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Artist Carlos J. Mendieta re-designed a classic and beloved set of characters, and he did not disappoint! In this breakdown, Carlos explains how to explore a pre-existing character with fresh eyes and a unique style, including:

  1. Goals & Inspiration
  2. Character Exploration
  3. Captain Hook
  4. Peter Pan
  5. Peter’s Poses
  6. Turnaround
  7. Final Presentation

Hello! My name is Carlos J. Mendieta and I’m from Mexico City. I have a degree in Electronic Engineering and worked in the telecom world for some years until I realized that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Drawing, comics, and animation have always interested me, so I started looking into art courses. CGMA was one of the most appealing and interesting options I found. I remember enrolling in an Anatomy course with Ron Lemen at CGMA when I didn’t even know what wrapping lines were. But I learned a lot and decided to take more courses, practice more, and, hopefully, become a full-time Character Designer!

1. Goals & Inspiration

My inspiration comes, of course, from animated films and comics, but a lot of it comes from real life as well. I really like drawing actual people, be it at a coffee shop, on the street, or with quarantine this past year, from Pinterest. I love how diverse we all are and I try to find something interesting in each person and, when drawing them, try to accentuate what I like about them. It might be that someone has an interesting nose, or they lean a bit every time they talk, a head shape as a whole….I try to look for that and draw it.

It was very important for this course to have a lot of variation and to try new things. I love the way Carlos pushes his designs and I sometimes feel like I am too safe with my own choices. So in this course, I tried pushing myself more. That meant creating more iterations of a design I liked and trying to come up with complete opposite designs.

The characters I came up with were Peter Pan-inspired. And the best thing about it is that it came from “doodling” on random pages. I tried spending a couple of days thinking about which line up I wanted to work on; it could be an original cast of characters or something pre-existing but after some time doodling for the sheer pleasure of it and employing what soon became a mantra to me thanks to Carlos, “Draw from the outside”, I came up with a character that looked a lot like Peter Pan and I said to myself “why not?”.

I decided to add a little twist to it and tried to make them come from a Mad Max-y post-apocalyptic universe, it was definitely fun! You can see my line up below.

2. Character Exploration

I worked on all my characters a little more, as you can see from my Smee and Wendy characters sketches.

Out of my line up, there were two characters I wanted to focus on; Peter Pan and Captain Hook. I am always drawn towards villains, but I felt like my Peter Pan character could use more help. So I decided to make him the focus for Carlos’ feedback – that doesn’t mean I worked a bit on all of the other characters as well 🙂

3. Captain Hook

For Captain Hook, I thought it would be cool to try portraying her as someone who outlived the Crocodile and even wore a croc head as a headdress for intimidation, which I thought would be a nice touch in contrast to the rooster silhouette of Peter I was going for.

I am particularly happy with this sketch:

Check out CGMA’s Character Design For Production course taught by Nate Wragg.

4. Peter Pan

I think one of the many challenges of trying to re-design a well-known character is how to make it my own. For this, I re-read the book and tried finding something that stood out to me. Right away, I liked that Peter would crow like a rooster, so I wanted to pull elements from roosters into my design to make him stand out. This included adding feathers to his outfit and working a lot thinking on the silhouette of the character and how I could make that look like a rooster, again, “Drawing from the outside”. And it turns out there are a lot of very interesting-looking roosters so that was a plus.

The main feedback I got was to let loose a bit more and to try and get more out of the idea of Peter being a Rooster as well as trying to make more graphic decisions design-wise..

5. Peter’s Poses

For poses, I used what I learned as well as did more research in the sense of looking at real-life examples of roosters. If you’ve never googled something along the lines of “contest winning roosters” you are missing out. Carlos also suggested pushing more the shapes and to not be afraid to stray away from supernaturalistic poses.

For both the Expressions and Poses I tried to think of things my version of Peter would do. I think it is important to find specific actions your characters would do or how they, specifically, would react to certain scenarios, instead of going for a generic smiley face, how would this rooster variation of Peter Pan smile?

Want to improve your character’s expressions? Enroll in Head Drawing and Construction taught by Christian Nacorda.

That thinking also made it easier to come up with poses. Instead of creating a billion different possibilities for each specific character, you reduce them as they would act in a specific scenario. I, again, looked at real-life examples, I wanted to show Peter jumping into action and I used some sky diving photos for reference, which I am sure you can guess which of the poses they inspired 🙂

6. Turnaround

I am sure I am not the only one who dreads the imminent turnaround. There are so many things to take into consideration, it’s easy to mess up, and a lot of the time, it can be very boring. But it is very helpful because it helps to keep dimensionality in mind.

For the turnaround, I used Procreate since it has a very simple, but useful, animation tool and it let me play my turnaround and it was much easier to spot mistakes. I am sure there are still a couple but I still think it is helpful for drawing some other poses down the line and excellent exercise. It also helps that I was having a lot of fun with the character as a whole.

For adding colors I really liked the way Carlos showed us how he does his colors. Even though he did his traditionally, I tried applying some of his tips in a digital way.

I am not one who enjoys painting that much but I do like cross-hatching so I tried approaching this by doing a LOT of it for colors, it did take a while but I was happy with the final result.

7. Final Presentation

I liked my final project, I know there are still things that can be improved but I did like it. I learned a lot and made me think about making more graphic choices while thinking about the designs as well as exploring a lot more options instead of sticking with the first “ok” drawing that comes up.

Final Thoughts

  • I wanted to take this course I’ve been a fan of Carlos Grangel’s work for a while and love the way he pushes his shapes while still making them very functional in animation. I wanted to see his process and learn more about it. I mean, he draws on cereal boxes and it looks amazing, for Pete’s sake!
  • I’ve also been wanting to push my shapes more and get me out of my safe zone and the course definitely did that. It was great to see Carlos work in real-time, the way he would do the feedback was extremely inspiring. I think one very important point regarding seeing both his work and actually doing it is that it made me want to give it a try immediately, he definitely makes drawing fun and makes us want to try and draw a lot more and think outside the box.
  • The most impactful idea that I learned was definitely the mantra I mentioned earlier, “draw from the outside”. It is important to keep in mind that I don’t think it means to forget about construction as a whole but since Carlos is such a great draftsman, what he does makes it seem like he can draw solely based on contour, and it is definitely something I need to practice more. I even change my definition of what drawing from the outside even means every couple of days or so, but it is just something that sticks with you. This class and I can not emphasize this enough, just makes you want to draw more. That’s always a plus in my book!
  • I’d definitely recommend this class to other people interested in pushing their character designs more but just keep in mind that I do not think it is super beginner friendly and that you will have to do a ton of drawings, but if you are reading this you probably think that is not a bad thing at all, happy drawing!

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

To see more of Carlos J. Mendieta’s work, check out his portfolio or his Instagram.

Enroll in this Character Design Mentorship with Carlos Grangel to create your own unique characters.

Check out CGMA’s Character Design For Production course taught by Nate Wragg.

Want to improve your character’s expressions? Enroll in Head Drawing and Construction taught by Christian Nacorda.