Thoughts & Process: Art Design Priorities 2021

For me, character design, composition design, and drawing execution all bear multiple different values that I hold dear. While some characters may have different themes and elements, I feel that each artist always has some pattern of consistency from piece to piece, even as they grow. The only questions are: what are these patterns? What are these analytical elements that can bind a series of artwork together under the umbrella of one artist, besides their signature? Today, I want to discuss what I consider to be my shared patterns and art design priorities for my artwork, and why I value the things that I do. 

Before I get started, I’d like to introduce the original characters in this post, for those who may be new and get confused otherwise: Kya, the human counterpart to my Earth character. Then we have Addo, a character concept of a person who loves to drive. Finally, we have Reigi (name subject to change), just a normal woman I’d like to use someday in more wholesome romantic drawings. They are all named below with pictures.

The Character’s comfort

When I design my characters, I like to design them in clothes I’d consider to be comfortable and easy to move around in. Taste in fashion is usually subjective for sure, and when tastes develop, you can find value in clothing you’d previously considered repulsive. However, one element I think is timeless is comfort. I want the characters I make to be happy and relaxed in their primary designs. I see no reason to make them suffer by being in a tight bra or high strung thong, especially when I’m not trying to make them provocative.

A character design sheet featuring a woman at three different angles, frontal, 3/4, and back 3/4.
Kya’s turnaround

When I designed Kya about a year ago, I knew she was going to be traveling and walking around outside on the beaches of the Great Guana Cay, and felt because of this, clothes like high heel shoes were immediately ruled out. The idea of her having a swimsuit underneath did occur to me, as it makes sense for her to constantly be in the water given the setting, but I was primarily focused on the walking aspect with her in the story. Because of this focus on comfort and practicality, she’s got some nice flat sneakers with some ankle socks that I felt would be easy for her to stand around in. I also wanted her fashion to be practical to any weather changes, so Kya wears a jacket tied around her hips in case the wind is a little too chilly, and she bears a scrunchie on her wrist to tie up her hair if it’s hot. Finally, her colors are more Earth tones. Obviously one reason why is to tie her to her other identity, and the other is so she blends in with her surroundings as she explores, and the art pieces she’s in are easy on the eyes. 

An illustration of a character posing for a fashion shoot. The character has a jacket sliding down their arms.
Addo, 4/9/2021

Addo’s a bit of a different story. While I’m positive their final design will be something very similar to what I already illustrated with this piece (Addo is nonbinary), the actual pattern on the clothing will most likely change. The clothing pattern that came out reminded me of the little aliens from the game Among Us… *insert cringe sus joke here.* Addo’s story, while not fully developed yet, has them driving many places, so I again wanted something the character would be comfortable in with their activities. I don’t think there are too many clothes you can really drive in and be uncomfortable, but when I was looking up fashion for Addo to make them look androgynous, I discovered Ngwane Liz’s Cameroonian fashion. I had already decided that Addo was going to be at least half Cameroon, and I was excited by Ngwane’s fashion and felt it perfect with the concept I had already come up with for the character. The jacket and pants look so well insulated… I’d like to try those clothes myself someday. I imagine once Addo’s official design is finished, their clothing patterns will be pretty brightly colored. 

A zoom in of an illustration of a woman looking at the viewer, upset.
Reigi’s most recent illustration, 5/7/2021

Reigi I’ll try to keep short. I wanted her to embody what I consider to be the biggest love and inspiration for the “Mintisse look:” an extremely romantic red and mint color palette, the color palette that first inspired me to design my artist name and style the way I did, young adult, and in comfy standard clothes for casual events. Fun fact: this swimsuit she’s wearing in this picture is actually based off of one Keke Palmer most recently wore for her model shoot! I ended up deciding she’d be colored based off of the RGB color profile, associated with computer monitors, but I wanted her head and hair to be the most iconic part about her, since I knew I’d be changing her clothes often. 

Realistic body proportions

If there’s one trend that honestly scares me today, it’s the sheer amount of overly edited photographs that distort faces and body proportions. Feel free to check out r/instagramreality if you want to dive deep into a slow horror burn of unattainable beauty standards to see what I mean. I try to keep my character’s bodies looking as realistically proportioned as possible, mainly for relatability purposes, but also because, like with the tube top comment I made prior, I want my characters to be happy in the bodies their in. I don’t have too much interest in drawing the extremes of bodies one way or the other, but I do recognize I should play more with body proportions and how they differ from person to person in the future. For now, I’m happy with Kya having a cute tummy, and Addo being a bit boney.

Pencil Texture and Cohesion

I’ve stated this multiple times in my previous blog posts, but I greatly value only using three brushes max in my artwork to color, blend, and draw. I believe that in doing this, the characters and environments fit in with each other and create a better piece for it. I generally only use a solid pen tool in my art software to do flat colors, and two versions of the same pencil tool, one thick sharp one to draw, one thinner blurry one to blend. Sometimes it feels restrictive and that it limits my creativity, then I stop complaining to myself and try to work on a viable solution. As for most noticeable patterns of mine, this cohesion trend is probably my biggest.

Neck Vulnerability

A zoom in of an illustration of a character in a blue tiger stripe dress, with a neck ring around their neck.
Addo in their most recent illustration, 6/4/2021

This is half in lieu of the comfort value, but I like designing my characters and their fashion without anything too tight around their necks. To me, the neck of a person is a very vulnerable area, where the wrong touch or action could cause severe damage or a horrid death. The necks of my characters are usually exposed, which, when read in the light I just described, may seem like a sign of trust to the audience. However, I’d like to imagine their exposed necks reveal how easy it would be to upset or disturb the character, and them covering it up would mean they have something to hide or protect. This is also why my characters are frequently wearings necklaces, these jewelry pieces normally have a symbol of that character’s identity, or a memento of a special connection they have with someone. When it comes to comfort, I consider clothing too close to the neck to be constrictive for the characters, so the cuts on their shirts are normally a lower cut. The only exceptions of recent art I can think of, in this instance, are Addo’s piece above and my Holly illustration I did back in December, where Kya was wearing a turtleneck sweater. To be fair, that partially came from a desire of being able to wear turtlenecks myself, which leads me to…

Wish fulfillment

Sometimes my design choices are simply because I’m insecure over something, and wish my characters didn’t have to face those same insecurities I have. For example, I never wear tube tops, I’m too self-conscious of the clothing falling off of me and making my skin fold at the top. When I had drawn the tube top for Kya, I had seen a similar, cream colored tube top on display at a store on my way home from work. I thought about how lovely it was and wanted to try it out on Kya, and ending up liking it so much it stuck onto her official character design. The best part is that the skin folds and threat of the top slipping I can either ignore when I draw her in the shirt, or I can even normalize the skin folds in the drawing in a manner where it’s clear that Kya isn’t self conscious over it. 

An illustration of a woman enjoying some hot chocolate in a black blanket. She has holiday flora and pine cones as a bottom border.
Holly 12/18/2020. Kya in a warm sweater enjoying some hot chocolate

Another type of wish fulfillment in art I use sometimes is the actual activities my characters are participating in. When I drew this Holly illustration back in December, I was craving just snuggling in a good, warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. Honestly, that day I drew this piece I could have made my own drink and snuggled in one of my blankets, but I guess that day, I wanted Kya to be happy in that set up instead! I’m still very happy with the way that illustration came out, and it did give me more ideas on other wish fulfillment activities in the future. 

That’s all I have to say for my art design choices. I’ve written the title as 2021, mainly because I expect my values to change as I continue to develop my art and try new things, maybe I’ll revisit this topic in a year or two. For those of you who read this far, thank you very much for spending your time with me. I wish you the best, until we meet again. 

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