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…But what will our characters stand on?

In this second part to the Worldbuilding courses, we’ll be drawing and painting backgrounds to meet the unique needs of your story. Unlike Worldbuilding Part 1, we’ll be exploring perspective, value, shape, and even colour in this course. While the lines are the bedrock of the character design process, shape will be our primary tool in creating engaging, believable environments. On the topic of believability, research will even more important than in Worldbuilding I since we’ll be drawing different architecture, interiors, and also looking at natural shapes to deconstruct how they work, and how we can design them to work for us.

While I’ll be working digitally throughout this course, you may use whatever medium you prefer: pencil, pen, paint, marker, digital, etc.

Composition will also be much more prominent in this course. If you took Worldbuilding I, you will likely have a character design that you can place into the environments you create in this course.

I look forward to helping you develop your background designs!


Week 1 - A Study of Master Background Artists

In this introductory class, I will show you a variety of different professional background design, and deconstructing why they work so well. While we’re just getting out feet wet in this way of thinking of environments, I’ll be challenging you to find some background designs and to explain what you like about them and why. I will also sketch out the compositional elements on some of my favourite backgrounds, and you’ll be doing the same. This way, we can begin our course “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Week 2 - Basic Perspective

In week 2, I’ll show you how perspective works, when it doesn’t work, and how you can bend the rules occasionally (especially useful for cartoon stylized designs). I’ll give you some tools that will help your drawings in perspective feel less rigid and tight, and more uninhibited and free. This is critical for you to be able to enjoy the process of drawing environments, especially those that involve a lot of perspective such as cityscapes or scenes with a lot of geometric objects. You’ll be be creating some basic drawings using these new tools.

Week 3 - Natural Perspective

Now we’ll be moving on to draw some natural scenes, but with some knowledge of perspective and depth in mind. We’ll discuss simplifying detail, arranging compositional elements of a scene, leaving appropriate amounts of space, and stylization when appropriate. You’ll then be tasked with creating your own natural scenes.

Week 4 - Interior Perspective

This week we’ll be learning some techniques for drawing interiors, whether geometric or more naturalistic. Many students have difficulty with drawing interiors, or more specifically getting the space and size relationships correct, so we’ll go over all of this. Also, we’ll talk a lot about “mise en scène” which means “the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a scene”, so basically, how to tell a story using visual ques and the arrangement of objects. Ideally, we want our interiors to give a sense of the personalities that dwell in them.

Week 5 - Master Studies

Usually master studies refer to copying the painting of a master artist (often long dead!) to try and understand how they created their artwork. In this case, we’ll be finding examples of great background artists (from your choice of media) and doing small studies of their artwork now that we have some understand of how perspective works. This is one of the quickest ways to improve your overall skills in background design.

Week 6 - Imagination sketching

This week, we’ll finally let our characters step out into their own environments. I’ll give you some simple exercises to give you an idea of what backgrounds to draw based on your own story, and how to infuse them with personality and believability. From here, you’ll be beginning to sketch out different version of some scenes.

Week 7 - Workbook Sketch

A workbook sketch is an old term to imply a more developed background sketch, but not quite at the final. So we’ll be taking your favourite sketches from the previous week, and I’ll help guide your design process to make sure that the viewer’s eye will move through the scene in a way that makes sense for the goal or mood of the scene.

Week 8 - Final Drawings

In the last week of this course we’ll be brining 1-3 of your workbook sketches to a final line and tonal drawing. We’ll show you how to carefully control detail allocation so that it isn’t too busy or overstimulating. A successful background is all about managing the composition and detail to effectively move the eye, as well as blow the viewer away!

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 creating environments whether they’re interiors or exteriors.

  • Methods for research to inspire your backgrounds.

  • Confidence in sketching loosely to find the right compositions to convey the right mood for the scene.

  • A complete knowledge of the expectations of a background or layout artist.

  • 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 December 17th 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 II: Background Design 8-Week Class
270.00 300.00
  • Starting Wednesday January 8th 2020 this class will run for 8 weeks, ending on March 4th 2020

  • 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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