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Concept Artist Anastasia Bubnova first fell in love with concept art years ago, after she got the idea for a Wild West version of Little Red Riding Hood. Now that she’s seeking to push her character and animation skills, it only seemed right to rework the original project. Don’t miss out on Anastasia’s breakdown of this process, which includes:

  1. Wild West Inspiration
  2. Character Exploration
  3. Lines of Action
  4. Clay Model Poses
  5. Character Details
  6. Color and Refinement
  7. Final Project

Hi there! My name is Anastasia Bubnova and I am a concept artist currently living in Moscow. I’ve been working as a 2D artist for mobile games for several years and recently decided to switch to animation. I applied for this Character Design Mentorship because I wanted to explore new career opportunities. Animation has always been my passion, so I thought I should give it a try. And I haven’t regretted it so far.

1. Wild West Inspiration

My goal for this mentorship was to go back to my roots and explore a more dynamic and loose way of sketching. I also wanted to focus on showing personality in my designs. My inspiration often comes from various ancient history periods, but this time I’ve opted for something closer to modern times. I chose a very special project that originally started my path in concept art many years ago and reworked it completely to prepare for the course.

Early character explorations.

The story is set somewhere in the late 19th century in the Wild West and is briefly based on The Little Red Riding Hood. I took most of my inspiration from Wild West movies, but my favorite source is old photographs and paintings. Also, I got some shape ideas from simple props like tequila bottles and succulents.

2. Character Exploration

I settled on 5 main heroes to design: the Mayor and his wife, their daughter Rosie, her Granny, and the bandit El Coyote. The first week was dedicated to exploring their shape language and how they could interact with each other to tell the story the best way possible. By the end of the week, I had two variants for the line-up that offered different paths for character development.

First-week character line-ups.

Ready to take your characters to the next level? Don’t miss out on CGMA’s Character Design Mentorship taught by Expert Character Designer Carlos Grangel.

3. Lines of Action

The second week, I continued my work with further development of the line-up. My goal was to add flow to this group of characters and create an interesting tension. I switched between digital and traditional media to get a better understanding of shapes because I felt that I was getting repetitive. With specific lines of action in mind, I tried to work on silhouette changes.

Rough exploration of Rosie in action.

My focus was on the main hero Rosie and her Gran. I was worried about making everything look polished and these thoughts didn’t really allow me to free my mind in search of interesting ideas. The number of references I’ve gathered made it even worse because I wanted to apply all of them. Fortunately, the feedback I got really encouraged me because it was honest and pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of what I’ve done. A time for a change was about to come.

Rosie and Gran traditional sketches.

By the end of the week, my line-up looked like this:

Second-week character line-up.

Read “7 Steps to Re-Design Classic Characters: Peter Pan” for another twist on a classic story.

4. Clay Model Poses

This week was a groundbreaker! Instead of working on Rosie, I shifted to a more complex character – El Coyote.

El Coyote early exploration.

It was truly a joy to work on him. I also was highly inspired by my fellow classmates, who were all showing their unique vision for chosen projects.

El Coyote poses exploration and references.

El Coyote’s features had the level of stylization that I initially was aiming for, which brought some challenges too. Having only ¾ view of him to start with, I immediately thought that it would be great to know how he looks from different sides. So this very rough clay model of El Coyote helped me bend and twist him for poses. The model allowed me to get the essence of his character, to feel how his balance could work in the movie. Exploring him in action was a delight!

El Coyote rough clay model.

It also helped a lot with drawing the turnaround and deciding which details are important to develop more precisely (hands and guns).

5. Character Details

For gesture sketches, I took my inspiration from prey birds because El Coyote’s snout reminded me of a bird’s beak. These loose sketches also gave some ideas for the texture and material contrasts that can be used in his design.

I can say that this week definitely influenced my approach to character design approach. Any time I am not sure about one’s shape, I use a small clay model to understand it better.

El Coyote turnaround.
El Coyote emotions and phonemes.

Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Explore CGMA’s Character Design For Production course taught by  Nate Wragg.

6. Color and Refinement

To make everything look consistent, I had to refine some of the older sketches. Initially, I was a little too persistent in my desire to make everything look neat. Unfortunately, this meant that I lost the original dynamic on some of my final pages. However, the feedback I got helped level up my final project so that even after the end of the mentorship, I spent a few more weeks making revisions.

Week 4 line-up.
El Coyote poses.

Hungry to grow your character design skills? Enroll in Character Design for Animation and/or Art Direction for Character Designers taught by Nate Wragg!

7. Final Project

I settled on a more calm presentation of the artwork and cleaned up the logo of the project. Most of my changes were done to El Coyote’s emotions sheet – it was made from scratch based on the principles I learned from Carlos. The lineup also has slightly changed because I reworked the characters whose design felt the weakest to me.

Scroll to see Anastasia’s final El Coyote pieces.

Final Thoughts

  • I’ve already had experience with courses that follow a strict learning program, so I chose the CGMA mentorship format. It was a great opportunity to get direct feedback from the instructor. Carlos Grangel’s variety of styles and method of thinking has always inspired me, so I was eager to learn from him!
  • The most impactful philosophy that I learned is not to be attached to any of my drawings and be open to new design paths. Also, I’ve figured out the importance of outline thinking and adding vibration of colors to the design. As Carlos said at the very first lesson: “You’re gonna see big improvement in the future.” And it is totally true, as it’s been almost a year already and I can see the result that takes its roots in what I learned from the mentorship.
  • Everything worked out perfectly for me. I am much more free and confident with the early exploration stages in my works. I’d would recommend this course to anyone who would like to freshen up their design process and gain experience from a great professional.
  • To those considering the course – you need to set your goal precisely at the beginning to know what you would like to achieve with the course and please don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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

Check out Anastasia’s portfolio to see more from this project and many others!

Ready to take your characters to the next level? Don’t miss out on CGMA’s Character Design Mentorship taught by Expert Character Designer Carlos Grangel.

Read “7 Steps to Re-Design Classic Characters: Peter Pan” for another twist on a classic story.

Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Explore CGMA’s Character Design For Production course taught by  Nate Wragg.

Hungry to grow your character design skills? Enroll in Character Design for Animation and/or Art Direction for Character Designers taught by Nate Wragg!