DEVELOPING AND DRAWING CHARACTERS FOR BOOKS

Bill Shattner

Bill Shatner, as James T. Kirk, of the Enterprise, is a good actor in that his face looks very different in different lighting. These artists have had to draw Shatner for various Star Trek covers. Some had more success than others, but they all resemble Kirk enough to be recognized.

The first danger in drawing an actor for a book cover, or graphic novel, or poster is in using photos. But that is what you have to work with. The better way to go about this is to have as many photos of the actor as you can get. You then determine the cariacture aspects of the face and then you can fool with the lighting and get a well done drawing. I did this picture of Shatner as Kirk using several photos. It was done in macchia, using graphite instead of black charcoal. Shatner has some notable features. He has a sharp frontal eminence that forms two "v" shapes with his superorbital ridges. You see that some of the artists above picked that up from photos. His nose and eyes and not very strange, but his upper lip is very flat and sharply drawn. Like most American actors, he has a very prominent jaw.

Kirk

Very different from Shatner is the British pop star, John Lennon. What is most essential in portraying people, whether in portraits like these, or in illustration, is capturing the essential personality. Kirk is intelligent, but impulsive and action-oriented. Lennon is a very different creature. He is sarcastic, much more intelligent, wise beyond his years, and a bit defiant. I've tried to capture that in his eyes. I also wanted to capture Lennon's tendency to be a punk in that he might have resented sitting for this portrait. I used ten photos to do this picture.

Lennon


Actors

When I saw "The Lion in Winter" I was quite struck by how similar John Castle was to Tim Dalton. Both are British and both look a bit Gaelic because of the nose. When I started creating characters for one of my worlds, I used Castle and Dalton for one family and contasted them to a half-bred brother whose personality seemed to fit that of Oliver Reed's. Oliver Reed is what is known as a character actor, whereas Castle and Dalton can play more heroic roles. Here I clipped photos of the three in order to compare their faces. The lighting is very different in these photos and can change a person's face. We see people in motion, so we see the structure of their faces. The camera only sees light and shadow. All three have the anvil jaw, but you see Reed has the very definite white showing below the iris, showing a personality trait that indicates darkness or melancholia. The Victorians had facial features so closely tied to personality that it was used in finer cases of predjudice, but some indicators are still active, like the high iris. Note also the similarity between Reed and Shattner. What works in the States for a heroic type does not work in England due to the heavier influence of sports and German facial features in the States. Also in England, actors are "lower" class, and many Celtic features dominate.

Hav   Hav   Hav

Here is what is know as "chasing shadows" in the first picture. You can see that I tried to draw Reed from the bottom photo. I then analysed Reed's facial structure and came up with the next drawing, which is Reed, but not the Reed in the photo. I did make some minor changes for my character. I exaggerated the structure for this drawing.

Stan   Hav   Hav

Here I have created other characters from Castle and Dalton. Note the changes. I seriously changed Castle's nose and lengthened his face and exaggerated his eyes with the Scottish long eyelid. But his mouth is very much the same as well as his chin. Dalton is likewise changed, but not as much. The cleft chin is gone and the eyebrows are less full. The big difference is in the eyes.

Raol

This is a character sheet page for a man's head. I've noted here: high zygomatics, bow upper lip, sharp philtrum, sharp mandible, wide nasio-labial furrow, heavy nodes, low, long mento-labial suculus, chin boss not prominent, aquiline nose, long upper eyelid, narrow, straight nostril wings, visible septum. Yes, Latin. My academy teacher would acknowledge us unless we learned and spoke it. What is more clear from this drawing is how this character begins to emerge. By the last drawing, I felt confident of being able to draw him. The greatest challenge in character drawing is keeping the character the same page after page when there is a tendency to exaggerate features more and more.

Raol

This is a character I have had to draw hundreds of times. The trick is to not make the characters in your books caricatures. This often happens with comic artists who make their characters with a few pen lines. After years, the lines tend to get exaggerated. I strongly suggest taking pictures of people for whom there are hundreds of photos and practice drawing them in all lighting and all expressions. Raol here, is a hodge-podge of several actors, one of whom is Tim Dalton above. You can see a slight resemblance to Dalton, but Raol is not really Dalton. In illustration, you rarely have time to work a character up and fix the mistakes. You must be able to "shorthand" the character so that they are recognizable in any Although my illustrations of Raol are not perfect, you can see the consistency. It's important to have ways to check to make sure that your character is not drifting or getting exaggerated.

Marsyas

Here is a sheet for another character, a bad guy. He is a ruthless man who sees that progress is bought with sacrifices. He is a social climber and a charmer. A military man, his weakness is vanity, ambition, and women. His racial background is Persian or Greek, so I used some Bollywood actors for some of his references. He appears the same in two worlds, so I had to make him modern and also make him ancient. He also ages in the stories from 20 to 60.

Marsyas

One of my first attempts at a character is a portrait in macchia. This lends a reality to the character that I like. Here you can see many of the characteristics that define this man: the high iris indicating melancholia, the sensual mouth, but weaker chin, the well-arched brows and aquiline nose. Aquiline usually means beaked nose, but can also mean that the nose is high-bridged. His position here of looking through his brows indicates that he is holding something back, that will erupt inside of him. He is supposed to be a very intense character in a very different way from King Raol above.

Marsyas

My first attempt at a graphic novel did not work. I tried to do the work in pen, which did not lend itself to the fast drawing that I needed to do to put together 200 pages in as short a time as possible. (It now takes me about 7 months to draw 200 pages.) But it is interesting to see people's mistakes. Here you can see my drawings of Marsyas, trying to keep him consistent.

Marsyas

Here are various sketches from the books of Marsyas including his 1970 Earth persona. I have tried to keep a feeling of consistency of his personality as well as the consistency of features common to many men of the Middle East. It is important with aging a character to do so along personality lines. The young all look similar, yet their personalties are there to see behind the health and beauty. Even hair and beards have personality!

Art