From March to May 2014, I took the 8-week class Character Design with Stephen Silver. After having taken a series of online classes, this was my first “in-person” class, and I could not be happier about it.


The dedication and camaraderie of my classmates, along the unparalleled passion and sense of community that Stephen infuses in each lesson,  make of this class a remarkable experience.
Below are some highlights from each week.

Week 1: Keys to successful drawing

  • S – Story
  • G – Gesture
  • D – Design
  • F – Form
  • D – Detail

Assignment w1: Design “Mr. Boldwig” who is a stout, pink-faced, gingery man with boyish eyes, fat, jovial, kind hearted old man in his fifties.


Week 2: Fundamentals of Design 1

The process of designing a character requires:

  1. Thinking – What is it to be achieved? What audience reaction do you want?
  2. Looking  – Searching and collecting reference
  3. Doing – Start sketching and experimenting. Do not settle for the first idea.

While keeping in mind design fundamentals such as Construction, Use of  basic shapes, Shape variation, Silhouette, Positive & Negative Space, Variety, Rhythm, etc.

Assignments w2:

  • Start practicing combinations of small, medium and large basic shapes.
  • Learn to draw from model sheets, without just copying the model by:
    • Capturing the gesture
    • Studying the construction in the character
    • Evaluating what is it that you are learning from such exercise

Week 3: Fundamentals of Design 2

We learn and study  examples about:

  • How shapes identify objects
  • Avoid the ladder effect
  • Unity & Variety
  • The Golden Rule

Assignment w3: Design a snake that is a lawyer, and an ant that is the Pope

Week 4: Features

We learn the importance of breaking up our design in small, medium and large shapes. This concept applies to the head, torso and legs – and then it is reapplied to the features within each part of the body.
Assignment w4: Based on a military uniform, start the design of 3 soldiers.

Weeks 5 & 6: Clean ups and Turnarounds

We start practicing thick and thin outlines, and do our first turnarounds: One based on “Mayhew” ( a character from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride) and a second one based on one of the soldiers.

Week 7:  Style Matching and Face Expressions

As a character designer you have to be able to match the style of a given show. So,  we practice matching the style of the “Fairly OddParents”,  a as well as develop face expressions for one of the soldiers.

Week 8:  Wrap Up

The final week focuses on key ingredients for a portfolio, as well as tips for client negotiations.
With all that we’ve learned, we re-do the character “Mr. Boldwig” that we did in week 1, and I also completed the 3 sailors.