Kid Warrior – Concept art drawn with Mischief

Some days I just want to sketch and explore ideas. I’ll grab a coffee and fire up the iMac / Wacom / Mischief combination and just draw.

This morning was shaping up to be just one of those days so I sat down and thought about a character I’d had mapped out for some time – The Kid Warrior.

The kid is just an ordinary and very English kid called Eric. He loves cricket and often hits a ball in a nearby field while out walking his beloved dog, Hugo. Then it all gets a bit weird and Eric undergoes a mini transformation from shy and nervous kid into a potential dragon slayer in a mystical realm!

I’ve had the story mapped out for a little while but other more pressing projects have got in the way a bit. So it’s nice to spend some time with Eric and keep edging toward that stage where we can start to create his story.

Here’s a few concepts created with Mischief this morning.

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Character scale and head heights

I enjoy learning about the terminology employed by animators. Recently I watched Frozen character designer Jin Kim talking about the design of characters from Big Hero 6 and Tangled. He referred to their size in terms of head heights.

I found it interesting and knocked up a quick sketch to reflect my understanding of it all.

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Punk girl concept sketches

I’m always looking for inspiration and recently I spoke with an author about an idea she’d had. The story centred around a bunch of punk kids, a shopping mall and zombies.

Here’s a couple of sketches created using Corel Painter X3 and Mischief.

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Designing nasty characters

Continuing my theme of creating ‘rotters’, here’s a couple I came up with while thinking about a story. I’m a big fan of drawing my characters rather than just writing endless pages of backstory about them. Though I do enjoy that as well, this really helps me to imagine the characters as real people.

Mrs Cheese, History teacher and a proper rotter

Mrs Cheese, History teacher and a proper rotter

Ivor Ratchitt - the class thug

Ivor Ratchitt – the class thug

Horrid Auntie Morag

I love getting ideas for characters and just sketching them out. The idea for evil Auntie Morag came to me as I was thinking of names for an elderly lady character. I remembered the name Morag from a kid’s TV show and always thought it was such an unusual name. The kind of name that would probably suit an old hag!

Auntie Morag and her horrible cats

Auntie Morag and her horrible cats

I imagined that Morag would be a hunched old woman with a kind of a hunchback. Her clothes would be rags and she’d be followed by her beloved cats. Horribly spoiled cats that she fed fresh salmon throughout the day. Consequently she stank of fish and her clothes were a mess of cat hairs and pulled threads.

Worse still she had grandma stubble and claws for fingers. Probably from years of sewing things or doing rubbish 10,000 piece jigsaws.
And of course she had to have mad staring eyes :)

Illustrating a character for a children’s story using Corel Painter

I love Corel Painter. The version that I use is Corel Painter X3 on iMac.

One of my on-going projects just now is a story about a young boy and his dog lost in a magical realm. It’s an adventure story for children aged 6 – 9 years. I’ve been writing it for a little while and have tried numerous art styles to bring it to life with pictures.

I’m currently angling toward using Painter for all of the artwork. Here’s a snapshot of my process.

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Rough outline sketch using a Soft 6B Pencil on a textured canvas

I always start with a good sized canvas. This sketch was started on a canvas 5″x7″x300dpi.

To start with I’m using a Soft 6B Pencil to pick out the form and the composition. In the story the kid and his dog are stepping across a lava pool using tiny stepping stones. The dog, as always, is pretty fearless. But the kid is extremely cautious.
So I have two things that I need to show; trepidation and bubbling lava.

The pencil is a wonderful way of quickly laying down some form. I particularly love using it against a heavy canvas. You can see the texture that it presents, below. For me this is pretty vital. I really like to enjoy every aspect of the sketching and producing these marks on the canvas is extremely appealing.

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Detail of 6B pencil on textured canvas

For the outline I use the Flat Color pen set to black. This is a common theme in my work. I just love the variation in its stroke. With little pressure – a barely visible hairline. With more pressure – a wonderfully satisfying thickness.

Something that I never do is pause for any length of time before starting the inking process. I like to dive right in. It’s far easier to adjust an image once the marks are down. I do find that if I stare at the canvas for too long I can become quite precious about the lines that I make.

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Applying an ink outlined with the Flat Color pen

I build the composition around the pencil sketch and add a little texture with the ink. Notably around the hair and some of the clothing. I also like to add the darker areas with a thicker ink stroke. It’s important not to overdo it and this stage takes a fair bit of zooming out and looking at the image from a distance to gauge the balance of the strokes.

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Detail of the Flat Color pen’s varied line strength

You can see just how much more interesting the lines are when you zoom in a little. That variation in the line strength adds some interest to the final image and helps to prevent it looking like a vectored / computer generated piece.
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For the colour I work on the lowest layer with a Fine Tip Water brush from the Digital Watercolor collection.

I deliberately set the Diffusion level to 0. This provides a satisfying fringe to each stroke that I think works quite well. Any setting above 0 would produce a level of Diffusion that I think takes something away from the final piece.

As with the ink work I’m not overly precious about the colouring. I certainly don’t worry about being tight to the black ink lines. For me it’s more interesting an image where there are areas left blank.
That said I am conscious that the best effects would be to have the lighter areas on one side of the image.

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Detail of ink and colour applied with the Fine Tip Water brush (Digital Watercolor)

As with the 6B pencil, the texture that the heavy canvas provides for the digital watercolour is very satisfying.

You can see from the detail above that the canvas clearly shows through. I have the Grain setting on the brush set to around 70-80%.

To help get a feel for how the image may appear in a book I mocked up a paperback presentation in Photoshop and placed the image in amongst some text.

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Mock up of the final image in a paperback presentation

The layers were merged and set to Luminosity in the layer blending drop down.

And that’s pretty much it!
You can see a short video of me producing this work on YouTube via the link below.