Exercise: Character development

Exercise: Character development

To begin with this exercise I went through researching characters of different kinds. I selected few examples in an extreme huge variety offered by the internet.
I tried to set some categories, even though I think it is a really difficult task as their are frequently overlapping.


sergiobonelli.it media.comicbook.com fleischerstudios.com https-::s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com:originals:8a:df:fb:8adffb32557bc647a0f3adfb6053b765 article-1285883635413-003fb9c800000258-719197_636x512 1book24


http-::vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net:disney:images:3:3b:Herc_front_turn_arounds250.jpg:revision:latest?cb=20131002161634 http-::images.fanpop.com:images:image_uploads:old-Superman-comic-cover-superman-84977_590_816 https-::stevenlylejordan.files.wordpress.com:2015:04:iron-man-peel-and-stick-comic-book-cover-900x1288 Powerpuff_girls_characters http-::static.comicvine.com:uploads:scale_large:12:124613:3150902-wizard+mini+comic++-+the+sensational+spiderman+v1995+003+(1995)+pagecover


PKAdn8A https-::s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com:originals:25:fe:13:25fe135601362ccbe3856310984bc812 http-::www.animationsensations.com:media:catalog:product:cache:1:image:9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95:W:B:WBAAPD29 cg52d8b6245480d monza-e-la-satira-della-ghignata-lupo-alberto-e-lospite-donore_0b49a02c-2b79-11e3-a382-f98afa02f2e9_display Mickey-Mouse-mickey-mouse-34504087-1500-1500 disney-pixar-finding-nemo-book_21335_1


Carletto doraemon_png2 8660b6be3c6c6368c74babb8329bb2cc ranma3





After filling up my mind with so many characters, it was really quite hard to think of something that hadn’t been invented already!
I decided to work on an illustration of a walrus I did in the early stages of this course: I brainstormed on it and then tried to sketch it in frontal, side and back pose, using guidelines, to get the proportions right.
He is really fat, the head much smaller than the rest of the body. He is lazy, constantly hungry and also grumpy. The only accessory worn by him is a fisherman hat.
The next step was sketching some facial expressions and then some different poses.

Scan 1 Scan 2

After that I went on with another character. I tried to think of someone really different: I wanted to create a ‘gothic’ but at the same time funny character, so I chose an old lady, with sophisticated facial features but an impossibly bulky hairdo and ultra large round glasses.
Her body shape is extreme as well: a really large bottom and a vase-like overall figure. I imagined this character surreally walking like she has wheels under her gown, in a straight line with a really serious expression. She appears really put together in her Victorian inspired outfit, but she is actually very clumsy and distracted.

I sketched some facial expressions and poses for her as well.

Scan 3 Scan 4

Scan 1 copy

To develop characters was really funny, even though it is really difficult not to fell into obviousness and already existing ideas, hidden in our memory.

I thought the funniest part was to sketch the facial expressions and to feel the freedom of distorting reality as much as I wanted.

I felt it was harder to draw different poses, I think I would need more exercise on that to let the character appear more natural, fluid in movements, less rigid.

Exercise: Visual distortion

Exercise: Visual distortion

I really tried for long time to catch my cat in a pose which shows her quite well: she has a total black fur (just a little white patch on the chest) and it is quite difficult under a certain light to distinguish her contours.
I draw her from a picture, trying to keep the portrait quite faithful, as the exercise asks in the first place.

Scan 21
A second step consisted in drawing a cat with five lines, which I thought was quite fun.

Scan 22

But the funniest part was actually to make a collage: while making it I realised how most of the time I am so tied to reality that is difficult to let my mind go. That is when I placed aquamarine long, curly moustaches on the cat’s face and climbing rope for her tail.

Scan 29
Having used dried palm umbrellas texture for part of her fur, an image came to me of this character hiding in the middle of a haystack (or actually being an haystack!), trying to catch a little mouse with a treat placed in the middle of her lazo-tail. The cheese smells so good…but wait…something greenish is suspiciously poking out of the mass…!

Scan 24

I had so much fun with this exercise and made me realise that infinite possibilities can sit before our eyes, we just need to let ourselves go and materialise them.

Exercise: A tattoo

Exercise: A tattoo

To create a tattoo for a friend, based on the word Mom I first went through a little reference by searching up the net and by consulting a book from my local library.
The book gave me a good introduction on the history of tattoos and on the various style influences on tattoo design like old school, tribal, oriental, macabre and nautical.
Image searching on the internet turned up millions of hearts, roses and scrolls dedicated to mothers. But I also thought that there are very personal links between a tattoo and its wearer.
So yes, symbols are a major reference, but there also is a good injection of personal history with that.
I referred to another book – which I was so proud and happy to find on my shelves! – to get more information about symbols.
I actually had a symbol in my mind since the beginning, a tree, so I was particularly looking at that and found out that is one of the symbols meaning the same thing in nearly all the past and present cultures on Earth: life.
I thought that a tree could perfectly represent the word Mom, giving life to its leaves and fruits through its roots and being stable and strong, like a pillar.
And I thought that it could be connected with personal history, for example if the friend’s mother is passionate about nature, plants, gardening (like mine, for instance!).

I recorded some of my early ideas in the phase of brainstorming and after researching my references I sketched a tree. Two coiled roots become a banner where Mom is written.

Scan 26 Scan 27

I copied the sketch on another sheet and used a fine liner to give it the tattoo aspect. I shaded it with little dots and used an old school font for the word Mom.
I was careful to make a quite clear design without too tiny details, which are hardly reproducible in the tattoo practice.

I really love the outcome, although probably I should have gone a little more symmetrical.

I think it would work well as a card and discovered accidentally that I really like how it looks with colours inverted!


Reference books:

How to draw tattoo style , Andy Fish with Veronica Heard, 2012

Sacred Symbols – people, Religions, Mysteries, Thames and Hudson edited by Robert Adkinson, 2009

Exercise: A menu card

Exercise: A menu card

The aim of this exercise was to produce a illustration to use as a logo for a menu of a sophisticated fish restaurant.
The size given for the logo was 40mmx40mm, which forced me to keep the image really simple and clear.
I quickly made thumbnails out of my ideas and I chose the ‘gentlecrab’.

Scan 19

I was unsure between two composition so I tried to sketch them and I realised that the second one was way clearer than the first one, with no lines crossing over each other, indeed much more easy to read at a really small size.
I sketched my crab in flat aerial view: he holds a top hat as a symbol of ‘sophisticated’.

Scan 20
I used watercolour to make it really bright and to give the impression of a superior good quality.

Scan copy
The original drawing as been made in 16cmx16cm and digitised to make it smaller and check its readability.
I also tried to insert a text but even though it is working quite well in the big size, I think in the smaller it is too tiny to be read, so it would perhaps be best in bigger fonts outside of the little crab logo.


I am very happy with the outcome of this exercise, as I think it really reflects the qualities of the restaurant and as I am very satisfied with the execution of the image.

Exercise: A children’s book cover

Exercise: A children’s book cover

This exercise asked to produce a children’s book cover illustration, aimed for kids aged 7/11, title being Animals from around the world.
It was quite a difficult task, considering the huge amount of reference we have on the subject. I started browsing via internet hundreds of different book jackets and I realised how different they can be! I think there are various ways to attract children attention, like using bright colours, distorting reality, using simple and direct images.
But all of this really depends on the age, sex and personality of the kids. I also think that 7/11 is a quite large period, considering how fast kids grow.

In the brainstorming phase one idea came very fast, a group of animals literally positioned around the world. But I discarded it quite soon, because too obvious. I made thumbnails with other ideas which popped in my head and finally I selected three of them an sketched the outlines.

Scan 14
I tried to keep my drawings really simple and I worked in A4 format.
A first sketch sees platypus and elephant one in front of the others, I choose them because I think they inspire curiosity and also because they come from different worlds. from the elephant nose a splash of water comes out allowing the platypus to swim. I used various picture from internet to accurately depict the creatures. In this drawing I kept the animal portraits quite close to reality, thinking that the oldest age range might be more interested in the real anatomy of the animals.

Scan 15
In a second sketch I pictured five different animals (one per continent) piled up in a totem. In this case I distorted the reality and the proportion to adapt each animal in a square shape, imagining each of them was placed in a cube. By doing this I gave them a funny aspect which capture the kids desire of playing, even because they resemble those toys which you can combine as you please.

Scan 16
In the third sketch I also distorted the reality, making another quite unstable pile of animals standing on an inflatable and little deformed planet Earth.

Scan 18
When it came to colours, I tried using them as freely as possible and I thought that in an eventual final of this pieces would have been nice to use a medium which allows the colours to be smooth, even and bright, like Copic markers or perhaps the digital way.



I really loved to experiment with those book jackets and in the mocking up of the colour visuals I tried to position the text in a funny way and thought that the font should be very graphic as well, perhaps hand drawn and very colourful.

Exercise: Museum posters

Exercise: Museum posters

For this exercise I chose to work on a small Museum I discovered recently, which is situated in the rooftop of a church in London Bridge area, right next to the Shard: The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. As you enter the museum, you step in a timber framed rooftop where herbs where desiccated and kept for medical purposes; you can also access the oldest operating theatre in Britain, built in 1822, where surgeries and dissections were operated under several dozens of eyes.
The collection basically consists of medical equipment, from instruments to containers, of human specimens and of medical archive material.
I visited the museum and after exploring it I took pictures to document the collection and to record the interesting visuals I wanted to remember.
When back home, I started brainstorming on the ideas which could interest the different audiences the exercise asks to produce illustrations for.


I thought the major purpose, common to all three of them was to inspire curiosity. I thought in fact the kind of collection and even the location of this museum has a particularly high potential.
For the children poster I chose a mortar, particularly because I found in a corner of the museum a recipe for a curious syphilis’ remedy which I thought could be interesting in a kid visual. The recipe mixes snails, to worms and herbs and it is called ‘Snail water’. I chose the mortar as a symbol of the former medications’ making process.
The object I chose for the teens poster was one of the surgeon’s instruments, particularly the saw.
I thought this could interest teenagers because of its creepy role in the surgery practice of the time.
I later chose to consider a whole set of instruments because of its resemblance to a carpenter’s one.
The adults poster its based on a picture I took of one of the museum’s windows. The object related is an old glass bottle containing anaesthetic. I thought an adult audience could be particularly interested on the development of anaesthetics and on the management of the pain before their discovery.
I tried different ideas through thumbnails and once decided, I quickly sketched my final ideas in bigger thumbnails, trying to position the text as well.

I then made final sketches, from where I copied the outline for my colour visuals.

sketch1 sketch2 sketch3

The children poster final arrangement sees a character in the foreground: a shocked snail has approached the mortar and discovered she is part of the recipe on the book behind it. On the table only few other elements, an herbalist scale and a candle. I tried to chose colours which in my opinion suggest a mystery and magic feeling, as the old medicine was strongly connected to magic beliefs and superstitions.

Colorvisual1 copy
For the teens poster I selected the most ambiguous surgeon’s instruments and placed them as we are looking into one of the typical velvet lined wooden boxes. The text questions: Carpenter’s tools kit?The answer and the red background, suggest a different use of it.

Colorvisual2 copy

The adults poster sees a human skull placed between glass bottles of anaesthetic, as a clue to the risks they were bringing as poisonous elements poorly investigated. I kept the composition of the picture took at the museum as I thought it was very interesting and made me think of the era when pain was a main problem, something today we are totally unused to think about.

Colorvisual3 copy

In the making of those posters I noticed one big difference between the kids’ poster and the other two: when thinking of an image attractive for kids, I made the image describe an action through a character, while the other two images rely much more on the text to give the complete message. I thought it was very interesting and made me think a lot on how kids are more immediately influenced by pictures, particularly the ones who cannot read yet.
I think that even having different subjects, the posters are like a family because the images respond to a style (in its early stages!) and also because I used the same lettering and layout when stating the museum name. I think this is very important to understand that the posters are representing a specific unique place.

I chose to produce a final work for the adults poster using watercolours, which I thought would be the most suitable to picture the glass bottles.
I completed the poster on photoshop by adding a coloured strip as a base for the lettering. I chose the fonts which gave me that ‘old printed books’ feeling.


I pretty satisfied with the results and even though I am still experiencing a lack of skills regarding visuals and particularly colour visuals, I feel I made some progress.

Exercise: Identifying tools and materials

Exercise: Identifying tools and materials

It has been quite difficult to research for artists techniques as it’s often difficult to understand where and how they are being mixed. I chose to research the traditional techniques, which I find really interesting.
Particularly, I investigated artists which are using mostly water based medias and inks.
Elia Mervi

Graphite and watercolour
Watercolours are used as a complement to the graphite drawings, mainly in the form of light washes, to highlight keys details by creating contrast and get them popping out of the paper. The style is quite realistic and the colours are bright.

Paul X Johnson

Gouache and ink
This artist treats his works with a very smooth use of gouaches. The effect is very clean and the mood created by the choice of the colours is a frozen, restless calm. The reality is slightly distorted.

Martin Krusche

Marker, ink, watercolour, digital
In his use of watercolours we can see a quite accurate way of keeping the colour within the contour line. The tones are really bright and condensed. The markers are instead used to create a tattoo-like style. The reality is often distorted.

Sjoukje Bierma

The use of watercolours here is quite traditional. The artist creates various textures and brush strokes are particularly evident in some of her works. A wide outline is often used to clearly separate the main subject from the background and to push it forward the viewer.

Yelena Bryksenkova

Pen, watercolours, gouache
The gouache effect is really solid and full, watercolours comes in where transparency is needed and the pen is used to define the outlines. The colours are varied and distortion occurs particularly in the human subjects.

Marlies Nemeijer

Ink, watercolour
Extremely precise in the use of both mediums. Realistic in the rendering, creates a delicate and quite romantic mood. The style is directly connected with the main subject of this illustrator, which is botanic.

Kaethe Butcher

Graphite, marker
Really free use of the ink and graphite, very soft dynamic lines. The subjects are quite realistic, the colour rarely comes in, black/white is absolutely predominant.

Conrad Roset

clara copia_copy6Watercolours, ink
Very delicate line drawings where the watercolour comes in, completing the figure almost as a decorative aid. Sometimes it looks like they are casual stains, but their shape perfectly suggest a function.
The portraits are realistic.

Clint Reid


Watercolours, ink

Watercolours here are used as a ‘filling’ to the ink drawings, so that we have a very precise outline and patterns are created both with the pen and the watercolours. The reality is distorted.
Golden Section Illustration – Yuliyart



This artist uses a variety of mediums. Watercolours are used by her in a very similar manner to the above mentioned Yelena Briksenkova. The colour are really varied and the reality is just a little distorted.

I chose Elia Mervi’s work to experiment with the first image, as I particularly appreciate her illustrations. I carried out the main drawing in graphite and after I tried to use the watercolours as a complement, to highlight the main focuses of the image.

Scan 2

I loved the combination of graphite and watercolour, I love the fact that the water mixes with it and fixes it on the paper. The colour feels very full and round. I also tried to apply the colour where it could highlight the keys of the image, as the artist does.

Afterwards I experimented with the way of using watercolours adopted by yelena briksenkova, by traditionally overlapping layers to obtain an image, using a pen outline only for the smallest details.

Scan 3

It felt particularly difficult to me to distinguish the technique from the way of composing the image. Sometimes, I found, the composition and the distortion of the image is strictly connected with the technique and the harmony of those two determines a particular style.