the voice of the character

Back when i was laying the groundwork for the comic I worried about having to follow a small cast of characters for years on end and was worried that I might get burnt out on them before long. one of the strengths of the quasi-anthology format I came up with for motherland is that it lets me flip around between new characters often. if I like one I can come back to them in the future, and if I feel satisfied with a character’s arc I can leave it there. it lets me dabble. i like to dabble.

most of the time when i do a story i just have a very rough outline of what happens. i more or less make it up as I go, filling in sections here and there and letting the story sort of take its own path. I’m sure that ‘winging it’ would make some creators cringe but it gives me life. i spend less time worrying about who i want the characters to be and just go along for the ride for who they are. i sort of treat them like if I was meeting a real person.

as a result, when i am working on the visual design of a character, the design may not match up with who they seem to be turning out to be personality or arc-wise. Su for instance i knew from the start was going to be one of the main players for ch4 and she originally was going to have the design shown on the upper-left. but the more i got to ‘know’ su, the more some elements felt out of place. i ended up with the headdress shown on the upper right after some iterations because it felt much truer to something that a very shy introvert might wear. i did like the first headdress design, so i ended up using it on the older sister. but it felt too ‘confident’ for su.

that is just a tiny example, but for my process it is a frequent occurrence. the design of the character influences who i imagine they might be, and vice versa. they feed into each other. i really enjoy the process. not every artist necessarily thinks that way.

a lot of times i’ll just doodle face or body shapes and mill over ‘who could this be’? a lot of character designs i’ve come up with over the years came about as a result of this process. a lot of it is barely intentional. i’ve always thought that I was stronger at ‘putting together a puzzle’ than i am at designing according to a strict concept. people ask me if i draw what i see in my head. i do to a degree, but it is more that I can turn shapes into other shapes and make an image or a statement from elements of what i see rather than have a clear concept in mind from the start. i play and listen a heck of a lot more than i plan.

i like the characters showing me who they are, so to speak. i’ve come to realize in recent months that understanding is one of my main driving forces in life, whether that’s people or concepts or anything else. i want to know and help others know and that is a huge reason why i pay attention to people and their motivations. this doodling process that i do is just one way that i use this desire and hope to share it with others. i enjoy the artistic process, but it is more of a means to an end for me. however, it one of the best facilitators for me to understand others and help others understand – regardless of if those others are real or fictional.