Character Design

I've had the pleasure of doing quite a bit of character design in the last couple years, more heavily in the last few months.

Character design is much like caricature, yet you must define, simplify, exaggerate and focus on all of the subject's scope, rather than just the face or head. It can involve cars, animals, objects or anything that needs definition and style to fit the "world" that you are creating.

At the moment I'm doing character design full-time. I can't share the current projects just yet, but for now I'll show some of the past work I've done, in pieces to show how I approach it. I see it as eye candy for those who like process or rough stages. Much like published sketchbooks, this is fun for me, so I'm hoping others find it enjoyable.

This project (circa '06-'07) involved taking an illustrated children's book (concept copyright: author) and optioning it for a Saturday morning cartoon with a more "hotrod" feel. To my knowledge the project didn't go through but the process built a few relationships that are great and I had a lot of fun. I got to draw DOGS and RACECARS... how can you beat that! Below is a fraction of the drawings and steps in the process:

My friend Brian Haimes did most of the modeling along with the great folks at So! Animation. I was still learning, so my help in the construction of the wireframe models was small, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

This next project is much more recent (January 2008) and was for Bette Midler's Las Vegas show. My task was to design fish characters to interact with Bette's character, under the sea. She is auditioning in a singing contest (an obvious American Idol parody) and they needed three fish judges to be designed to match the personality and likeness of the 3 American Idol judges. This was another dream job that I put as much concept as design into, contributing to what fish were chosen and even character animation traits. This was done with the great team at Atlantic Motion Pictures (AMP), also in New York. This is just a small piece of the work done for that job:

The final animation is displayed on a 120 ft. wide screen that drops on the stage, giving a cinematic "happening in front of the viewer" feel which, through the reviews I've read, is very effective. There was also some great and timely contribution through the producer, director, modeler and animators in this project. They really brought the drawings to life.

I really am enjoying character design as much as I enjoy illustration. It's an impossible lifestyle, as while I do one I miss the other... I guess I feel blessed to be able to go back and forth. I also find that very often one helps me with the other.

When I get permission to discuss the current projects and show the artwork, I will. I can't wait to share this unique and fun project, so check back soon and let me know what you think.

(this topic may also explain the flying pigs on my blog header: another character design project from last year)



Paul Moyse said...

Awesome work Joe. Love the Simon Cowell shark! Thanks for sharing them, looking forward to seeing more.

Mark Heng said...

Love the X Factor Fish! Brilliant reinterpretation/retranslation/mindwarping of the personalities. You've raised the bar yet again.

Seo Kim said...

Hahahh, awesome caricatures!!

SEILER said...

Looking great Joe, it's really cool to see this side of your art! Great designs on those cars, and I LOVE the Simon Shark and Paula and Randy fish . . . nice work!

Anonymous said...

Love 'em Joe.

Keelan Parham said...

Geez..these are great! I like the green hot rod, and the A.I. fish the best. Also, the little sketch of the dog driving with the grin. Reminds me of Muttley from Wacky Racers (I think that was the name of the cartoon). Great stuff, Joe! Thanks for sharing these!

Anonymous said...

These must have been fun projects. As a character designer myself I know exactly what you are talking about: simplicity, exaggeration, and "essence". Can't wait to hear more about your top-secret project.

Josh Spencer said...

Very cool Joe. I love the American Idol fish there great. I respect those cars you did too. I find them a big challenge at work. Wheels are the worst.

Unknown said...

SWEET Lord, Joe! Those AI fish are BRILLIANT man!
Simon's the best, though his dorsal fin looks kinda phalic.
Love to see the finished animations sometime!..any chance of that?

Vincenzo said...

The Cowell kills me...brilliant stuff Joe!!!!

Anonymous said...


Those fish are AWESOME!! Thanks for sharing.