Monday, March 03, 2008

Surprise Monday : Week 1 : Characters

Welcome to Week 1 of Surprise Monday!
Each Monday I will be giving a little behind-the-scenes look into my process in illustrating the book Surprise! for Miscellaneous Press (aka Karen Andrews).

This week I have been working on the main characters. For me it is really important to get to know the characters I will be illustrating as much as possible. I find that sometimes they take on a life of their own! I think the more you can draw them, the better you know them, so it's where I always start.

This book is sort of like 4 stories in one, with four equally important main characters - Hamish, Alice, Meg and Thomas. They are about 4 years old. Karen had provided a few notes on character traits, which helped a lot. Then, in reading the text over a few times, their personalities sunk in a bit more. I had pretty clear ideas of what I wanted for each character right from the beginning, except for Thomas, for some reason he was a bit harder. I wrote down several character traits, and kept referring back to them while sketching. I also looked at photos of 4 year olds to make sure I was getting the proportions right. Here is what I ended up with (with the character traits I used in the right hand corner):

When sketching, I mostly just did a lot of heads to try to capture the personality traits I had written down. For some, my initial ideas were it, but others surprised me. For instance, I was sure Meg was going to have pigtails, but once I drew this one (circled) I knew that was her.
It's weird creating characters, sometimes it's like they were always there, just waiting for you to find them. Does anyone else experience that or does that sound crazy? I promise I don't talk to them or anything! (not yet anyway!) Where do your characters come from? Do you like to draw them a lot first or just start the project and they evolve along the way? Do you use much reference or is it all from your head?

Next Monday:
Secondary characters and storyboards


Alicia PadrĂ³n said...

Yay Kim I'm loving this surprise Mondays!!
Wow, it's looking great. I love the 4 characters they are so cute. It's wonderful how you point out each of their favorite piece of clothing and I think they are so adorable. I know what you mean about drawing something and the talking to you, like screaming to make it something more. I've felt that many times, and I think they are usually right :o)

About your question I usually like to think and doodle a lot about the characters first. When I have them ready I continue with the story. Although it all depends on the type of story too. For ex what I'm working on now has different characters in every page and they are not related. It's almost like a single illustrations every time, for that I work the storyboard first. Figure out the actions, what they are doing and then pick characters to do it. So I guess it depends on the projects.

Anyways, this is coming along just great Kim! :o)

baby~amore' said...

I love the look of Thomas and Hamish.
Meg and Alice look pretty cute too.

- I have twin boys so the boys are my favourites.

♥ the sneak peeks

My Little Drummer boys

lil kim said...

Hi Ali,
yes I guess it depends on the project. I guess this one is fairly similar to yours in that it is only 2 spreads per character. It's sort of fun to have that many characters to try to develop within a short space, it's a good challenge!

baby~amore' - thank you for your comment! your little drummer boys are adorable. and i listened to the 'last lecture' that you posted - very powerful! and of course sad too. We need people like this to give us perspective on our own lives (and a kick up the backside every once in a while!)

Isabelle said...

Hi Kim,
Great idea, I will be back for the sequel! Your characters are very endearing, I like the way you approach the task. For my part, I like to work out the storyboard first, in thumbnail form. I think I need to create the "world" before I put the characters in. Then, from the doodles I put in the thumbnail I elaborate (hear: sketch and sketch)the characters. I haven't done many but so far, they are usually close in essence to my first draft. And I do "recognise them" when they are right!
How were you chosen for this job? Did you show your portfolio around, is this a publisher you send samples to? Curious to know!

lil kim said...

Thanks Isabelle, great to hear how other people do things. Yes, I can understand creating the 'world' first too, I guess I have been doing both in tandem but my character sketches are definitely more advanced.

I was lucky enough to be handpicked by the author, as she is self-publishing under her own company Miscellaneous Press. She found me through an Australian portfolio site I am on -


Kate said...

This is so cool! Thanks, I am enoying this a lot.

Edrian Thomidis said...

I don't know how I've been missing your blog. I really like your Surprise Mondays posts. The idea of posting your process fro this book really gives everyone a good insight of your process and the overall work that goes into illustrating a book. You are doing a great job!!!! love your characters too.
I will be adding you to my reader to keep ]up with your blog!