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Character Design: What I Learned and Even Discovered Recently

You haven’t seen an art post in a while. That’s because I haven’t been doing a lot of it these days. However, there is something about it that I discovered quite recently. Obviously, it’s about character design. You want to know what it is?

It’s how I was better at it at age 13 than at age 23 in 2017. Okay, you may be looking at me like I have 4 heads. And at the time 3 years ago, when I was 23 and finishing college, I didn’t realize or think of it. But I could portray characters more accurately, based on their personalities, when I was just 13 years old.

Well, they weren’t my own characters. They came from the “Harry Potter” series. At that age, I enjoyed the franchise very much to the point that I did fan art of it. But most of it was silly and the characters did things they would never do. However, that’s a different story.

Aside from the wackiness, I also drew the characters alone, with facial expressions based on their personalities. Below is an example.

I must applaud myself for drawing (movie) Snape pretty well when I was 13. I also liked to use arrows to direct at the characters, which I don’t think is conventional in character design. But I could be wrong for some companies or designers.

Ten years later, in my final semester of college, I took an illustration course. One of the things we had to learn was character design. However, I just drew characters in stock poses. The example below is a replica I did of when we had to design characters for a comedic live-action TV show since I don’t have the original anymore.

It wasn’t this sloppy. I just did it from memory. Plus, I haven’t been doing a lot of art these days. I’m hoping my skills aren’t deteriorating.

Anyway, that above is supposed to be Megan from “Drake and Josh.” I used a simplistic style since I felt it was appropriate for a slapstick comedy. But when we did a class critique, somebody pointed out that I could have given her a more sinister look based on her personality and traits.

If you’ve seen “Drake and Josh,” you know that Megan pulls pranks on her older brothers, but her parents find her innocent. So, a wicked smile would have been more suitable.

Another assignment we had to do was illustrate a story that Disney did not adapt. I picked “Perseus and Medusa.” Just like with the other assignment, I drew the characters in stock poses again. Even though I don’t have it anymore, I illustrated Perseus with a default smile on his face. That was when I learned not to do that anymore.

So, from that point on, I portrayed the characters more accurately based on their traits. Below is an example of another character from the same Greek myth.

For those who don’t know, Polydectes was an evil King in “Perseus and Medusa.” This is why I drew him the way I did.

If you are interested in learning character design, it is important to know as much about them as possible for you to illustrate them for whatever project you work on. Even if it’s only for personal use, these tips could come in handy.

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A “Hercules” Mystery: Why Can’t Mortals Live on Mount Olympus?

Warning: contains spoilers from the 1997 film***

Hercules was born on Mount Olympus as a god. However, when Hades has Pain and Panic abduct him, they give him a potion in a bottle that would make him remove not only his immortality, but also his powerful strength. Luckily, a couple finds him and raises him with loving care.

The gods do try to look for him, too, but they discover that he has become mortal. Therefore, they cannot let him back. Years later, when Hercules has grown, he discovers that he was found and where he actually came from. The Zeus statue reveals that he was stolen and that only gods can live on Mount Olympus.

So, why is it like that? There could be a reason in the original myth. But, of course, it could differ in the Disney movie. After all, Disney does drastically change stories from the original sources as well as sugarcoat them a lot.

My guess is…could there be something on Mount Olympus that makes it unsafe for mortals to be there too long? At the end of the film, Hercules is brought back to Mount Olympus with Meg, his love interest. Meg stands outside of it, unharmed. And, of course, she was never a goddess.

But what if she stayed there for days, weeks, months, years, and so forth? Someone in a YouTube video pointed out that Zeus could change that law of only gods getting to live on Mount Olympus.

I can’t think of any other reasons why that rule is in place, except for my guess or Zeus’s possible inflexibility to change the law.

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Mini Art Show: Perseus and Medusa

An illustration I did for college

How many of you enjoyed learning about Greek mythology? I certainly did. That was why I chose to illustrate scenes from “Perseus and Medusa”.

This was an assignment in my illustration class at college. It was the final one. We had to illustrate a fairytale NOT adapted by Disney. I was passionate about “Perseus and Medusa”.

Above is where Perseus has just chopped off Medusa’s head. Want to know the story? You’ve got Google for that. Or you may already know.

While my professor was unhappy about this, I had copied an illustration I did of Perseus holding Medusa’s head and pasted it into the cave background I drew. Except for the blood, which was done digitally in Photoshop, I drew the outline by pencil and pen and colored in strong markers. Not the Crayola kinds kids use. But professional kinds. There was a little bit of Prismacolor and a little bit of something else that was stronger and bled more.

I used a reference image to illustrate the cave. Thanks to learning figure drawing, building Perseus was no problem. He has muscles as a way to represent both strength and heroism.

You should know that Medusa is hideous and dangerous, especially when one looks into her eyes. So I had to choose colors that represented monsters. And because gazing into Medusa’s eyes can turn you into stone, Perseus’s eyes are closed.

And why this simplistic style, you might ask? It was the easiest at that time, which was two years ago. Also, a lot of people illustrate Greek myths in simplistic styles, especially if they are illustrating for children.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for more mini art shows. Thanks.

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I Will Review This… I Can Go the Distance with Disney’s “Hercules” (1997)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

 

Seeing “Hercules” in the movie theater is one of my very earliest (and very faint) memories. I was 3 years old at the time. Then I saw it in 4th grade, during an indoor recess. I watched it again more recently—in March of this year.

In Ancient Greece, the muses start with an opening song. Then it goes to Mount Olympus, where Zeus, Hera, and the other gods are adoring the infant, Hercules. Hades, the god of the underworld, has a plan to harm Hercules. His assistants, Pain and Panic, kidnap Baby Hercules from Mount Olympus and feed him a potion that makes him mortal. They stop when a couple finds Hercules. There is one remaining drop. And Hercules still has his strength. However, since he has become mortal, he cannot return to Mount Olympus. The human couple takes Hercules and raises him.

Years have gone by and Hercules is now a young man going with his adoptive parents to Athens. He accidentally destroys the architecture with his involuntary strength. Hercules feels that something about him is unusual. His adoptive parents reveal to him that he was found and they still have the metal he wore when they found him. The metal has the symbol of the gods. Hercules goes to the temple of Zeus. In order to return to Mount Olympus as a god, Hercules has to prove himself a true hero. He gets help from the faun, Phil, but also falls in love with a young woman named Megara (Meg). Hercules struggles but pushes himself.

I found Hercules’s struggles to make him very believable. The way he acted toward people was done well. The midpoint, where Hercules becomes super famous and popular was great, even if it didn’t satisfy the Zeus statue.

The humor was not slapstick, but used appropriately, such as when Pain and Panic had those sandals with Hercules on them. Hades got mad and Pain and Panic defended themselves with the excuse of the Hercules being a different entity than the one they knew. There were also a lot of 90’s references, such as Air Hercs (like Air-Jordans), Grecian Express, and more. I grew up in the 2000’s, but I still got the references.

The plot points were also done well, especially the deal Hercules made with Hades. It went back and forth. Hercules lost his strength, gained it back, and acknowledged the deal again.

With Meg, I felt her role was only there for romantic element convenience, because hey— shouldn’t Disney movies with protagonists in their teens or over have romance. Not necessarily! I don’t know about the 90’s, but if you’ve seen 2016’s “Moana” or 2012’s “Brave”, neither main characters fell in love. And they were females.

Anyway, back to this film. Although Meg was just okay, I did appreciate how Hercules gave up his return to Mount Olympus at the end to rejoin Meg. I thought that was so sweet. This is one of those movies where the main character does not achieve his or her goal. Yet, the ending is still satisfying. Which leaves me wondering… what if Hercules never met Meg? Hmmm…

Anyhow, the movie is still a 5-star film for me. It isn’t one of the top Disney classics for me. But I still really enjoyed it.

***Update***

After re-watching the movie, I figured out why Meg is important. And that is related to how Hercules has to be a true her and the definition of it. It is not finding danger to defeat, but going out of your way to save someone you love.