A few months back I posted some very early work I did for Apperson Prep, a series of online educational videos that I provided illustrations for. I wanted to share more of the concept work behind the finished product and walk you through some of my process.
The image here shows Max and Morty in their final design.
Sometimes being the sole illustrator responsible for creating an entire world of characters and settings can be quite daunting. It's fun for sure, but there is a lot of second guessing, self doubt and a lot of late nights. For Apperson Prep, my responsibilities were to create the two main characters, Max (the boy) and Morty (the ghost) along with a few scenes that they would appear in.
Some early color tests. The skull shirt was inspired by Sid from Toy Story.
When developing characters, watching movies really helps me. It gives me visual ideas on how characters might walk, talk, interact and deal with every day life. When developing these characters, I watched the Freaks and Geeks series over and over again. That show is so great at capturing the naivety and awkwardness of middle school/high school life, which is the age range the Apperson characters needed to be. The influence of that show appeared in a lot of my thumbnail sketches.
I tried lots of different ideas before the team and I landed on a boy and his ghost.
When designing characters, I often like to think about how the shapes of their bodies fit with each other. Are they similar? Opposite? How do I draw their personalities? How do they play off of each other? Do they like each other? Repulsed? Very basic ideas, but it helps when creating sketches.
I did a lot of weird studies.
Drawing is all about rhythm for me. I start drawing what I know, turn my brain off and try to fill up as many pages as I can. Typically there will be a handful of useful designs that help me move forward.
Lots of influence from Freaks and Geeks
Most of the early designs for Max had him either too old or too young. The drawings in the upper right ended up being pretty close to the final design.
Studies of Morty, a shape-shifting ghost.
Morty the ghost was extremely difficult to design. Even though his final build is really simple, the journey to get there was a very long and winding path. The Apperson team and I really struggled with how old or young to make this ghost. Did he look human? Was he a former student? Was he scary? Did he realize he was dead?
More early studies of Morty
I did a lot of exercises with trying to find the perfect "ghost" shape. I tried to steer clear of Casper, the Pac Man ghosts, Slimer and the Ghostbusters logo. It wasn't easy to not have every single idea be derivative of those existing ghosts... so I did a lot of studies.
There were lots of details put into Morty. I even did studies of his hat to make sure he had just the right look. The sketch labeled "Hat #02" ended up being the final, approved sketch for Morty. All of the vector files were built off of that original drawing.
Several scenes developed for the Apperson Prep videos.
Diagram of Max's house
Max and Morty hanging out
Working for Apperson was great. It was a very rewarding experience that taught me a lot about communicating through drawing and making sure to pay attention to even the smallest details. The work shown above was a fraction of the work that went into designing the Max and Morty series. It took a lot of effort and I look forward to doing even better next time.
Thanks for hanging with me through all the sketches. :-)