Whether a hero or a villain, God or Goddess, in an illustration they’re all storytellers. Artist and graphic novelist Abhishek Singh believes that a character is the fulcrum upon which the entire story rests. He lays out the process by listing up few key aspects of character building which results into storytelling.
The character is your plot and the plot is your character.
The story is set in an environment which gives the narrative a frame of time and space, providing more context and believability to the whole idea. Also, the environment has both physical and psychological effect on characters, presenting them with opportunities and challenges to move forward and complete the story. Characters and plots share a symbiotic relationship. They have to intersect ideologically, synergise each other and grow together.
Dramatise to accentuate the experience.
Making your character look more dramatic and unreal accelerates the senses of the viewer and enhances the narrative. For example, adding many hands and faces makes them mythical, taking the story beyond the realms of imagination. For an illustrator, everything is symbolic. The gestures are the invisible language of the universe. The colours represent the various sound and scalar frequencies of this quantum universe which adds intensity to the narrative. The ornaments they adorn help identify their purpose. Making the characters superhuman is the easier part, blending the story into them is where the challenge lies.
Play dress-up with your character.
Costume and props give the character its identity, like Krishna’s peacock feather. They also give the character a sense of history, like where he comes from and what he does. Of course, a lot of it has cultural relevance. For instance, if he’s got a bow and arrow, he’s a warrior. And in the story, he comes from a mythical past with a mission to destroy the demons. Similarly, if he’s got guns as his weapons, he’s a futuristic soldier. Everything must compliment in your character to really assimilate a sense of believability.
It’s all in the expressions.
The expression is how you perceive what’s happening in the story. That’s why try to get everything in your work to emote, both literally and subtle. They are an integral part of the character and hence, they hold an important place in the entire creative process. As part of the character, expressions add up to the numerous elements that define the former. And as a part of the narrative, expressions reinforce the movement and action.
Colours tell the story as much as the drawings.
Colours create a mood. Treat them like emotions. If you want depth, include shades from the same palette. For intensity and drama, use greys and blacks with a dab of a highly contrasting colour to highlight the character. Colours give definition to the character and add to the meaning of the story. Black and white on the other hand creates a high contrast image, where the eyes seamlessly can navigate through the image.
Elements are the time travel machines.
Every component in your design stands for something. The use of mythological elements helps bring back lost ideas from ancient texts. Futuristic elements tease the realms of the viewer’s imagination and set them in a state of wonder. It’s all about what story you wish to tell. Pick the elements that will place the character and in turn, the viewers, in the right space and time. Whether it’s about the past or the future, it’s for the elements to create the illusion.
Detailing helps. Not too much of it though.
Detailing can add as well as kill. It can take away from the mood of the picture or add great depth. It also helps set the focus areas of an image. It’s for the artist to decide how much is too much. Across the journey of creation, one needs to know when to go with the flow and when to stop.
Published in Issue 13
Coming from a country of stories and storytellers, Indian animation professionals are sitting on a gold reserve. Yet, we are miles behind the Western world. We spoke to few leading names to find out the reason and understand the Indian animator’s sensibilities and practices The house unanimously opined that we need to develop more original ideas and also create exclusive stories for animation, rather than going the other way round.
Order Your Copy!