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Improve your Illustration with Character and Story

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Illustration is two fold; how you draw and what you draw. The how is the practical skills, your understanding of the medium (in example pencil/paint), anatomy, gesture, etc. The what is the content, story, character, illustration style and mood conveyed in your art. Levelling up both these sides of your illustration skills is important and often artists tend to focus on the how and not the what and this can lead to beautiful but uninspiring work.

You may have mastered the pen or the brush but your illustrations can still appear dry or amateurish if you don’t have intriguing content. I know each and everyone of you reading this are filled with great ideas and awesome art, however you may be struggling to realise these stories and visuals in your work.

In light of this I have created a class series for you, helping you add depth, character and story to your illustrations. The first course which is released today focuses entirely on your characters and figures, creating real personalities in them to draw your audience into your art and activate an emotive response and connection.

This class is an in-depth look at character design and development and it is packed with useful information to boost your stand alone illustrations and visual stories (such as comics and graphic novels). Take a deep dive into your characters, discover how they think and act and learn how to easily bring this out in your work. This class is great for all drawing skill levels. It focuses on the content of your illustration rather than the how to draw side, allowing you to vastly improve the quality of your work with minimal practice hours. Ideally this course works best coupled with practical drawing classes to help you improve your skill and theory simultaneously, I have a few classes here that could give you a hand with this and another coming next month to really push your art forward.

The class is a great asset to help you start from square one and develop your skills or brush up on ideas which you may have forgotten or lapsed in. It even includes a free workbook to help you focus your studies with short and simple exercises. And of course if you take the class I will be there along the way to help you with anything you are struggling with.

That being said, it wouldn’t be right to leave this blog post without a few helpful tips to give you a head start on your way to creating better illustrations.

Add interest to your art with these 5 simple techniques

  1. Always start with a thumbnail sketch
    When you are working out an idea, the first iteration of it on the page can be a bit stiff and bare, give thumb nailing a go and draw quick one minute doodles to flesh out your idea and how you wish to convey it visually. This eliminates the need to re-draw work to level it up, and speeds along your process to a grea finished piece.

  2. Allude to the environment
    Your character illustrations and figures in your work shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. When you are developing your works think about the characters context, where are they likely to exist? You don’t have to draw out a fully realised background but you can give hints to intrigue the viewer. In example if you are drawing a fantasy dwarf, he may be prone to going to the bar, so adding in a tipping stool and a sloshing pint of ale adds a story to the piece without a detailed background.

  3. Add movement
    adding action or movement rather than stagnant poses adds drama and emotion to the piece. Depending on your style you can express movement through gesture lines, speed lines or mid way poses. Think about how your character talks, walks, runs and what activities they would do and add it to your work, be creative.

  4. Extreme posing
    Maybe extreme is too strong a word, unusual could suit too. When planning out your illustration eliminate the first pose you think of, it may be standing facing forward or looking out, often it is a stagnant pose with stiff limbs. Instead grow the pose; if you are drawing a couple in conversation, add hand movements and expressions of talking and listening, add leaning in for excitable connections and leaning out for discomfort. If you are drawing an active character like a hunter, think about poses of stalking or shooting and then try and make it more extreme

  5. Use your angles
    Think about your drawing like a still through a camera. If all your photos are front on mid-distance it can become tedious and repetitive. Think about levels and interesting angles you can use to add interest to your work and make a dynamic story in a single frame. For instance a worms eye view of a boy playing with lego may make him seem like a tyrant in his kingdom playing make believe, when an above view makes the audience like a parent or care giver watching over the boy as he plays.

I hope that these tips and advice are helpful to you. If you would like a more in-depth look at taking your drawings to the next level check out the class and help yourself along the way to your creative goals. Let me know down in the comments any questions you may have. I hope to see you in class.

Keep creating,