Damien M.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

(click for larger view)

It's that day of thanks and giving, hense, well, the name of the holiday! In light of that, I'd like to put forth a bit of education for those out there that may be interested.
The importance of silhouettes. I know most beginning artists will not see the point of how any sort of silhouette could be of importance, but I am here to try and convince you otherwise.
This is a creature I've had in mind for a day or so now. Well, I've had its PROFILE in mind for a while. The rest of the body is a mystery to me, so instead of wasting hours on something haphazard that I may or may not end up liking in the future, I do something called a silhouette test.
What this test does is offer me many outlets in order to play with ideas and try and figure out who/what this character should look like, how it might even behave. It gives me an opportunity to try and balance design, and create a concept that's organized and fits a theme.
There is a lot you can get from a character just by seeing its silhouette. Is the creature tall? Short? Fat? Thin? Does it have a limp? Does it sway, does it slouch, does it have proportionate body parts? Maybe it walks on two legs, maybe it doesn't. All of these questions can be addressed just by working with a thumbnail.
In figure A I jotted down some ideas. The first is a basic idea I had in mind for the creature. Its head is made of a horse skull, so I wanted to give the creature a bestial frame. But it's also slightly intelligent, so its now placed on two legs and walks upright. As humans, we associate the idea of walking on two legs a form of higher intelligence (as we are the only species on this planet that walks upright, even if it is a poor means of transportation). Therefore, the creature is already reading to the audience that it's above-average intelligence, it doesn't slouch, but its spine is not perfectly straight, giving it the appeal of a monster, rather than a character. In the second version, the creature is more bestial, as its posture is a little more off-balance. However, it was too bestial for my tastes. The third is a play on posture. Comparing the first and the third, we can see that the creature now seems more like a character because of its upright stature. It feels more intelligent, it seems as if it has more control over itself. The fourth, even more so. it's even clothed fully, which makes us think this character could even be of royalty. Comparing one to another, we can see that just by looking at sketchy silhouettes, we can already gather a lot of information that we otherwise may have missed out on if we were to skip this step.
Part B is taking the idea that felt the best, and applying it further. Testing the waters, so-to-speak: I'm attempting to create interesting and balanced designs. Again, depending how clothed and un-clothed the creature is, we get different flavors of the same design, even by changing one little thing over the other.
Part C is the final; I've combined two of my ideas into one in order to come up with that I felt was the most decent silhouette for this character. It's balanced, it feels solid, and conveys the message I want to send. From this point, I can continue my concept and delve further into bringing this character to life. I can sketch it out confidently and know that the structure of this design will be solid, while the rest of the process is merely detail over this skeletal idea.

Another thing that I've always found important, rather than figuring out the basics, is; having options.
An artist that commits themselves to one idea in a single pass will only limit themselves. Possibilities are infinite, this is what makes art such a unique and strong media of communication. There are always new ways to explore ideas, new ideas to explore, and an infinite amount of possibilities at ones fingertips.
From head styles, to markings, to color combinations, and even designs; there is a universe out there for every artist to explore, and if you limit yourself to one idea, you've already discredited all the other possibilities. Often, whenever you revisit an idea, it only gets better. Why is this? Because after experience, you learn good from bad; what works, what doesn't. With that knowledge, it's easier to go back and continue to improve what may have had a flaw originally. Nothing is perfect, but revisiting something and keeping your options open will reduce the chance of failure, as well.
This is why artists are always told to give options. Sometimes you may even find that certain combinations will work better together than they did apart. Sometimes you'll discover a new pattern, a new color, something that speaks the words that an image is meant to communicate.
Here, I've given different options for patterns. From this point, if I decide I like one over the other, I can even begin to play with color patterns. However, I HAVE skipped a very necessary step to simply get to this one, which is the facial structure of the character. There are infinite amounts of ways I can change just the profile itself; I can change the structure of the horns, I can change the cloth from tailored to ragged and torn; I can chip off parts of the skull, I can add missing teeth, add tusks, fangs; I can even decorate the creature with different types of jewelry.
This can all seem very overwhelming when you can contemplate the endless possibilities. But have faith; often, when you spend enough time creating an idea, the idea will speak to you and tell you which way to go. If you feel stuck, feel free to experiment. If you decide that your options are limited, work with what your idea has given you. There is never a right and wrong way to go about this, much like any sort of art form. In the end; it's all a matter of your taste, and where that taste ultimately takes you.

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