Here's a series of character concepts for a client who has written a children's book and has asked me to illustrate it.
The first step was to read the manuscript and get a feel for the character through the story (pulling out details, physical descriptions, mannerisms, behaviors, etc.). Then I sat down and had some conversations with the author about what she thought of the character, how she envisioned him, and a few details that weren't necessarily evident in the text but that might be helpful.
After giving it some thought and writing down some ideas, it was time to start sketching. Here's the first round of concepts:
In my experience, the first round of concepts is like cooking noodles: at first, you're just throwing them against the wall to see what sticks. Usually you don't get it right the first time. Also, when I'm done drawing the concepts, I pour either a tomato or cream-based sauce over them and eat them.
I pretty much use the same process for developing character concepts as I do for designing a logo: I get as much information as I can from the client, do some research on my own, do some thinking and idea scrawling, and then I sketch out a set of ideas that I think best embody what the client wants.
Typically, some concepts are rejected outright. I'll ask what they like and don't like about each concept and then I go back to the drawing board (literally) with that information and start again. Each time gets us closer to the idea the client has in their head. The first round is just a starting point and as such has the greatest variety of visual ideas. The last round is usually just fine-tuning small details.
This time was an anomaly: the client liked one of the concepts in the very first set. This rarely happens. It can be a fairly involved process to bring a client's idea to life. Sometimes their vision is extremely specific and sometimes there's only a general sense of how they want their character to look. Both scenarios present their own challenges.
But since this time the needle was threaded pretty quickly, the next step was to draw the character with a few different expressions and at a few different angles (above).
Finally, I sketched up a few body and clothing options. At that point, except for color, this character was pretty much good to go. There are two other characters in this story and I'll get to them in a later post.