Tag Archives: character design

Oh, that Samson

samson.model050

So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.

A Servant to Two Masters

A Servant to Two Masters opens at the O’Reilly Theater in Pittsburgh, PA this Thursday. It’s an old commedia dell’arte-style farce updated to modern-day Venice. “Our hilarious hero, Truffaldino, will stop at nothing to stuff his face, even if it means working for two bosses at the same time. Laughs pile on top of laughs as he tries to keep both masters happy, hook up with the delectable Smeraldina, and have his fill of fettuccini.”

To celebrate, here is the art I was commissioned to create for the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s promotional materials. The design is by my brilliant pal, Paul Schifino. We’re looking at the first rough ideas through tight sketches to final art.

Escape from Netherworld—Piper

Here she is: Piper the elf from jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, Twiggy and Borhai, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers
Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color study and final painting.

Escape from Netherworld—Borhai

More jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—it’s about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld. Yesterday I showed you Twiggy the dwarf. Here’s Borhai the warrior who starts out as a regular gaming guy named Dave.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers
Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

As usual, here are the rough sketch, tight sketch, color study and final painting.

Escape from Netherworld—Twiggy the dwarf

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Hey, gang! Sorry for the interruption in posts—I spent most of last week in New York City visiting art directors, editors and creative directors. Now I’m back and I want to show you something I worked on this summer.

Here is jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—it’s about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers, Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

Let’s start with Twiggy the dwarf. As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color studies and final paintings.

Hoist your flagons!

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Heave on your futtock-shrouds and don’t leave your swashes unbuckled! ‘Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Don’t forget: If you are anywhere near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, shape a course for The Art Center (819 Ligonier Street) where I’ll talk about illustrating pirates this evening from 6:30 – 8:30. If you miss it, I’ll be at The Art Center again tomorrow morning 10:00 – 11:00ish (we need to clear the decks before noon—when some poor lubber’s wedding takes place).

MoviePirates

As promised, here are the answers to yesterday’s M is for Movie Pirates Quiz:

First row: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean (2006). Second row: (left to right) Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926); Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1950); Sherman the parrot; Errol Flynn as Captain Blood (1935). Third row: Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd (1945); (Charlton Heston as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1990); Dustin Hoffman as Hook (1991); Walter Matthau as Captain Red in Pirates (1986). Fourth row: Maureen O’Hara as Prudence ‘Spitfire’ Stevens in Against All Flags (1952); Laird Cregar as Sir Henry Morgan in The Black Swan (1942); Kevin Kline as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (1983); Graham Chapman as Yellowbeard (1983).

Davy Jones

More from P is for Pirate as we count down to Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th! I’ll be presenting a pirate program at Adams Memorial Library in Latrobe, PA, Friday & Saturday September 19th & 20th.

Here is D is for Davy Jones from sketch to final painting. Sorry about the color in my progress shots—must’ve been at night and I forgot to switch the flash on. You can see I based my version of Davy Jones on an 1892 ink drawing by John Tenniel from the British humor magazine, Punch. Tenniel is the guy who drew the famous illustrations for Alice In Wonderland.

Captain Kidd’s ice bucket challenge

We’re still celebrating the release of P is for Pirate and the countdown to Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19th).

Today I’ve got sketches and a few work-in-progress photos of Captain William Kidd. Kidd wasn’t a particularly good pirate—as Eve Bunting says: “Captain William Kidd spilled less blood and captured less booty than any other well-known pirate of his time”. Apparently he didn’t get along well with his crew. Our shot of Kidd shows the scene where he infamously brained the ship’s gunner with a bucket.

You’ll notice in the color sketch and early work on the painting the ship’s woodwork is a mustardy yellow. Once I was into the painting I found it too cheerful a color—it didn’t help convey the mood of the action at all. So I changed it to gray. Much better!

Edward Teach

As a follow-up to my last post about Queen Anne’s Revenge, here is the man himself—the terrible Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach. I show him in close-up so you can see the slow-match fuses he used to weave into his whiskers and set alight before attacking a ship. You can find him in P is for Pirate, now available in bookstores—or drop me a line in the comments for an autographed copy.

Pirate captains were elected by their crews and could be voted out. To keep his crew in line, Blackbeard constantly showed himself to be more fierce, more outrageous than anyone else on board. Seated with his rogues during dinner, Blackbeard fired a pistol underneath the table and wounded one of the crew, just to remind them who he was.

Blackbeard had to be mindful of his crew’s appetite for liquor—for rum, an ardent spirit distilled from molasses. Without rum, a crew would mutiny, as this excerpt from Blackbeard’s log attests:

‘Such a Day, Rum all out: – Our Company somewhat sober: – A Damned Confusion amongst us! – Rogues a plotting; – great Talk of Separation. – So I looked sharp for a Prize; – such a Day took one, with a great deal of Liquor on Board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all Things went well again.’

Q is for Queen

Here is one of my favorites from P is for Pirate, the notorious Grace O’Malley—Irish queen & pirate captain. She was a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I and reportedly had an interview with Gloriana (who, after all, had a soft spot for buccaneers).

Queen Grace has been the subject of songs, at least one play and even a musical. So far as I know the swashbuckling Maureen O’Hara never played her in a movie, but what perfect casting that would have been!

I show Queen Grace in an Errol Flynn pose with her ruffians behind her. In the sketch I thoughtlessly drew a baroque-looking ship like we’re used to seeing from piracy’s golden age. In the final painting I used the Mayflower—much closer in style to a ship from Queen Grace’s time—as reference. Same deal with the costumes: they’re Elizabethan. I first drew her in men’s clothes but thought she looks much cuter in a dress.