your jobs are cool! may i ask, what do you have to major in to be able to work as a character designer? I'd like to work in a similar field, but i dont know where or how to start
Thank you very much for your support :)
I m french, I love speaking english, but please forgive me if there is some english spoken mistakes :
To answer your question I would like to give you some advices and not a tutorial about how to become a character designer or how to draw cool stuff. You can find many tips about graphic design all over tumblr I suppose :)
I have to say that I m teacher since a long time, and more recently I had the chance to teach through Gobelins school as character design/ storyteller teacher.
I would prefer to share with you some informations that nobody use to share but who are much more important than graphic tutorials so I recommand people who read this post to share it a lot :)
I think the most important things I have understood to become art director / character designer is :
1/ practicing, I guess you have to find tutorials about drawing, you have to find life drawing lessons, you have to practice life drawing a lot, nude drawing a lot, you have to find a way to tell a lot of stories, thrygh comicbooks, animations, writing books, fiming..
2/ always focusing first on storytelling in your character design, and not only about “esthetic” , (I will talk more about it below)
3/ and staying curious of discovering many different influences from every kind of Arts or cultures or ages. (I will talk more about it below)
To be franck, I didn’t learn this job through my art school (Gobelins), but through my differents jobs as storyartist, comicker, character designer in real productions.
I mean that you can not do a proper design if you don’t have a strong story behind.
I also mean that my skills as a storyteller (storyartist, writer) are absolutely essential to be a good character designer / art director. for sure, 100%. I have became a better art director when I became a better storyteller (and I still have so much to learn of course)
A good design has to tell a good story. If not, whatever this design is good looking and with nice shapes, with nice brush photoshop made, it is not a good design but a vain design. You can not become a good character designer and less a good art director if you don’t understand that deeply.
The designs below from Ratatouille Pixar movie, are not about doing great esthetic designs (but they are also great good looking in that example) but they are first of all, created from a great story and created to push the story and to tell the story : you can understand relatonships, behaviours of each character, who is main character, who is second character, through these line up (below)
Pixar artists doesn’t care about puting graphic details, cool details, they remove all the details who don’t push their story deeper. Pixar artists care about what they are talking about. They want to stay readable, clear, coherent, meaningfull for the audience. This is the main difference between them and for example most of the designers from video games who lost themself in too many meaningless details in their designs (I love video games by the way^^ but they are not good example for you to follow to become a good designer for animation industry)
A good design has to be readable in one second, does not need subtitles to be uderstandable to an audience. that’s all. the rest is vain.
>>>>> in a word : a good design is like an ICON, it has to become iconic. For that purpose,you have to create a strong synopsis, a strong story then to imagine from that story a strong, pure concept, pure idea to illustrate this story through one or several designs.
so a good design is about thinking good, not really drawing good… :))
some other great and iconic designs readable in one second without knowing the movie, yes they are not drawing but it does not matter :
So : Do your personal stories, practice scriptwriting as much as drawing, all the time . As you can see, my last design are done from my personal project. I never split drawing and scriptwriting.
I mean don’t wait to get an art school to practice seriously, don’t wait to get a great job as character designer to practice. Practice seriously through many personal projects that you write yourself. So great companies and projects will come to you.^^
learn how to write story through many scenario book or filming book:
here some books I suggest you to read as soon as possible and as much as possible:
in english I guess it is this one: but I m not certain sorry:
“filming” from Eisenstein:
in french : “lecon de mise en scene d’Eisenstein”
This book from Eisenstein is the most important book I have read about storytelling, and nobody knows it. Thomas Astruc, “Miraculous” creator, is the one who told me about it. There is a lot of books about scenario, storyboard, but none of them will learn you how about filming. This book explain you how the great director put deep meaning in their filming. This book tells about the scenography in a sequence. It explain you how to put meanings everywhere in a story, from the background design, through the character design, and to the storyboard of course.
another book I like is : Story from Mc Kee:
Why this book in particular? because it is made from “the Poetic” from Aristote. It is a very shematic book, hard to read, just take your time, take notes, make some exercices from it to understand it. It learnt me a mental grammar about how to think about a story.
so: conclusion : I have done a whole feature film screenplay about this personal project. My design are really stronger because they are made from a proper and strong story. This is the most important advice I could give to you.
My deep meaning is : a good drawing means something, tell a story. A good drawing is a drawing that you have thought about before you have started to draw.
Then I can give you some advices about my method of course but believe me, they are nothing compared to thoss about storytelling:
_ gather a lot of documentation and materials when you want to create a design. avoiding cliché is knowling deeply your subject. As I m doing a story about russian revolution and I m not russian, I try to gather many many information about the russian history , russian mythology, russian revolution, russian clothesabout this century, russian people…. This is not only about esthetic materials but about feeling the whole picture of your subject. so you have to read a lot, not only gather pictures.
_ Avoid to follow the “mode” but mix it.^^
I suppose you know we can not create stuff from nothing. We have to start from some pointin Art. But :
To create a new and interesting stuff, you have to mix two ancients stuff (at least) , not starting from only one influence.
My graphic style is a mix between many many influences. I don’t do “japanese stuff”, or “disney stuff”, or “comics stuff”, or “european stuff”, I have mixed everything I have learnt in my life.
Try to stay very curious of all kind of influences ; not only animation but Art in general, litterature, arcitecture, cinema, travelling, history of Arts (I have a History of art 2nd college degree which helps me a lot in my graphic researches). Try to stay open minded in every kind of cultures.
By example : Tezuka, creator of the manga, was very influenced by Disney. Kurosawa, best director ever, was very influenced by american cinema, georges lucas was very influenced by Kurosawa when he did Star Wars…..etc…
Try to discover as many art pieces as you can, never give up that in you whole life to stay inspired.
Personally I ma big fan of History, History of Arts, History of whatever in general. This is the main material I use for my work.^^
For that purpose , try to read many books, old books, shakespeare, Dostoievski, Homere, mythology books, whatever you want but really meaningfull books not only recent best seller(which are great of course^^ but do not focus only on them). this is a main part of your work , this is not lazyness don’t worry^^
same for movies: you can not tell good stories if you have nothing to tell :D : take the time to watch as many movies as you can, this is a main part of your work , this is not lazyness don’t worry^^ :
here some directors I love:
_ Jonnhie To
_ Nicolas Winding Refn
_ Mc Tiernam
My favorite movies :
_ Pusher II
_ Silence of the lambs
_ Dersu Uzala
_ 10 commandements
_ Kaguya princess
_ Mad max fury road
_ die hard 1
_ Compare yourself with the best artists in the world, not with your classmate in your artschool. If you want to be the best, and do the best production, be demanding and challenge yourself. Comapre your stuff to Pixar, Laika, Dreamworks, oldschool japanese mangaka and animator, ancient painters. Ask yourself why they are better than me? What should I do to improve myself? a lot of answer are not in the esthetic way but in the storytelling way believe me.^^
_ Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid to bother professional artists, show your work to professional as much as you can, ask them advice, be respectful with them and do whatever they will tell you to do to improve yourself. The only way to thank a teacher or a professional who helps you is to work harder and to follow his advices hardly.
_ Work full time, this is like a olympic game, this is serious : you have to be the best to get that kind of extremely competitive job. You need to implicate yourself a lot. You need to find a routine, you can’t work part time for this job. stay very implicated, stay extremely enthousiast.
_ To become better than other, that’s simple : work twice, triple more than other students. really. When a teacher, your boss seems satisfied, it does not have to be the end of the job.You have to impress people, not only satisfied them. Even if your boss seems satisfied, continue to improve your work after the deadline, until it is really great.
_believe in your potential but stay humble all your life, even after school, keep learning form others, never think you are the best.
Let’s stop for now, I hope it will help you and others people who wants to improve themself :)