Monday, April 21, 2014

Musical Wheel of Character Designs

At times, the creative process is like a game of musical chairs, eliminating and stripping things away through a rotating wheel of first thoughts, second thoughts, decisions and stumbles. There is also a truth inherent in listening to the work itself, for it knows more than you do. Such was this week as I labored through a full circle of character designs and the frustrating art of drawing trees.

One of the poems in my book is about a strange creature who sits in a tree looking down on the world and grinning.

After the initial idea, I decided the character needed a name, so as my 7-year-old daughter Ariel was in the room drawing with me, I asked her, "What's a good funny name for a character?"

Without missing a beat she replied, "Ka-Biggely Fickle."

Brilliant! Done.

Shortly after some writing and a few revisions later, the poem emerged:

Ka-Biggely Fickle sits up in the trees,
And looks down in wonder at all that she sees.
She takes it all in, 
And then with a grin, 
She closes her eyes just to catch a few Zs.

The first initial sketch of Ka-Biggely Fickle (above) was very much like Alice's Cheshire Cat, and eventually I thought, too much like it. So she evolved through a few more versions to be sitting up on her hind legs and finally arrived to this...

But alas, upon drawing Ka-Biggely Fickle in her resting state and getting Ariel's seal of approval, I butchered the tree she was sitting in, as trees are very difficult to draw. (One of the continuous struggles of this book in general is that many of the poems are either about trees or water, both things I suck at drawing well.)

So, I started the drawing over again, but this time I drew the tree better and butchered Ka-Biggely Fickle. (I shall not post this version of her here, lest you begin to have nightmares. Trust me, it's not good.)

At this point, frustrated beyond all hope, I pulled out a totally different random character from my sketchbook which was not really for any poem or story in particular. I wasn't sure who the character was...nothing more than a doodle really, but I thought, maybe this character is Ka-Biggely Fickle instead. So I re-drew again, using this new character. And for awhile, being quite pleased with how this one looked and felt, I started to believe this was the better way to go.

Until I showed it to Ariel.

She was not convinced. She knew Ka-Biggely Fickle better than I did.

And so, after some deliberation before bathtime, I decided to leave her beloved Ka-Biggely Fickle as she was, and would simply re-draw the tree to place her into it later with a bit of Photoshop layering.

But this other character I had also grown rather attached to, and as "luck" would have it, I had just recently axed one of my other poems for the book, making room for another one to take its place.

And that, my friends, is how Wixel-Flint the Cricket Watcher was born.

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