Thursday, January 31, 2013

AH! inspiring....


I was having a discussion with someone on my "art of..." page on FaceBook about the different face and body types I designed for the ladies of X-Men: Evolution and I thought I would share it here as well.

The obvious reason I designed different body and face types was to help try and create specific personalities for each of them. Though if you're familiar with animation (and comics) you know that's not really necessary since so many other animated shows create cookie cutter faces and body types and just change voices, hair color and costumes to differentiate one character from another. The other reason is because I was inspired early on in the process.

Boyd Kirkland showed me a lot of artwork he admired from comic artists to try and get the ball rolling. Comic artists I was unfamiliar with since I hadn't really looked at comics much since the glory days of Buscema, Kane, Kirby and others from that era. The art he showed me had one particular piece of art by Adam Hughes (who since then I've become quite enamored with). It was this piece he created for Wizard magazine of these super heroines ladies all lined up.



Every one of them had a unique face - and a face I'd never seen before in comics or animation. Even though I greatly admired the great artistic abilities of the legends Buscema, Kane, and Kirby, I recognized that for the most part each of these great artists had an idealized version of a woman they drew and all their women were all basically cookie cutter designs.

I was so impressed with the unique and individual faces Adam Hughes gave each one of these women (as well as their body types) that I decided that was how we should proceed with our show's designs and, thankfully, Boyd agreed.
From that point on I strove to make Jean different from Rogue who was different from Kitty and they were different from Mystique/Raven who was different than Storm.





This carried on into the second season when we introduced Boom Boom and the other new recruits.




Jean was more athletic and had a runner's figure and wasn't very large on top while Rogue didn't have much of a butt even though she was very busty ( in fact she was the bustiest of the girls). Kitty was very slender and somewhat gawky while BoomBoom had a more curvaceous bottom though her bust was pretty non-existent.
The details on their faces that made them different from one another are too many to really list, but I will say that almost all of them had different head shapes, types of lips and often different eyes and noses.


I also carried this through with the guys as well, but that's not quite as unusual in animation  - or even comics.
This idea also followed through when I designed attitude poses for each character and their walk cycles. No one was ever posed or moved the same way. They were all unique and kept in character as i perceived it.

Needles to say the KidsWB execs were happy to see that not every female was built like a Playboy bunny.
Of course, by the time the animation came back from overseas some of that was lost, but I think enough of it still came through that it was clear to most of the audience we had tried to do something a little different....

13 comments:

Blaze Rocket said...

Fascinating post! Personally, I've always really dug all the different looks on the girls- seeing as how girls DO actually come in different flavors! Shocking ^_^ It disappointing me when I see people reducing them back into generic bodies and faces, because, while I know that personality has nothing to do with looks, it really does seem to "flatten" out the character.

And, as you said, the guys also displayed this marvelous (MARVELous?) array in features, but you are right-- seeing it in women was new. I think it was great, giving kids who watched the show different options to grow into. A sort of "Hey, you don't have to look like Superman or the White Queen to be a super hero, they come in ALL shapes."

When I draw Evo, I reference your drawings a lot, trying to get those little details incorporated. More than anyone else, I've had people tell me they get Jean and Storm mixed up when I draw them (I work in black and white). I don't suppose you'd have any tips on them?

TL;DR: You're an amazing artist, who has put something wonderful in the world.

Steven Gordon said...

Thanks. Though in general I agree that looks don't always define personality I think in animation it's important. Have you ever seen an animated character and thought "that voice doesn't go with that design"...?.

Storm and Jean have somewhat similar face shapes, but Jeans lower face is somewhat narrower, her nose is a not as broad and is upturned. Jean's upper lip is considerably thinner though the her mouth is wider. Hairlines are different (obviously) as well as their eyebrows - actually I gave all telepaths the same type of eyebrow.

I hope that helps a little...

Blaze Rocket said...

"that voice doesn't go with that design" ... That was my exact thought regarding the character "Jack" in "Rise of the Guardians. I thought the voice actor did a great job, and I adored the animation, but somehow, the two just didn't seem to mesh, for me.

It helps a lot! Great things to keep in mind. I am immensely amused that telepaths have similar eyebrows, now.

Steven Gordon said...

"...telepaths have similar eyebrows..."
In the design world of XME they do ;)

Blaze Rocket said...

As if any other design world matters! ^_~

ArjunM said...

I like to sketch teenagers/young adults a lot more. These designs allow you to relax a lot, instead of having to add too many accessories or too much definition, like astronauts, mythical warriors or red-carpet celebrities.

Your how-tos are my daily manual and I've adopted the art style (a lot like what my writer wanted- Philly Bee's designs for Young Justice), but I've often had trouble doing clothes. What is your manual for clothes?

I'd like to know how you'd handle a comic assignment, differently from an animation design job.

Yes, I'm the same person who sent you that email with the Alan Tafoya drawing.

Steven Gordon said...

Arjun,
I don't know that I've ever really studied clothing other on the job animating with roto-scope/live-action.

ArjunM said...

Steve, I'm referring to the overcoat-wearing characters (like plenty in your sketchbook on the main site), as also such deigns such as Jean's Season One clothes, or even Scott's pants when not in uniform. Your designs have a distinct style to them, so how can you keep that style when you apply loosely-fitting clothes? Have you covered that in any book?

Blindeye said...

My heart broke a little when you mentioned that the overseas animators couldn't handle the different body-types and facial designs.
When can we go back to doing the animation ourselves? I'd like more work please.

Steven Gordon said...

It's not necessarily the different body types/face designs they couldn't handle, but when you send anything overseas they tend to put their spin on it. So you have to send them something as strong as you can so some of what you designed still comes through.
I think plenty of my intent came through if not my exact work.
The same would be true even if animated here. A lot has to do with the time factor. There is very little of it and that doesn't breed wonderful drawing.

Nature of the beast unfortunately.

Anders Hansen said...

Very good post I`d say.

Good job on making the girls look different.

Mini Wolfsbane said...

I always appreciated that the characters, especially the girls, weren't clones of each other. It seems like wayyyy too many animated series nowadays take the route of giving all the characters the same general look/body type. This seemed really obvious in 90s animation on Nickalodeon, (IE Doug, Rugrats). It looks boring!


Now we have things like My Little Pony that carry on doing that, but sometimes it's through no fault of the creators, but the studios. I guess MLP suffered from that, as the ponies, (so I hear), were originally supposed to look different from each other, but didn't end up like that because of wanting to get the toys out ASAP. I love that show to pieces, but I might've appreciated physically individualizing the characters to "finalize" their unique personalites. I do like how they turned out though, that said.
I guess I don't like human characters all looking the same.


I'm so glad Evo wasn't over-commercialized or over-hyped and didn't fall into such an eye-sore of all the charcters looking the same. So thank you!!

Marji4x said...

I was a big fan of Evolution back in the day then I sort of forgot about it...recently I was thinking back on it and it was on Netflix so I am watching through it again.

I am thrilled to find your blog and hear about some of your character design processes! I remember seeing some of the model sheets and being really impressed and inspired by them! If I ever find the time I'd love to try my hand at animating from them!

Thanks for making everyone so unique and for injecting the characters with so much life and expression!