Worldbuilding I  Character Design - Header 2019.jpg
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Building worlds like we used to build brick houses. One piece at a time.

“Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe.  The resulting world may be called a constructed world. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers.  Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.” - Wikipedia

While the term worldbuilding most often refers to the creation of an fictional fantasy or science-fiction world, there is a degree of worldbuilding in any fiction, as a result of choosing what details will be in the story, and which ones will be left out. However much literary fiction takes place in our own reality, we all live subjective, individual lives. For someone who lives on a farm to read about the life of an assassin in the Black Ops requires a significant departure from one’s own world, however much it is the “same” reality.

If you are interested in telling stories, then worldbuilding is a part of the process one way or another. This course doesn’t dive very deep into the writing components of worldbuilding, but it will focus on discussing how we tell visual stories. How we create the components of a different world for a graphic novel, illustration, film, book, etcetera. I’ve also found the best worlds are the ones that don’t need to explain themselves. They’ve been figured out so well that, as a viewer or reader, we just don’t question their credibility or believability as a potential place that could exist.

In this course, we will go through simple plot development and storytelling structure, then tease out from our basic story foundation different locations, characters, and story artwork that we can create. This is a very visually-focused storytelling course, guided by the philosophy that the visuals of a story can lend an equal hand to the plot as writing can. We tend to think that the manuscripts must always come first, but as every visual artist knows, you get a ton of idea simply be beginning the sketching process.

There is so much to cover in this course, so it will be split into two courses, the first being this one, which focuses on the character design of your story. The second one will be called Worldbuilding 2: Locations, Vis Dev, and Storyboarding and will begin TBD.


Week 1 - Intro to Storytelling Principles

In our class with more reading than the rest, will be looking at some of the major texts to discuss how stories work. However, unlike other storytelling courses, we'll look at who I called the "Traditional Structurists" such as Joseph CampbellChristopher Vogler, and James George Frazer, as well as the "Freeflowing Intuitionists", such as a series of independent filmmakers who don't follow the former's extremely structural approach to building stories.

We will also look at one of the greatest examples of a "visuals-first" storyteller, Simon Stålenhag.

Week 2 - Basic Research and Beginning Sketches

We'll talk about incredibly important process of building a research library of images that help to inspire your storytelling process. We'll talk about some good sources of images, some keywords to include in your searches, and also how to avoid the dread "paralysis by analysis" that often comes from too much research!

Next we'll be using our research to begin simple sketches to commit our inspirations to our visual memory bank.

Week 3 - Refined Imagination Sketches

After using our inspiration images heavily for reference to draw upon, we'll be preferencing our own imaginations this week. While we still may peak at our reference from time to time, we want to main driver of our sketches to be our own brain. The more sketching done the previous week, the more internal creativity can be summoned to aid us in this week's work.

We'll also be specifically looking for elements that we might take for our character designs.

Week 4 - Intro to Character Design

This week, we'll be switching gears slightly, as Garth will demonstrate how he begins a typical character design process, beginning with the simplest "character story sketches" to encourage believability of personality before the character may even be established yet.

It may take some time before we have "found" our characters in our sketches, but this early process of rough sketching is absolutely critical.

Week 5 - Continued Character Design

Now that we've done some simple sketches, we'll now create some basic Character Profiles sheets to imagine exactly who our characters would be. This process helps make our drawn characters real personalities, not just two dimensional cartoons of real personalities.

After this, we will continue sketching and look for how we can push their designs to encourage the simple backstories and personality traits that we wrote about them.

Week 6 - Character Poses

This week, we'll be refining our sketches to a small series of character poses. Each one of these poses should demonstrate different aspects of our character's personality, and should be chosen very intentionally. These drawings will be the most complete that we've made so far in the course. Some degree of design variation in each of the poses is still allowed at this point.

Week 7 - Character Rotation

With some different character poses that have helped solidify the personality and believability of the characters, we'll move on to create a character rotation. We'll be drawing our characters in their "resting pose" from the front, three-quarter, side, back three-quarter views, and back views.

Garth will demonstrate this sometimes technical process, and once we've completed them Garth will put them into an animation software to test their consistency by making them turn.

Week 8 - Character Emotions

In our final week we'll be completing the last piece of the puzzle for our characters: their emotional ranges. The means drawing the busts of our characters exhibiting different emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and being surprised.

This will allow us to discuss various aspects of their facial anatomy, and how to use this anatomy to push their expressiveness.

You’ll leave this course with:

  • A better understanding of the various ways stories are constructed

  • Greater understanding of the pipeline used at an animation studio, specifically to create a feature film (though this method can be applied widely)

  • A variety of different tools to begin stories and designs for a large scale project

  • Methods for research to inspire your story and characters.

  • Confidence in sketching loosely to find character personalities

  • A complete knowledge of the expectations of a character designer

  • A list of new resources and artists to look into afterwards to inspire and encourage your artistic path

There are only 20 spots available in this course! And the early bird sale will be on until April 30th 2019!

How will the course work? What materials will I need?

This is an 8-week online course, so all you’ll need is a computer with internet access to receive the lessons (desktop or laptop), a camera or cell phone to photograph your drawings, and materials to create your artwork with.

The course consists of 8 extensive video lectures demonstrating each week’s assignment, and then a live online meet up where I’ll critique the work handed in by email. At this critique you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions.

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Worldbuilding I: Character Design 8-Week Class
270.00 300.00
  • Starting Wednesday Oct 9th 2019 this class will run for 8 weeks, ending on December 6th

  • Group meet-up at 7-8 pm beginning after first week

  • Online forum to discuss course content with peers

  • Will leave course with greater visual storytelling and character design skills

  • $40 is non-refundable, but the rest is

  • Save $30 on 2 classes with promo code 2CLASS, and $60 on 3 classes with promo code 3CLASS!

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