Creating a cartoon character with a back-story at SIBF 2022
Sharjah, November 06, 2022
In a lively workshop presented by the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair in conjunction with Skilldeer, an online platform providing a wide range of courses and fun activities, youngsters had the chance to learn about animated character design and how to create a back-story to guide their illustration.
The workshop was presented by Maha Al Mheiri, an Emerati who spent many years in Japan honing her skills creating manga, a Japanese graphic novel style, originally developed in the late 19th century.
Maha greeted the young attendees in Japanese and introduced them to the basics of drawing a cartoon character using simple shapes, saying, “If you can draw circles, squares and triangles then you can draw Manga!”
The animated teacher went on to explain to children that having a story behind your character can help to define what they could look like and asked the class to think of details to associate their subjects. Starting with a name and age, she decided her character would be known as “Zoe” and would be 10 years old. She moved on to what the character’s possible likes and dislikes could be, such as, for example, liking roller coasters but possibly disliking traffic.
Expanding on these attributes, she determined strengths, weaknesses and potential “floors” of the character, explaining that “Zoe” could be fast and strong in relation to her passion for roller coasters, but could be impatient due to her dislike of traffic.
The class then moved on to putting pencil to paper as she instructed students to construct a basic figure using a circle to depict the head and simple squares and rectangles to divide up body proportions. After a couple of iterations and additional basic shapes, students found that they had already started to form a well proportioned body for their character.
After the pencil work was complete, the class took out their pens and started to flesh out their characters, adding facial details, arms, legs and eventually clothing. In no time at all, the class had created impressive characters in the Japanese Manga style, and the teacher commented on how amazing everybody’s work was. Using her techniques, the students had grasped the concept of building up their character, layer by layer, while considering their attributes to create a drawing with an origin story.
Maha ended the workshop giving the youngsters an enthusiastic farewell in Japanese and wished them well on their futures and passion for illustrating characters.