Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Am I glad spring is here!

About the drawing: Jeff gives Sammick a big hug from out of nowhere.

After the last drawing of Sammick, which had a negative energy about it, I decided to draw something more positive.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Dragonfly Damselfly

If I could get a real dragonfly for reference, I would definitely put more of an effort into a stylisation. Drawing from a photo is not the most ideal reference, but it will do for now.

I should add, they are my favourite insect. They look cool, remind me of hot summers in the Prairie, and they eat those damn mosquitoes! 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Judgment... Kiiiick!

I love Sammick; It's not often you see a gay kicking ass. Ahem...

About the drawing: I originally didn't know who Sammick would be kicking, as it was just another practice in dynamic drawing. I figured that a hatemonger was a very easy target. In this design, I changed his shoes, since the original design had the three-striped Adidas trademark (I like Adidas, but don't want trademark trouble). He still takes a long time to draw, even his three-lightningbolt hat was simplified into one. I can't sacrifice his headphones!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Devil Girls

Hmph! I whip my hair at you!
Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub take human form and enrol as students of St. Zeno Academy in their plot to free their companion Azazel and take over the world. Little do they know that there is a mystic schoolgirl at the academy, who will thwart their evil plans with the guidance of angels and saints.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Dynamic Pose Practice

We may have our rights and freedoms, but there are others who want to take them away from us. Are we going to sit aside, or are we going to get up and do something about it?

Whether you are on the left or the right, always keep your guard and stand up for what you believe in, before everything you have taken for granted is taken away from you.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Children on Riot Sheep

They couldn't afford horses or trained policemen. Kids on sheep will have to do.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Cute and Appealing: Put the Circle to Practice

I am currently playing around with the idea of characters Sammick and Jeff in a high school setting. The problem I have with my rendition of Jeff is that I can't seem get very interested in him. Compared with the flamboyant and outgoing Sammick, Jeff is very regular and run-of-the-mill. This was intentional, to counterbalance Sammick's craziness.

Jeff is supposed to be a teenager, but he looks too old in this picture. I believe I also tried too hard to make him look more masculine, which resulted in giving him hard edges.

I had asked myself, "Why do I like drawing Sammick so much?" For me personally, he has such a fun and appealing design, which makes it very easy for me to draw him. I kept thinking, "I like his big eyes, and those headphones. As much extra work it is to draw the headphones, I just can't picture him without them." I think the answer to his appealing design is below.

Hidden circles!
My personal drawings are notoriously angular. But Sammick is quite different. I realised that he has more circles around him than most of my other characters that I draw! However, Jeff has no circles or arcs.

Here is where my theory on circles, appeal and cuteness could be usefully applied. If I want to make Jeff more appealing for myself to draw, I can fall back on the circle. Recently, I tried out making Jeff more circular in some sketches.

Same character, subtly different design. I gave him larger, rounder eyes, and less skull definition. He is already becoming more appealing for myself, and he looks younger too, without sacrificing too much of his masculinity.

Well duh!
I went overboard with circles here, fitting them wherever I thought I could. There is something strangely charming about this version, as well as something unsettlingly cute about him. But I definitely take to this Jeff much easier than the previous version. I can imagine his behaviour, how he reacts with Sammick, and he is somewhat more pleasing on the eye than the old, angular Jeff.

As a joke, I replaced the "5" on his shirt with a circle. But this actually turned out to be a better design choice, as the five was too chunky and took longer to draw. This logo, a cross between the logos for the Canucks and the old Jets, is definitely more charming.

There is so much more I can do with this design. Right now, I am debating whether to pull back on the cuteness, or push it. As much as those eyes are unsettling, they do grab my attention. I can't stop looking at them! Perhaps I could somehow round out his eyebrows too?

But of course, appealingness depends not just on how a character looks, but also on what their personality is like, what they represent, how they move, and other abstract qualities that are much harder to quantify. As much as I would like to write an article about appealingness on that deeper level, I still haven't fully figured it all out yet, and I bet most other artists haven't either. It is that mystery that makes art the wonderful world that it is.

While only just a theory, I believe utilising the circle in character design can make a big difference in making a character seem more appealing. Whether the audience is conscious of the presence of circles or not, there is an undeniable gravitation towards its soft and inviting shape, as past examples of successful and merchandisable cartoons have shown. Aesthetic may vary from culture to culture, and beauty differs from person to person. But the circle is universally accepted, and it is one of many easy devices to fall back on when a design problem arises.

Watch out for that circle...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Cute and Appealing: Find the Circle

Pinkie Pie character designs. left: G3  right: G4
The diagram above shows two completely different renditions of the same character, Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. The version on the right was redesigned by Lauren Faust for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Her involvement in the revamping of the brand helped make My Little Pony insanely popular, even beyond the intended young girl demographic.

I am always surprised just how human Lauren Faust's ponies look. Unlike the previous incarnation of ponies, who have more anatomically real head shapes, the ponies in their current format have round heads and squat noses.

Circles and harmonious arcs everywhere
All of the female ponies in MLP:FiM have spherical heads as a base, and a minimal snout. From some angles, even their torsos appear to be perfect circles. Their massive eyes consist of many more elliptical shapes. Throughout the designs of each character, circular arcs can be found. Previous generations of ponies were severely lacking in this round cuteness, as you can see in the G3 version further above.

The new designs of the ponies are arguably one of the reasons why many outside of the girl demographic can relate with the characters so easily. The simple circle is inviting and safe. It doesn't look as creepy as the other anthropomorphised horses do.

On a side note, it is interesting how the toys that correlate with the animated series do not have the same circular roundness that the animated version has. Many of the die-hard fans of the show complain that the toys just don't look enough like their beloved cartoon manifestations. Do they subconsciously see the appealing circles in the design?

Use the circle
Earlier I posed a drawing of two of my parents' dogs. Posting it on Facebook drew a big positive response, with many remarking that it was very cute and adorable. I had deliberately used the circle to make them even cuter. While their personalities are not forcefully cute (Sachi is a drama queen and Chewbie growls if you don't give him food), their round appearance makes them approachable and friendly. You can see in the original sketch that they were not so round to begin with. The lines were conformed to a circular pattern in the same manner as some of the cartoon examples mentioned in previous posts. Even their teeth and fur, which I would have naturally drawn with sharper edges, have been deliberately rounded off.

The circle has some subconsious effect on people, and when used, it can make characters more visually appealing. It certainly doesn't solve everything, but it is something reliable to fall back on. In the next post, I will try to take one of my uninspiring designs, and attempt to make him more appealing to the eye, using circles.

Cute and Appealing: The Welcoming Circle

Behold the circle
The circle is a fundamental building block in animation, as I was taught at Sheridan College. We were forced to draw circles on a sheet of paper until they turned out perfectly round. Even our life drawing teacher would not start a lesson unless our canvas was full of perfect circles and lines. While being the easiest shape to draw, I believe it is also a very powerful shape in terms of its design and its appeal.

from right to left: Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Peanuts, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Super Mario, Pikachu, Homer Simpson, Powerpuff Girls, Twilight Sparkle, Angry Birds
Take a look at these cartoon characters, and at least one of them must appeal to you. Each of them have had or still have their huge followings in popular culture. Their fame extends beyond the animation enthusiast audience. You will also notice that some of these characters are among the biggest brands of merchandising in existence. Some of them make millions to this very day.

A pattern emerges here, and if you look closely, it takes the form of a circle. While many other cartoon character design involve other elements like dangerous triangles, organic pear shapes and edgy squareness, it is the circle that endures mass opinion. These characters, despite being quite different from each other, involve the circle in their designs in various forms.

Although it was originally utilised as an easy design concept, it could be argued that the circle has a subconscious broad appeal among the masses, in every corner of the Earth, whether you are in America, Japan, or Europe. Mickey is well known across the globe, but Bugs Bunny is not. Why is that? To be honest, no one really knows for certain why the circle is so appealing, but theories abound on the welcoming, softness of the circle. It is, after all, more welcoming than the triangle.

Behold the triangle
I do love the triangle, and use it a lot in my artwork, whether it is in composition or design. It is dangerous, sharp, and angular. But for the broad population, it has quite an oppressive, evil character about itself. A theory on the human response to shapes could be found in our reaction to everyday nature and our animalistic instinctiveness. The sight of jagged sharp teeth signal danger. Even broken glass, sharp rocks, and knives, signal danger on a subconscious level. Perhaps this could have been a minus for Sonic the Hedgehog. Despite being a highly popular and beloved video game character, he was nowhere as popular as his industry rival, Super Mario. Although his head was cute and round, his hair and shoes were dangerous and jagged.

"That's... no good!"
Perhaps we are turned away by the dangerous angularity of the triangle, or similarly edgy geometric shapes. The circle, on the other hand, is a soft, undamaging and friendly creature. In nature, we see the Sun, a circular celestial body. And who doesn't like the Sun? Who could live without it? Let's eat an apple, it is round. Peaches are nice too. The inviting shape of the circle makes us want to come closer and touch it. Some more arty farty or religious types would suggest that the circle represents the egg, eternity, unity or completeness. I understand the symbolism, but I personally wouldn't go that far into analysing it.

Let's get real. The circle is cute, and cuddly, bouncy and sweet, just like babies! A theory that I do agree with is that our instinct to care for infants is hard wired into the human subconscience. After all, the future of the human race rests on the fate of the new generation. If babies were ugly disgusting creatures, wouldn't parents just want to do away with them at first sight? Our instincts want for us to care for babies. The sight of a human being that is round, small, big-headed and cuddly, only makes people want to snuggle and feed them... oooh you are so cute! Babies do have that round, circular cuteness to them that make us want to adore them, no matter how much we hate it when they scream or wet their pants.

This nurturing for infantile figures carries through in our appreciation for things that are cute, including the cartoon examples listed earlier. A look again at some of these dozen cartoon characters above will reveal that they also have proportions quite similar to that of a baby's. Their bodies are quite small in comparison to their big heads. This concept of cuteness, roundness and appeal is not new, but is sometimes cleverly applied to character design on purpose.

Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin
Roundness and cuteness can do great wonders for appeal and design. Take for example these childrens' MMORPG's, which my niece is currently an addict of. She is a fan of Moshi Monsters. Katsuma the bunny may look bad-ass, but he still has that big forehead and tiny body that makes any kid want to pet him. Moshi Monsters in my opinion are definitely more cute and appealing than Club Penguin, that other MMORPG, so badly designed it makes me want to puke.

Now all this talk of cuteness, roundness and circular perfection is just theory of course. Spongebob Squarepants is predominantly square, yet has mass appeal. ...Well... he still has those big round eyes and circular pores. As I have mentioned in the previous post, the animation principle of Appeal has many layers to it. While visual appeal makes one layer, character appeal is another dimension altogether. But it doesn't hurt to try and put this concept of visual cuteness into practice, to strive for a more appealing design. I will explore this application of visual cuteness in the next post.