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Storyboard Artist Giuseppe Dell’Olio wanted to improve his character design, so he approached four skill-building character assignments with different goals: shapes vs. story. If you’re looking for new approaches to your characters, enjoy Giuseppe’s breakdown, including:

  1. Shapes: Scary to Silly
  2. Knights to Remember
  3. Plank-Walking Pirates
  4. Zombie Fighters

Hi there! My name is Giuseppe Dell’Olio and I’m from Italy. I started off as a Comic Artist but I wanted more career stability, so I became a Storyboard Artist. For five years, I’ve worked for groups like Boulder Media/Hasbro, Watch next Media/Kavaleer, Triggerfish/Netflix, Little Moon and House of Cool. I always wanted to try to work as Character designer but I’ve also always been scared about it because I didn’t have any proper information on the topic. But recently, I decided to bet on my desire to push on the character art, since it is one of the parts I love more of my drawing process.

1. Shapes: Scary to Silly

In the first week, we had to come up with 3 designs based on the three simple shapes. I didn’t have a specific goal in mind, but the theme was monsters. Besides that, we had full creative freedom, which was amazing and also scary!

I started with the triangle one, knowing that it is a dangerous shape perfect for a villainous guy, since it was my first anything for this new journey and I felt the desire to start with something powerful. I went for the bigger the better.

Then I moved to the circle which gave me the chance to play with something softer, more playful and kind. I did a silly alien dog first, but unhappy with the result I thought it could be funnier to add a bit more and make the dog’s owner the centre of attention.

At this point watching my two works I was still not satisfied with them, I felt something was missing in them. So as I started working on my third one I realized I was forgetting to add the thing I was supposed to do better as a story artist, add a bit of storytelling. Trying to think who these guys are, what they do, do they have a role in their world?

So I came up with the Jelly cube gym teacher, still one of my favorite drawings so far!

Here are all of my shape designs:

If you want to try your hand at these projects, enroll in Character Design for Animation taught by Nate Wragg!

2. Knights to Remember

On the second week’s assignment, I got carried away. We were only supposed to design on knight, but I created three.

I started with the old one, which I like, but that doesn’t communicate enough. With the second one I thought about a precise character focusing on how it moved and how it acted, trying to remind myself of what I liked from Trigger from Disney Robin Hood Classic.

The giant square guys completed the circle started with the triangle shape monster, starting with something big and scary to finish with it but with a bit more focus on adding props who can push the idea of how powerful and dangerous he could be.

In the silhouette, I could see how far I’d push the shapes:

Overall, I felt I made a similar mistake as in the first week. I had a lot of fun working with shapes for the knights, but I couldn’t find a precise idea for their personality. So they didn’t feel alive.

Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Nate Wragg also teaches CGMA’s Character Design For Production course!

3. Plank-Walking Pirates

In week 3, we changed our approach. Until then we have been drawing every character alone, one by one from sketch to finished, but this time Nate suggested we work them together and that was essential to balance their collective shapes and silhouette.

I made sure to have different shapes and sizes before even building my character, then looking at the shapes I came up with ideas for any of them.

I wanted to make the characters look like they were from the same universe, so I tried to use similar details in their cloth or facial feature. These details pushed the shapes I’d chosen even further.

4. Zombie Fighters

This was one of the most funny weeks ever! We had to come up with an idea starting from this simple concept, 2 characters sitting on a bench. My two characters are a silly policeman, stereotypical lazy out of shape cop a la Whinchester chief from Simpson and a very strong woman who sells hot dogs in Central park. The two characters are in the midst of fighting off a zombie attack.

I chose them carefully to make a huge contrast among shapes but especially attitude, thinking this simple by the contrast of strong/weak, brave/scared, big/small. Big contrast makes things pop more!

I also had a lot of fun adding a tiny part of the environment as the hot dogs cart, which helped me establish the mess is happening and justifying the improper “weapon” the woman decided to use.

Playing with zombies at the end gave me the chance to play with more visual gags such as the postman who has a dog attached to a bone, or the zombie kid who doesn’t care anymore about the ice cream which is melting or the office zombie who keeps having his 24h bag with him.

Check out Nate Wragg’s other popular CGMA course: Art Direction for Character Designers.

Final Thoughts

  • Nate Wragg has been an amazing teacher. He’s highly motivational and his precise, simple, yet brilliant feedbacks was really helpful and got results immediately. He always knows how to improve what you have with a few adjustments that are easy to remember, so that you can apply them gradually to any piece you do in the future!
  • I think I liked basically all of the assignments, but I have to admit the most fun two were the bench story moment and the pirate line up!
  • If you are looking to learn how to design characters, or even if you’re already a bit more confident with character design, this course can really help you focus on the difference between a good design made with intention and a design that is not.

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

If you want to try your hand at these projects, enroll in Character Design for Animation taught by Nate Wragg!

Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Nate Wragg also teaches CGMA’s Character Design For Production course!

Check out Nate Wragg’s other popular CGMA course: Art Direction for Character Designers.