Steven Powers (SMP): Character Design: Monster's Favorite Toy

Character Design: Monster's Favorite Toy

This is one of those design ideas that came from a simple pen and pencil simple doodle that was nothing more than that, until I rotated the sheet.  That is when the inspiration hit me to design this little monster.

The purpose of this article is not the design itself, but the simple process that anyone can apply to their own moment of inspiration.

What has worked for me over the years is to sketch on a daily basis preferably in a sketch book.  My favorite books are those $5 4”x 6” spiral bond books they sell at Walmart or Hobby Lobby. They smooth 60lb paper, great for dry media and I can slip a mechanical pencil and a Copic marker in the binder. The book is small enough to fit in the car door or cargo pocket of my shorts. I may call them sketches, but even doodling is good.  It frees up my mind and is good practice. The main benefit I find is that I come up with ideas for stories, standalone paintings and character and vehicle designs.  And this is exactly where the idea for Monster and his favorite toy came from...a pen and pencil sketch.

The above is a sheet of pen and pencil sketches.  Sketched in pen and shaded in graphite.  There are a few things I saw right off with my favorite actually being the simple wolf-like figure in the middle.

The doodle I started with is the one at the very top which is easier to see once it is cropped and rotated (above).

To see it better I highlighted what I saw it is easier to see in large shapes, the head, toy and then combined shown above.

At this point with the basic idea of what I am working with I start capturing the basic shapes of the head and then try to image what I see to expand the design. What helps me in designing is asking myself questions while I am drawing.
  • What kind of creature is this?  Biped or quadruped? 
  • Mean or gentle?
  • Hairy, scaly, soft or hard?
  • Does it have a purpose like a work animal or special abilities?
  • Could I use it in a story and if so how?
  • Does it have any strips, spots or markings on its skin? 
  • How big is it?
  • What kind of environment does it come from? 
  • Is it a predator or vegetarian?
 As the design progresses I will frequently erase what I don't like or what isn't working for me.  If I plan to add paint later, I will start the design on hot-pressed watercolor paper.  It is smooth enough to take the pencil and suitable for water colors. Bristol paper can also work especially for use of markers and colored pencils.

If you wish to see this process applied, you can watch the "Monster Favorite Toy" on YouTube at this LINK:

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