Daily Stream: Character drawing with Robert Liu-Trujillo

Robert Liu-Trujillo & Dionne Custer Edwards

Jun 24, 2020

The hands of artist Robert Liu-Trujillo drawing characters

For this week's how-to, California-based artist and author Robert Liu-Trujillo has created just for us a guide to drawing characters. He'll take you through the process of creating figures from basic shapes, as well as shading and creating a simple background. Below the video is a transcript of the lesson for the hearing impaired.



What up fam, my name is Robert Liu-Trujillo, I’m an artist, Illustrator from Oakland, California. What I'm showing you right here and what I'm going to do is a character design and these are just a few examples of characters I've done in the past.

They are all done with one color colored pencil, and they are just meant to show different people and poses. This is the one that I'm going to focus on just because it has some action here. You can see the curve of this character here and this character is jumping. So I'm going to try to do something that's action-oriented. So, this section is where I just doodle or draw or iterate. Basically what that means is just, you want to play, have fun, and warm up. Because when you draw something final you want your hands and your arm and your mind to already be in that mindset, or just in the zone as they call it. The reason why I do a bunch of different poses and do them in different ways is just to not only have fun, but to see what I can come up with. What to me looks good; what's not working. And the only way I generally find to make that connection is to do a bunch of drawings. Some of them are good. Some of them are is just to try it out and see what comes from it.

So, here I go from drawing a bunch of little poses to trying to pick some. Two of the poses to sketch it a little bit more in detail, still keeping it loose. I try to make a curvature. Kind of like a line showing, which way the action or the character of the person is going. And then I do a bunch of rough shapes first. As I'm doing the rough shapes to get an idea of where the body is, then I'll start to add in details like the hair, the nose, the arm, the clothing this person has on. And again, this is still just playing. When I redraw it later, I’ll change some things. But here is just to kind of add a little bit more detail to see how I can change this and even as I'm redrawing it, I'm editing, I'm changing things about it, to see what it feels like to me.

You can see here that I'm putting in two characters.

I think it looks interesting when you have more than one character interacting with each other. They're not physically touching, but they're in the same space and they're interacting with each other. To me it makes it more interesting; so then just adding a few little details to get a sense of what I want to draw in the final. 

So for the next part what I use is a lightbox, but you can do this on a window. Really on a really bright day, you can put it up against the microwave. There's a bunch of ways to do it. Basically you want to take your original rough sketch, and then a nicer more thicker piece of paper and then redraw just the line. So what I’m doing is drawing the outline. I’m drawing the head, the body, the arms, the hands, and I’m trying to make the lines quick and deliberate. So that way they can express what the character is trying to say.

Later on, as I'm drawing this, I still edit, I improvise a little bit, I change some things. It’s all just to see what is it, what is the character telling you and how does it feel. The next step is in this drawing is to just kind of see right there I'm pointing out some areas where I forgot something or I missed something. And I'm also not using the point of the pencil; I'm using the side of it to shade with. I'm adding a shading or rendering and when I do this I'm thinking about the direction of light; so I put that little arrow of light to say that maybe the sunlight is coming from above. And I'm just adding the dark areas for, you know, where this character will have dark hair, or dark shadows. And then I'm gently just kind of shading the body parts, and trying to give a sense of the volume of, you know, curves and trying to give you a sense of what's in front of you. What's closer to the eye, and what’s farther away. So you'll see the arms. Some of the arms are more bright some are more darker; just to show what is in the front, and what is in the back. And with the shading we just want to, again, give some volume and play around.

It doesn't have to be perfect. And the more you do it, the more fun it gets. You really just want to have fun. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake. I make tons of mistakes while I'm drawing. Tt's fine just to play. Play around and see what you can come up with when you’re shading.

[Music playing…] 

You’ll notice that in my initial sketch, I drew a little bit of a circle around it, and I’m going to draw another circle in this final drawing. I’m using a CD here, but you can use a cup as I showed, a Tupperware. Whatever you can find that fits the shape that you want. Then what I’m doing, I’m sticking with the color blue, or that monotone palette, and I’m just picking a different blue. And again, when I draw, I’m not using the point of it for shaind garound this background. I’m turning the pencil sideways so I can kind of get the most of the colored pencil when I'm shading it. And I'm just doing this really lightly at first. Very lightly and then later, I will come back and make it a little bit darker. And the reason for that is just to give it a little bit more depth. 

And that's pretty much it. After I do that, I’m pretty much done with it. 

I just wanted to draw some characters that are…look like they're having fun. They’re jumping. And I know I had fun while I was drawing it. So I hope you enjoy this and stay tuned for more from the Wexner Center. Peace.

Image courtesy of the artist

Music: "Easy Lemon" by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license 

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