Where you begin depends on whether or not you have ideas already. If you don't have an idea yet you can generate one through exercises.

One example that's really fun is Inkblots. Making an inkblot and trying to draw form and personality out of it is not only fun but can lead to more developed projects. Like this guy and his Inkblot Monsters on Youtube:

There is no shortage of resources for learning character design. I find Youtube amazing for learning because I can direct myself related to my interests. Here are some examples of links that caught my attention and have to do with Character Design:


Another indispensable tool is sketching. It will help you develop your drawing and can in and of itself be a form of generating ideas. Here is an interesting example of an artist using Thumbnails as a development tool. It's in digital media in this case, but the principals still apply. Draw small noncommittal characters. By not getting caught up in the details you can get out lots of ideas.

Character Definition: Feature and traits that form the individual nature of a person (or personified. Personality.

Kinds of Characters/Character Uses: Cartoon Characters, Sports and Corporate Mascots, Comic Book, News Strip (See Practicalities) In design pipeline, working with a team

Caricature: A portrait or that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person

Our Character: Think of uses and how to get across personality.

Class Notes:

Research: When I was in Jr High School I went to a work experience program at a comic book artists' studio. I sort of expected to be drawing, but much of my time was spent researching and finding references for scenes in the comic. When designing a character start to collect not only ideas, but reference pictures of things that might appear in your character's world or be similar enough that they can inform your drawing. 

Designers: If you're designing your character to be used with a brand, be sure to make colours and styles congruous.

Visual styles:  Look at how other artists solve the problem. If you are interested in a specific genre don't be afraid to learn and appropriate.

Understand Audience: (Simple shapes and colours) Children/Adults, artists, designers, cultural groups, sensitive groups (hospital etc)

Exercises: Inkblot and Thumbnails 


Part 2

Practicalities and Context (Economical Drawing, Story) 

If you still haven't got an idea for your character, think of it as a game. Simply choose a random Animal + Occupation + Verb. (This is how I made my animation "Anything Goes" : Baboon + Clown + Falling Down).

Developing the Character:

Fleshing out the idea requires imagination and notes. Keep a separate page for writing a description of your character as the idea starts to develop.

Do lots of sketching. It's good to try different ideas and develop pictures to different levels of completion.

Collect relevant images and use software (Poser) or photography to help you figure out anatomy and proportions.

Try variations of your character – simplest shapes, not repeating – change: proportions, angle, features – chaotic and experimental.

Use (facial and body position) expression to develop character and be part of story.

Symbolic marks like movement lines, light bulbs, question marks, drunk bubbles, music notes, Pig Pen’s dirty cloud (from Charlie Brown) and speech bubble can be used to great effect.

Physical attributes: scar, tattoo, related to props (era) Script & other characters.
Think about occupation,  skills, culture and generally how does the character fit in their world.


Be economical. Limit features if having to draw 100’s of times (if repetition is likely). Think about range of motion required (reaching {can’t have tiny arms and big head} for things riding a bike {must reach the pedals}etc). “Cartoon” solutions, elongating arms etc. Ask yourself if the character is “impractical”.

Tools in Context/Worldbuilding:

Story: Consider your form of story. Comics, animation etc, have lots of information to sort through and can explain verbally what's happening. Could you tell the story with only pictures? How many frames?

Be Relatable: Encourage audience to connect with characters through context and the appeal of being familiar.

Be Fantastic: It's art; so sometimes it's good to explore the range of possibilities. Make things wondrous and impossible in the real world. Impractical, ornate, foreign, or outright weird can be fun and intriguing.

Use anecdotal or fictional story, background, triumphs and defeats, strengths, weaknesses, motivations.

Connecting your character to  literature, human history or personal experiences, can help to make a believable departure from your regular spectrum  of knowledge/creation. In other words, it's hard to imagine the world of a (for example) doctor if you've never been one. Finding a model and references will help. You don't necessarily have to give away who your character is actually based on (or any of your references). Did you know Alien with Sigourney Weaver is based on the kid's story "Little Red Riding Hood"? And Star Wars is based on an old Samurai movie? Cultural appropriation is a part of the design process in general, and can be very useful with character design. You can do a period piece and it will help you pick costumes, sets, and architecture in the background.

Tips on Worldbuilding
More Tips

Choose visual style to relate to audience and tone/mood.

Here's an interesting one using modelling clay:
Kid's Book about Monsters

An image search for "sepia + illustrated novel" could give you ideas:

Drawing I

Basic Elements

Adult: Beginner
[Class Dates]


This is a one-week course (3hrs/day). The primary subject revolves around the core elements of drawing. Working with pen, pencil, and charcoal, participants explore a range of styles and approaches. This is suitable for adult beginners and early intermediates that want to learn or improve their drawing skills.


Develop the tools to make beautiful/interesting drawings. Get the fundamentals down and use them to draw from life and photo references.


1. Intro & Line (Blind Contour and Modified Blind Contour)
2. Shapes, Sighting and Triangulation (Measuring and Contour from Still Life)
3. Form, Value, Texture (Geometric Forms and Still Life Study)
4. Space (Contrast Drawing Exercise, Simplified Landscape)
5. Draw from a Photo (Charcoal Value Drawing)


At the end of these classes, participants will have undergone the steps used to make a large charcoal drawing (and several smaller drawings and preliminary work). An understanding of the basic elements and principals of drawing will have been developed through application and discussion.


Compressed Charcoal, Vine Charcoal, Kneaded Eraser, Rubber Eraser, Basic 8x11 Sketchbook, 2-3 Pieces of Charcoal paper, 2 black pens (Jelly Roll), and Pencils

7 Elements of Art

Visual components: colour, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.

Line: An element of art defined by a point moving in space. Line may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.

Shape: An element of art that is two-dimensional, flat, or limited to height and width; encloses 2D area.

Form: An element of art that is three-dimensional and encloses volume; includes height, width AND depth (as in a cube, a sphere, a pyramid, or a cylinder). Form may also be free flowing (water, fire). 

Value: The lightness or darkness of tones or colours. White is the lightest value; black is the darkest. The value halfway between these extremes is called middle grey.

Space: An element of art by which positive and negative areas are defined or an implied depth.

Colour: An element of art made up of three properties: hue, value, and intensity.
• Hue: name of colour
• Value: hue’s lightness and darkness (a colour’s value changes when white or black is added)
• Intensity: quality of brightness and purity (high intensity= colour is strong and bright; low intensity = colour is faint and dull)

Texture: An element of art that refers to the way things feel, or look as if they might feel if touched.


Intro / Line: 

Introduce myself and describe how I became an artist.
Imagination>Boredom>Story Telling>Art
Talk About Applications For Art: A Way of Thinking Visually, Design, Decoration, Expression, Communication (transcends language barriers)
Survey What Students Like About Art And What they Want to Learn
Explain Elements of Art (ingredients in a kitchen).

The Importance of Line (used to define shapes) and Kinds of Lines (how many can you think of)

Explain Drawing from Observation - and train to LOOK AT WHAT YOU"RE DRAWING

-Follow Along Drawing (Demo With Laser)
-Pure Blind Contour, Blind Contour (Video and Demo)
-Modified Blind Contour (Adding more "cheating" and Line Variation)

What People Use: Grid>Projector>Sighting>Triangulation>Tracing
-Simple How-To Drawing Using Shapes (Video)
-Looking for Shapes (In Newspaper)

Talk About Order of Drawing: 
Light to Dark>Top to Bottom>Left to Right>Background to Foreground>General to Specific

Drawing II


This is a one-week course (3hrs/day). The primary subjects relate to style, developing ideas, preparation, and practice in art. Working with pen, pencil, and charcoal, participants expand on what was learned in Drawing I (or similar experiences). This class will be best for people who have some experience drawing but want to take it further.


Develop the tools to make beautiful/interesting drawings. Get the fundamentals down and use them to draw from life and photo references.


1. Intro & Types of Art (Gesture – Fast Drawing, Non-Representational).

2. Harmony, Rhythm, Pattern, Unity, Movement, Variety, Contrast (Style/ Techniques: cross contour, eraser drawing, and using the side of the charcoal).

3. Ideas, Content, Subject and "varying levels of completion" (Sketchbooks, Thumbnails, and Drafts).

4.  Prep and Patience
(Final Drawing Layout/Blocking In, Draughtsmanship).

5.  Finishing Touches (Final Drawing Completion).


At the end of these classes, participants will have undergone the steps used to make a large charcoal drawing (and several smaller drawings and preliminary work). A further understanding of the elements and principals of drawing will have been developed through application and discussion.

Drawing II


Compressed Charcoal, Vine Charcoal, Kneaded Eraser, Rubber Eraser, Basic 8x11 Sketchbook, 2-3 Pieces of Large Charcoal Paper (and drawing board?) 2 black pens (Jelly Roll), Pencils

Part 1

Types of Art

Click Here for Link

Blind Contour - (Draw While Only Looking at The Subject)

Some interesting Examples:

Line Weight + Varied Thickness









Shape (continued lesson on blocking In)

Contour + Inking & Line Variation/Calligraphic Line Excercise 

"Ink Le Baton".

Composition and Framing (Discussion/ {new}Video)
Recap Stages of Drawing, Emphasize LIGHTLY Drawn Preliminary Work
(No one ever goes light enough at the start! =P )

From Still life or Photo:
-Rough In Largest, Most Basic Shapes, with Whispy, Sketchy, Searching Lines (Pencil)
-Correct Mistakes (don't bother erasing - prevent redrawing in same spot)
-Inking (Follow pencil line with a pen/contour line or transfers and Ink le Baton)
-Try to Find Natural Posture/body radius to Draw Graceful, Calligraphic Lines
-Thicken Lines Strategically (Lines Closest to You) To Make Dynamic and Imply Depth or on bottom to imply shadow.


And more in depth:

Shapes and Blocking In

 (Start at 4:10)

Draw a still life. Start with most basic shapes and draw very lightly!


Here's what blind Contour looks like with unlimited "cheating" (looking at paper).
I put it here because it is interesting to see how many times this lady turns her head (looking back and forth between object and drawing).

This is the kind of contour drawing we are going to try to do with the still life set-up in class:

Thicken Lines Strategically (Lines Closest to You) To Make Shadows, Make Dynamic and Imply Depth:

Day 3 Shape to Form (Developing Preliminaries)

With Still Life or photo preliminary:

Basic Shapes to Form:

Cross Contour

Mapping Light and Shadow

Shading Techniques:
Blending (Gradation) - Drawing with Side / End of Charcoal
Hatching, Cross Hatching, Stippling - Texture Patterns

With (Black and White) Photo Reference
Begin on Large Paper:

1. Carefully Block in Light Preliminary with Willow

2. Mapping Light, Shadow, Negative Space

(Probably Next Class)

3. Eraser Test and Base Values /w Compressed Charcoal

4. Refine

Part 2

Principals of Art

Balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, rhythm, unity, and variety; the means an artist uses to organize elements within a work of art.

Rhythm: A principle of design that indicates movement, created by the careful placement of repeated elements in a work of art to cause a visual tempo or beat.

Balance: A way of combining elements to add a feeling of equilibrium or stability to a work of art. Major types are symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Emphasis/Dominance/Focal Point: (contrast) A way of combining elements to stress the differences between those elements.

Proportion/Scale: A principle of design that refers to the relationship of certain elements to the whole and to each other.

Gradation: A way of combining elements by using a series of gradual changes in those elements. (large shapes to small shapes, dark hue to light hue, etc)

Harmony/Unity: A way of combining similar elements in an artwork to accent their similarities (achieved through use of repetitions and subtle gradual changes)

Variety/Variation: A principle of design concerned with diversity or contrast. Variety is achieved by using different shapes, sizes, and/or colors in a work of art.

Movement: A principle of design used to create the look and feeling of action and to guide the viewer’s eye throughout the work of art.

Keeping the principals in mind, try out a few interesting techniques with Charcoal:

Eraser Drawing:

Drawing with the side of the charcoal, and stencil:

Cross Contour
Cross Contour 2

Shape Into Form


Just like how blind contour can be taken to new levels, a simple exercise like cross contour  can be the foundation of someone's journey.

En Masse

Cross-Contourist, Jason Botkin

The beauty of line and calligraphy:
(Do an "ink and stick" drawing)

Line Drawing with a Calligraphy Pen

Dragon Calligraphy

Calligraphy Cheater

Map out the shapes of highlights and shadows.

For further steps on value drawing:

More comprehensive "Stages of Drawing" here:

Plasticine/Modelling Clay Character Construction

It's simple to make the most basic forms :

Here is an example of some development (but in fairness, with superior media {polymer clay}):

With polymer clay and an armature you can make a sturdy and detailed model:

I found lots of videos like these in the "related" links.

The Importance of Sketchbooks and Drafts

It's important for idea development recording and practice.

 Draw something that's interesting or meaningful to you. It will help you have the patience to follow through with iterations and a final piece. Here's an interesting time lapse to show how the final drawing could go. Notice the light contour drawing underneath, mapping out the drawing:


There are different ways to get that lightly drawn plan that you see in the drawing of the tiger. If you have a direct reference (real life observation or photo) you can draw out the contours of the shapes of similar values, like here:

For further steps on value drawing:

Here's an interesting look at another artist's steps in a progression (different purpose/technique):

Sketchbook studies of textures can help you work out a pattern before you draw the final:

Perspective trick:

Effective Practice:

Values and Colouring

After making a physical model we photographed it at several angles. We printed out those photos and drew a (pencil) contour line on that photo. Next, we flipped it over and transferred the outline to watercolour paper. Building up gradual layers of watercolour, we develop value an colour choices. Here's a fun way to pick colours: Adobe Colour Wheel

Here's an interesting example of someone building up subtle layers of watercolour:

Ink Basics:

I've seen people ink first or after the watercolours are applied, but here is an interesting example of 'inking':