For the second part to my series on developing characters, I thought I’d discuss the process of developing my animal characters for Pennies for Elephants. As I mentioned before, this book takes place in Boston, 1914. I demonstrated how I developed my little girl in the first part. This story also has three elephant characters. The children in the story are painted in a style which is not realistic, but rather reminiscent of an old fashioned style. Because they weren’t realistic, my elephants couldn’t be realistic either. I needed to make them slightly anthropomorphic to fit with the style of the children, but still real enough so my readers feel they were true characters.
I started as I always do by gathering reference. I found an elephant named Dinde, and her trainer was happy to work with me. Dinde did tricks and took poses that I needed for the book.
After working with Dinde, I was ready to begin sketching. I did hundreds, searching for the proper style to fit the children in the book and finding enough expression in the elephants faces to bring them to life. The sketches often start very crude and simple, then slowly build in character and detail.
Once sketches are done and I have found the style that works, I am ready to begin painting!
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