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Computer ArtsTutorial

Creating the Bird God

Illustrator James Jarvis explains how he designed his new vinyl toy, and then turned him into a cover star.

In the following tutorial I reveal all about the processes I go through when developing a character, from initial idea to finished product - a vinyl figure and an illustration.

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I started to design toys completely by accident; it was never a planned career move. In 1998 the opportunity arose to make a figure based on one of my characters as a promotional item for a fashion company, Silas. The toy proved popular so we made another a year later, and everything snowballed from there.

The skills I use when designing characters are the basic skills any decent illustrator should possess: good drawing, observation and an understanding of structure, but also the ability to learn and use new technologies to make the process more efficient.

I very rarely sit down with the intention of designing a character from scratch. My characters tend to evolve very naturally through my drawing. Drawing with a pen on paper is the bedrock of everything I do. It forms the raw material from which I make illustrations, comic strips, t-shirt graphics and toys. I draw every day: anything that comes to mind. I am inspired by many things, not just the visual: philosophy, ideas, history, politics, literature and music as well as comic strips, animation, graphic design, painting, sculpture and architecture. You can't design cartoon characters that reference only other cartoon characters or they become boring and self-reflexive. I rarely set off with a specific plan; instead I wait to see what emerges. I try to be as unselfconscious as possible while drawing - mistakes are a necessary part of the process.

Click here to download the tutorial for free

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