Monday, July 11, 2011

Style Struggles - how to adapt to different assignments

I just signed on to a project where I'm supposed to illustrate a children's story for a book. At the same time I'm doing a very different project for an app game for a company called Dilemmr. I have found over the course of this weekend that it is quite hard to work with two styles at the same time.

The app project is sort of a Manga/Science fiction inspired style with as proper anatomy as possible and use of perspective and the like. The children's book is supposed to be child friendly and humorous, but inspired by fantasy, and I have to morph the anatomy and work in a more cartoony style than the other. I started sketching some of the characters from the children's story and this is where the trouble started. I just couldn't let go of the anatomy and my usual way of building a character. The characters weren't stylized enough and I didn't find them very funny either. I'm usually good with cool or cute characters, but funny is not really a strength of mine. This problem made me feel stuck and I felt a bit hopeless to be honest and I wasn't sure how I was going to solve the issue.

What I did know however was that I was not going to give up. So I started sketching a bit, gradually changing things on the characters, making things simpler, not drawing all the joints on arms and legs, making some body parts abnormally large or very tiny. halfway through the process I was still frustrated and I didn't know what to do. I bitched a bit about it to my fiancée who looked at the characters and then he came with the most ingenious suggestions of how to make the characters more funny. He is usually no help at all, he says he does not know what to say or look for, but this time he was a great help. I did some amendments to the characters and after seeing Ole's satisfied grin and giggle when I showed them to him I'm certain I'm on the right track.

So what do you do when you're a bit stuck? After having struggled with it myself and having thought about it quite a lot I've come up with some pointers that might help you should you ever be in a situation similar to mine.

1. Sketch - a lot. Don't be afraid to make silly doodles or drawing with the wrong hand. Sometimes it loosens you up and opens the door for that creative spark you are looking for. Don't shy away from reworking things either. I reworked my characters 5 times before I felt happy about them.

2. Have someone else look at your sketches if possible (if your not under a strict NDA or something). A fresh point of view may be all you need to see what's missing in your artwork.

3. Look for reference on the Internet or in books or movies, whatever is relevant to your assignments. For example I needed to do something very cartoony so I looked at a comic strip by Frode Øverli, the creator of Pondus. His drawings are very humorous, stylized and fun. Now I didn't copy any of his characters or his style. I merely looked at the way he stylized his arms and legs, mouths and noses. It really helped me along.

4. If you feel stuck and nothing of the above helps you should put your work down and leave it for a couple of hours or overnight and get back to it later. It gives you brain time to work things over and you'll maybe look at the artwork differently when you come back to it.

Well this turned out to be a fairly long post, but I hope someone can gain something useful from it, or indeed throw in their own ideas of how to switch between illustrative styles when you are working on two very different projects at the same time.

Until next time
Anita Night

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