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Feb 11, 2023

Frustrating drawing session, 'style priming' for likeness and character design


This week is very character design heavy, and I'm pumped for it! so let's get stuck into my resources, thoughts, 'aha moments' and announcements from this past couple of weeks.


- Resources

Art Station Post - Robh Ruppel Into the Spider Verse rendering guide

I came across this on Pinterest, and this is absolutely fascinating to see the breakdown and thought put into the rendering style of into the spider verse. If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know I’m a HUGE fan of Robh’s work. His art station is one to get lost in.


Art Thought - Style priming the painting/drawing session

I want to get better at likeness, so I decided to do some more simplified likeness studies this week and I wanted to do them in a super simplistic way so as not to get bogged down in the realism of the reference.

I decided to start by doing a study of the simplified style I was trying to achieve (a character concept of Spiderman Into the Spider Verse) in hopes that it’d kind of ‘prime’ me for the session and get used to this kind of simplification and it seemed to work!

I focussed not on ‘copying’ character, but trying to understand the style and reasoning behind the decisions made.

For example I’d ask myself questions like “How did they simplify the eye/nose/mouth?”, “What’s the underlying simple shapes that they used” etc.

Worth trying out, and I’ll be continuing to experiment with this little style warm up before sessions from now on.


Instagram Save - One of my new favourite follows Dean Heezen

I came across his profile when one of his Lightyear character sheets cam across my feed. It’s so fascinating to me the different iterations and simplification of these Pixar characters + he goes a little bit his thought process in the captions as well.

Highly recommend and will be using as study for sure!


Instagram Save - 3D reference Kevin Christian Muljadi

I came across his profile when I saw the 3D work he produced for Lightyear, it’s absolutely beautiful and is great to see his 3D work in context with Dean Heezen’s 2D concepts (above)


Youtube Video - [Bo Chen Interview](


This is a great interview with Bo Chen (instagram here) (Senior Illustrator at Riot Games) and Bobby Chiu.

I’m fascinated by this style of painting, I’ve never really tried it but curious to give it a shot for sure.

Here’s some time stamps that I found interesting…

  • [Riot Process](
  • [Colour and light](
    ?t=629) ​
  • [Using Reference](
  • [How he got his foot in the door at Riot Games](
  • [Foreshortening](
  • [Discovered by doing fan art](
  • [Using 3D tools to help with the final](


Youtube Video - [Mistakes artists wish they didn’t make](


This is a quick little 5 min video at New York Comic Con done by the Proko team asking artists what mistakes they regret doing.

Always interesting to hear about other artists thoughts.


Art thought - Start with good foundations

This is something I learnt the hard way this week with my Spiderman post. I jumped too early into the piece before I captured the likeness or the style I wanted to achieve.

Which had me going for 2 and a bit days stuck between realism and stylisation, pulling my hair out, thinking that I've forgotten how to draw (kind of joking, but kind of not) and wondering "why the hell doesn't this thing look right!".

I eventually just started again, with a clearer style in mind which gave me a better foundation to work on top of. I was also very deliberate in my strokes as well. I still had to tweak a bunch after I began rendering, but I was in a much better place to do so.

All this is to say that sometimes this stuff takes time. Sometimes I can hit the likeness bang on in the first hour, and other times like this past week it takes 3 damn days!

A couple of things that I found attributed to the extended stay at the awkward stage hotel...

  • Unclear reference (I started with one, kind of low quality screen cap), I gathered a bunch of other reference when I started again
  • Unclear stylisation (I had no real style I was going for, I was just waiting for it to figure itself out). When I started again, I gathered more style reference
  • Jumping too fast into the rendering when the initial idea wasn't clear
  • Not thinking enough about the 3D forms inthe begining
  • Sticking too close to the reference to find likeness instead of really reverse engineering the simple shapes of the features and pushing them further (this is what had me in that realism/stylisation no mans land)

Very frustrating, but a super valuable session in hind sight. On the other end of the awkward stage is learnings!


That's all from me for this week,

And as always, stay consistent, use reference, have fun with it and remember, it’s only pixels baybee.

Cheers, Ben


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