Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Character development: Mara

Time for a quick update... Last year in September I posted a few designs for the project "Mara", which was meant to be something between a graphic novel, a short film and a game. This year again in September, I was working on that project (always on my holiday at the seaside) and it seems to be getting somewhere. Also I've found a way to get the game part and the programming stuff done, which was my biggest concern so far. Let's see where we get. So, together with my brother I developed a few characters, here are some of my ideas about them. Any comments will be thoroughly appreciated!

This is a character named "Josh". I'm not so sure about the surname which was meant to be "Newington" in the beginning. Whatever... he's a scientist and looks very elegant and creepy at the same time. His eyes look weird, don't they. I took his face pretty much the way it is from a very old children's drawing of mine that I happened to find lately.
Here is josh with some other random characters which don't belong to this project.


Below is a character named "Johnny LaRue", who was developed in September 2010, also on my holiday at the seaside. The drawings below are from this year, except the one at the bottom which was made last year. Our idea was to have him sitting on a treetrunk. His body form should be based on the shape of a bean. He's a kind of spiritual leader of a tribe in the forest. There is another character with him, a 6-legged bearded animal. This is "Pooky". He can change colours like an octopus. There are different versions of Pooky.

This is Pooky.

The character below is supposed to be the main character of the project, Mara. I think of all characters I've ever designed, this is the one who has gone through the most changes of all, but I'm still not a hundered percent convinced. The version on top is the latest one (v.6), on bottom are the previous ones. Below you see Mara with her latest face, which is a bit monkey-like.
version 6 with a hat and a tiny jacket, drawn on wacom.

Trying out the monkey-style face...
...and different colour schemes (v.5).

Trying different face shapes.

Mara v.4 in different colour schemes with a slightly older and more female appeal, which I found too mature and changed it to a bit more childlike appearance (top).

Trying out body shapes and proportions.
The drawings below are from 2008. They were the first ideas of the character Mara. In this year (I was travelling in New Zealand) I started to develop the project, initially thought of as a graphic novel. I like how the character looked, but to be animated it needed to be simplified.


  1. please develop Johnny LaRue and pooky! i am envisioning there world already.i also like the 'josh' design in shorts tho i think he needs some high socks for some reason.Mara v5 is working a treat, those proportions give her a lot of attitude, im thinking wild, cheeky and tuff.
    awesome character exploration.

  2. Hi Frankie,

    Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, you got Mara's attitude figured out quite right. I'm still changing bits of her design, but I think I'm close to getting there. Maybe it's the striped sweater that has got to go. I'm not so sure, but something on her looks still bores me. Some friends of mine said, she looks like a character you've seen before and I think that's true. I'm working on defining her a bit more by adding some accesories. What do you think of the version with hat and jacket?
    Pooky and LaRue are two fun characters to draw and I'll happily do some more designs on them, soon. High socks might suit Josh. The short pants look more adventurous, right? That fits him better because he's that kind of scientist who does studies in wild nature. I'll try that, too. Thanks again for the input... I'm a bit cut off from animators/professionals here, so I really depend on feedback like that!

  3. what period is josh set in?for some reason the shorts version made me think of victorian explorers like David livingstone and Henry Morton stanley or like the hunter character from the film Jumanji. you may already know this artist, his work may be a good design reference

    i think Mara may look familiar because of her striped sweater, being british i think of mini the minx or Denis the menace obviously quite iconic characters. maybe your feeling is correct. i really like the shape of v5, it has a lot of character. im not sure whether adding accessories would define this more. i think her shaggy hair is a great part of her character and gets her attitude across so i probably wouldn't cover it with a hat-maybe play more with its shagginess or shape-tho wat you have already is quite strong. the waist coat also makes her feel more timid, so im getting a completely different feel between v5 and v6. but thats just my opinion man, im a big fan of your work and i think you should go with what you feel is stronger or even better what is more enjoyable for you draw.
    another reference you may already know
    i love how Rad develops his character, awesome variety of poses.
    yay more la rue and pooky they look like theyd be fun to animate.
    hope my suggestions help a little bit. see you on your next post!

  4. Thanks for your detailed comment and the references Frankie! I like the designs of the two artists, stunning works on their blogs. I haven't seen the two characters Mini the minx or Denis the menace before, but I would have guessed there are heaps of characters similar to Mara out there (especially because of the striped sweater), that's why I had the feeling that she needs a change. It's true, addidng hat and jacket makes her appeal more timid and totally changes her. My intention was to give her a bit of a 20's poor kid touch or a bit of Oliver Twist. I think I have to develop her backstory a bit more to find out if that fits. On the other side I thought, it might even be not that bad if she looks a bit boring.. or let's say, plain. I think her behavior and acting will get her character through anyway.

    There is no particular period of time set for the project, it is supposed to be a kind of fantasy world with lots of anachronisms and mixed stuff from different periods. Supposedly it is set in the future because there are strange technologies that don't really exist. However your intuition about Josh is right, I did want to give him that touch of an adventurous colonial age scientist. Thanks for the feedback, I should be able to get a step further now, reflecting on these designs.