Tuesday, November 08, 2005
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Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go
to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to
become the artist that you are today?
I'm from Adelaide Australia,
Where there is a major lack of commercial art schooling. So I found
myself in a graphic design course after high school. Where I learned a
lot of things, but not much drawing. I quit half way through. got a job
in computer games as a texture artist for a while. but I found I really
wanted to draw all day, not composite photos of walls into a handful of
pixels. so I have spent the last few years teaching myself as much as
possible. No idea if it's worked yet. but I wouldn't have it any other way.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your
mind, from start to end?
I guess it depends what the character is for. But I tend to think in
terms of shape and mass first. How big is the character. What shape are
they, how do they hold them selves.
normally I have an instant but fuzzy idea of what a character will look
like, from reading the description or, if it's my own story, just from
my head. This initial image is sometimes a mix of Cliché junk. but I
find it hard to progress unless I get it out of my system first.
So, even before looking at reference I get all that stuff out of my
head. Sometimes it ends up a really nice original idea unfettered by
logic and research. Other times it is just a horrible mess of stuff I
have seen before.
if it's good I might try and develop it. if it's rubbish then that spurs
me on to find out why and see if I can make it better via research.
Looking at what has been done before. What makes that kind of character
work. Or not work.
If there is a tight deadline or no spark of ideas then you can always
fall back on tested ways of coming up with something interesting. For
example drawing out lots of thumbnails and then developing them up,
working with silhouette etc
But generally I dislike any systematic approach. I try to follow the
initial inspiration if it exists. which might be to draw a face, or a
thumbnail pose. or to read a book about the world the character lives
in. or to make up that world.
If that initial inspiration pays off, I move with it. But it might also
go bad. I might find that either the research is boring and I want to
start drawing, or I know what the character will look like exactly, and
drawing a thumbnail and building it up is just tedious. I will probably
end up doing all of those things at some point but the order doesn't
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
Probably number one would be to realise what the goal of the project is.
Not every design has the same criteria for success. In many video games
for example. the player sees the back of the character for the whole
game. That backpack or whatever you put there better be pretty interesting!
Ideally you want to flesh all aspects out. but there isn't always time.
so getting to the heart of what will give maximum effect on a particular
design helps me a lot. sometimes you can't change the proportion of the
character due to technical limitations, so you might need to work on the
dark and light patterns their clothing makes to create interest. Or the
design might not be seen close up at all, and blowing out the shapes so
they can read at long distance is important.
If I misread this, it often leads to a lot of wasted time. or the design
looks great on paper but when it needs to be translated into it's final
medium it wont have such a good effect.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what
should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
Never put anything in that isn't 110% your best work. first impressions
are extremely important, you are only as good as your worst piece.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I have spent the last few years teaching myself and developing my own
graphic novel ideas. so there isn't a whole lot.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
I'm freelancing as a concept artist (mostly in computer games) while
working on some personal story ideas that I hope to make into comics one
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
My ultimate goal would be to work on my own stuff. so home studio it
is....a bit lonely tho.
Any studio where the people are nice and there is a good creative
workflow would be good though :)
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
Ahh thats hard. I'm a big fan of Harald Siepermann who you interviewed
earlier. but also a ton of the people who I know online inspire me greatly.
guys like Kevin Dalton, Matt Rhodes, Ken Wong, Alex Stodolnik.. mostly
because they are all younger than me but still kick my ass :(
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or
media do you use?
I use painter 9 for 90% of it. Photoshop for scanning, saving, adjusting
I start with scanned line work, (mostly just done on any old paper, as
long as it has a bit of tooth) clean it up in PS. Then in painter I
start painting by blocking in colors with big brushes and try to get
some interesting stuff happening. Then I refine things a bit more, and
last I add thicker line work where I think it's needed. The process
changes every time, but I tend to use a limited number of brushes in
painter, 3 or 4. airbrush, loaded pallet knife, an oil pastel, and
something like round camelhair. Although, as with the process, this
changes as well when I find a new brush I like, or just get bored of
using the same old ones.
I also tend to use a lot of large airbrush washes, either just on a
default layer or on an overlay layer, to adjust the global focus.
hopefully this is locked down very early on but sometimes I am fiddling
with it to the bitter end.
What type of things do you love to draw, and why?
Anything fantasy based. I have no idea why. I dislike having to draw
real stuff and look at reference.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is
Totally depends on the specific job. I'd like to think it should all be
fun...but never easy.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite,
which you have seen?
I like Brian Froud's work (Dark Crystal). That stuff became firmly
implanted in my brain after watching it as a kid.
I decline to say which ones I dislike.
What inspired you to become a Character Designer?
I was never good at drawing backgrounds.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists
that you have worked with or seen?
`The only person you should never copy is yourself.
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you
have any tips you could give?
Just keep doing it. Try as many different things as possible. Look at
all sorts of designs. See what you like, what you don’t. Ask yourself
why. Don’t dismiss anything. It might come in handy later. you might find
you like stuff you hated 5 years ago and vice versa. Keep yourself open.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be
You can use firstname.lastname@example.org
my folio site is http://www.timmcburnie.com/
my personal site is http://www.bugglefug.com/
or drop by my shared sketchblog at http://www.bugglefug.com/dailyscribble/
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints,
or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to
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