July 30, 2012
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Design

from the desk of Zack Giallongo

Ever since I started down the path of drawing when I was a kid, my favorite thing was always the characters. It sounds obvious to me, but I realize that many people don’t always enjoy drawing characters or thinking about their design. As I got older, I realized that I had a very specific interest in character design and that it was something that meant a whole lot to me. I started thinking about why we respond to characters the way we do. Visually, what makes us want to root for a character? Protect her? Hate him? Why do we read him as frail? Why do we understand that she is sweet? Why do they seem to work so well as partners?

For me, character design is as much about tapping into certain truths that we know intrinsically as humans, but also playing against type and being able to throw a wrench in the whole machine. After all, who wants to design cliche characters? Now despite certain feelings on character design, I’m not sure that I have any real wisdom to impart on a reader, mostly because so much of my own design work is feeling and instinct (for whatever that’s worth). But, I thought it might be fun to talk about how I draw a certain character, what I think about his physical and emotional self and how (I hope) they all tie in together.

So here is Broxo, the boy barbarian king who lives in the wilderness and the elements I think about when I draw him.

From the neck up:

A.  Leaf-like hair shape, feels like nature. And he’s a nature-boy.

B. Small pupils. These are easy to focus, but also seem a bit feral.

C. Small button nose. Helpful as a family trait, too.

D. Broxo has had his fair share of teeth knocked out of his head through the years.

E. Little, plant-like sprout of hair.

F. Large, hoop earrings on males seem exotic to most Westerners. Think about Mediterranean pirates or genies. Broxo is not from a culture like ours.

From the neck down:

A. Battle-ready helmet. It’s beat up, but the spires are evocative of a king’s crown.

B. Mail shirt. Armor is essential to his day-to-day survival.

C. Large, wooly cloak. It’s matted and rough and well-used.

D. Sword is actually loosely based on a tai-chi sword.

E. Every rough and tumble kid has ripped pants!

F. Broxo’s not lanky, but he’s thin and wiry like a lot of 14 year olds.

G. Dirty fingernails!

Broxo will be in stores this October.

One Comment on “ Character Design ”

  • Julee Murphy | August 2nd, 2012 2:31 pm

    Nicely done. Your article will serve well as a read-aloud prior to a lesson on characterization. My school is still getting used to me introducing kids to graphic novels (which they love).

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