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.

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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.

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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.