Thursday, November 16, 2006

5 Tips on Drawing More “Realistic” Characters (Even If Your Style Isn’t)

Whatever the art style, comics artists have as much responsibility as comics writers in bringing characters to life. While 90s-style "Image" poses in every panel still works, stories will benefit further if artists add a greater level of realism to characters, particularly in how these characters act and react in a story. When characters exhibit more individuality in a story, they look more involved and become distinct to readers. Following are some tips to help comics artists achieve this.

1. Get acquainted. If you know a person by heart, you’ll not only know how he or she may react in a given situation, but also determine the quality of the reaction. Two prim and proper schoolgirls will still have clear personality distinctions between them. Once you’ve determined the physical appearance of a character, think about how the character sits or walks, talks or shouts. Good comics scripts would explicitly describe the look and personality of the story’s characters and provide notes on how they’d respond to the events in the story, but you lend significantly on how the characters present themselves.
2. Add character to props. Props in a story can also be considered as characters, as certain objects can induce special reactions from their living counterparts. If a script specifies “an old, antique clock,” the story would benefit further from you researching on what kind of clock it is, and how old and worn it might be. Just because the script doesn’t say one of the hands is bent doesn’t mean you can’t draw it that way.
3. Go beyond the call of script. Sure, if you have superheroes gathered around a large monitor at HQ, you could just have them stand and stare while a word balloon does its job. But it does little to reinforce the character’s individuality. Is one hero particularly nervous? Have him stand really close to a trusted teammate, eyes wide with worry, or let him stand way at the back, arms wrapped upon his chest. Then have two concerned characters look like they’re whispering to each other (even if they have no dialogue at that moment), while the cocky one sips on a sports drink. In theater, this is called “stage business”—a character still needs to be "in character" even if he or she isn’t the focus of the panel.
4. Add doses of poses. By expanding your drawing skills to cover poses of different qualities, you give yourself a palette that consequently expands the ways characters can act or react. Males run differently from females. The courageous hold weapons differently from the cowardly. The timid laugh differently from the assertive. If you don't mind making a fool of yourself, acting in front of a mirror is of big help.
5. Let art imitate life. The Web has numerous stock photo sites that contain photographic images of different searchable subjects. These references can give you clues on how certain emotions are physically expressed. For instance, click here for the results of "ecstatic old man" on Getty Images.

If the comics script doesn't completely thresh out important characters, or if you have ideas on how to add more color to these characters, consult with the writer. While writers will more often allow you to do what you want--that's your job, after all--they will readily draw the line if an idea skews too much from the original vision.


Jac said...

very helpful post!

Carver said...

jac... hehehe... nagpapraktis lang. :-)


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