half-orc. Half-orcs are strong, yo).
I hope you enjoyed Ollie as much as I enjoyed sharing her with you. I hope to draw more of her soon!
A long while ago I wrote a post about my inspirations. Some of those still hold true (looking at you, Paprika). Some, however, have moved to the shelf so I can focus on some new inspirations.
Here’s what been getting my creative juices flowing recently:
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
I loved this series as a teenager. Then I hated it. Now I’m back to enjoying it.
This series is NOT flawless. But it’s like a cup of tea with a bar of chocolate: the best self-indulgence you can get without thinking too hard about it.
Really, the series is at its best when you’re not thinking about the plot. Though, as SuperButterBuns put it, the plot isn’t that confusing: it’s just a lot to remember.
(I also do the Crash Bandicoot logic of boss fights, in that the bosses in the previous games didn’t “die.” They were just defeated once and then came back for Kingdom Hearts 3.)
So what about Kingdom Hearts 3 has been getting me inspired? Well, I’d be lying if I said anything other than “The Organization.”
Or seeing Woody from Toy Story tell one of the Organization members to piss off. That scene gave me SO MUCH LIFE.
Also, Kingdom Hearts fans will get this reference: Yeetas Vanitas.
There’s tons of silly, charming character moments in Kingdom Hearts 3 in particular. Is the voice acting as good as the Union Cross: Back Cover movie? Nope. But the character banter is on point, more so in this game than in any other Kingdom Hearts installment.
And, well, the Organization and the mystery behind each member just intrigues the hell out of me. Not to mention that the characters themselves make good warm-up sketching material. Every character looks and acts differently. And I appreciate that.
Ok, I’ll move on to the next piece of inspiration before I gush anymore:
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
From Kingdom Hearts’ absolutely bonkers plot to a story with a damn-near flawless plot. Yes, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s story is so expertly woven that it’s really McFreaking Hard for me to find a fault with it anyplace.
Every character has a purpose. Every motivation makes sense. And the action of this series is driven by the motives of the characters, not some invisible hand dragging them by the nose under plot contrivance.
Also, much like Kingdom Hearts, the character designs for FullMetal are just superb.
Really, though, it’s the writing and how the story moves forward that’s been inspiring me the most. It makes me want to write.
I doubt I will ever write anything like Brotherhood. But it gives me something to aspire to, and a benchmark to look at whenever I lose focus.
Above anything else, the humor (and one other thing) of this series has been inspiring me the most lately.
The other day I was marathoning this show in the background while I was doing studio work. And yet the show still makes me laugh, even when I’m not watching it directly.
There’s a soft spot in my heart for any character who fulfills the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass trope well, and Vash the Stampede is the best embodiment of this trope.
Also, the very first episode of this show is the best introductory episode of any anime I have seen thus far. Period. Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself. You’re welcome.
Did you know Studio Ghibli (yes, THAT Studio Ghibli) did the animation of some episodes of Trigun? When I learned that, it blew my damn mind.
This is also another series with some damn good writing to it. But for a different reason: FullMetal’s focus was on the characters and motivation. Trigun’s focus in the writing is on the world-building, and Vash’s connection to it.
Once you see the conclusion of Trigun, you will realize there’s no other story like it. And that’s what inspires me.
That’s all for now. I’m gonna’ get back to drawing.
Thank you for reading!
You. Are. Awesome.
P.S. Another fun fact that blew my mind: the English voice actor for Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts also did the voice of Detective Konakawa in Paprika. Now I can’t look at Xemnas half the time without thinking about Konakawa’s dream antics.
So in Part 1, I talked about character design in comics, and what doesn’t tend to work. In Part 2, I talked about some character designs in practice in Validation and other personal works.
Today I would like to look at more character designs and how they can reflect or embody elements necessary to the story.
Let’s look at some characters from…Johnson & Sir.
Johnson and Sir are two opposites: Sir is the busybody tough guy who plays by the rules and runs a tight ship. Johnson is a relaxed joker who figuratively pokes the bear (the bear being Sir) to make him lighten up and joke more.
Sir is well-kept and nicely groomed. His mustache is always perfect and he’s almost always standing up straight and in-charge.
Johnson loves his dresses and is not afraid to wear them. He’s willing and able to break the expectations of society. He LOVES to do so. To match his flamboyance, he has wild hair and crazy facial expressions. While Sir is stoic, Johnson isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Of course, in the Fantasyville Police Force, there are characters that match up with Johnson and Sir, serving as mirrors.
Mirror characters are not new or even rare. Mirror characters are those who have the same experiences or functions of the main characters, but can oppose them in some way.
For example, Ackles is a mirror for Johnson.
Ackles is the nice in-between of Johnson’s heart with Sir’s rationale. Ackles is reasonable but accepting of the absurdity in Johnson’s attitudes. He’s not as by-the-book as Sir is, but he still follows the rules that society has placed, for the most part. He’s not all-knowing – in fact, he’s still new to the job as a police officer, and asks a lot of questions. He’s the naive curiosity to Johnson’s experience. His naivete and curiosity are what drive him to go adventuring with Johnson and do silly, absurd things.
To reflect these characteristics in his design, he has a well-groomed image like Sir, hair that doesn’t meet societal expectations like Johnson’s, and wide, emotional and curious eyes.
So now we know about Johnson’s mirror character, Ackles. Who is Sir’s mirror character?
Pranesh hardly ever speaks until the Haiku Flu arc. He’s a man of few words and somber actions. He doesn’t do exaggeration like Johnson or Ackles do. He’s a quiet, determined sort of man. That’s why he has the strong chin and jaw, the broad shoulders, the high cheek bones, and the tired eyes. He’s seen things, but he carries on in his quiet way. Like a superhero.
Pranesh is much like Sir in his stoic nature and ramrod-straight posture. He carries himself with dignity, like Sir (for the most part) does.
But Pranesh is a bit too stoic. We don’t see him smile. He hardly ever jokes, unless it’s in a deadpan, dry way.
He serves as the mellow contrast to those rare moments when Sir unwittingly lets an emotion loose, like humor or fear.
While Ackles is complimentary to Johnson, Pranesh is almost a caricatured personification of Sir’s dryness. He is what Sir COULD become, if it weren’t for Johnson poking him with the metaphorical silly stick.
So in designing these characters, everything plays a part – their facial expressions, their posture, their body language, their hair and clothes (when they’re not in police uniform). Keep these factors in mind when you create your own characters for comics and, hopefully, your characters will become much more real.
So did you like this 3-part series? Would you like me to keep talking about character design for comics? What have you learned from my ramblings about character designs? Leave your thoughts in comments below!
Also! Did you like Johnson expressing his inner Elsa? Because you can get it as a print to hang on your wall! Or your friends’ wall. Or wherever people need to burst into motivational song.
This blog post was the last one in a week of daily updates. Thank you to everybody who read my posts everyday! I’ll see you on Monday.
So in yesterday’s post I talked about what I feel like makes bad character design for comics.
To be fair, creating unique designs for characters is hard, especially in comics. It’s too easy to fall into formulas and make your characters suffer Same Face Syndrome, or its cancerous cousin, Same Body Syndrome. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? You should have been here yesterday.)
It’s not an easy question to answer, even if you’ve been making comics and animated works for YEARS. What makes great characters tends to vary from artist to artist.
However, I try my best to keep these points in mind. Good character designs in comics (to me)…
express the full range of human emotions,
are visually individual from each other, and
embody necessary elements in your story.
Let’s take a look at some of my own character designs.
Nada is a character I created for a work-in-progress, where she and several children are trying to escape a haunted house. Nada loves the wilderness, exploring, and practicing her survivalist skills. So in her design, I gave her sturdy hiking boots and a pair of pants that wouldn’t snag on anything from long sleeves, but still protect her legs from ticks and burrs. She’s still feminine in that she keeps her hair long, but she’s low maintenance and would rather keep her tangle of hair pulled back.
Let’s look at another story, which has the working title The Hoard.
Claire is a tough cookie. She’s also sharp and abrasive, which is why I drew her with sharper angles, especially in her face. She’s also muscular, having fought against the zombie hoard for a few years. Her clothes fit her snugly – she has no time for loose things to snag onto obstacles. She needs to do her thing quickly and get it done.
Let’s compare her to Tracy.
Tracy has softer edges and curves, including a round face. That’s because she’s much more innocent and timid than Claire is. Compared to Claire’s hardness, Tracy is squishy. She also has more introverted body language – she keeps her arms in and her mouth shut. Compared to Claire’s open and fierce body language, Tracy is quiet. She compliments Claire nicely for the story.
Ok, so what about in something like Validation?
Let’s look at the progression of Ally.
This isn’t just a comparison to see how my art improved over time. There’s some subtlety going on in Ally’s design.
When she first appears, her hair is much straighter, she’s quiet in her demeanor, and she keeps to herself for the most part.
As time goes on, she gets more outgoing, more outspoken, and that gets reflected in her appearance. Her hair is much looser and wilder, and she’s not afraid to wear a shirt that says “Boss.”
We can also see a change in Roxie, especially in one particular arc.
Roxie is a punk. She is loud, she is funny, she is energy personified. Even her hair is electric!
However, in a rather dramatic story arc, she hits a slump. She retreats inward and loses a little of her spark. Usually, her mohawk has vibrant color, but in her slump, her hair is apathetically white and lifelessly blank. Her hair is limp, her energy just sucked out of her. And instead of standing straight and proud and emphatic, she slumps over, drawing herself in, away from the world.
Thankfully the downturn doesn’t last long, but it’s still dramatic enough that her appearance changes to match her character.
There are even more character designs I want to show and discuss, but that will have to wait for tomorrow – I don’t want this post to get too long!