Moomins, Yna and Occams Razor

On the 25th I attended an online workshop by the London Drawing Club, Tove Jansson: Drawing Moomins, in which I learnt a little more about the artist and tried my hand at drawing the simple little character over and over again. Not as easy as it seems but it became almost meditative, and by the end of the session I realised it touched on something I’ve been stuck on lately.

As someone who is self taught, I’m very aware I can always use more practice with basic skills. I also really enjoy the finishing touches such as colour and texture and can get caught up in these rather than working more on a sketch simply because that’s the bit I enjoy the most. So, I get overwhelmed and just stick to drawing the pretty things because I think it’s better to be drawing something. Or, I get stuck because I feel that I shouldn’t be making art for the sake of it.

At present I’ve been a bit stuck. I’m overwhelmed by everything I need to work on. Lots of notes and pointers I’ve been collecting from feedback have compiled into a decent sized list, and it’s hard not to think of them all at once. This class made me realise I needed to pull back and simplify. I couldn’t stop drawing Moomins and playing around with expression’s. Slowly, I started to explore a simple character of my own using the exercises from the workshop and it’s been so refreshing.

Perhaps a lucky coincidence then, that Rebecca Green’s (@Rebeccagreenillustration) blog/pateron video this month was also surrounding the theme of simplicity. I played the video in the background as I worked in my sketchbook and slowly I began to develop an old character – Yna . Green talked about the difficulty of simplifying owing to the fact that its hard to whittle down what is essential. I knew however, that I was simplifying to avoid hyper focussing and so I chose to omit the details that I’d usually fuss over.

I get caught up in the facial details worrying about making every character look the same. So, I wanted to have only one prominent facial feature. It was between a mouth and a nose. I thought a mouth was a more fun shape. The function of the hair is two fold. It hides the other features and I thought it could be drawn into different shapes to push expression later.

Hands are the enemy of progress in many an illustration of mine so I definitely had to simplify them. I’ve seen both Green, and Sha’an d’Anthes (@furrylittlepeach) use lines like this for hands in simple sketches, and it really took the pressure off. I usually wouldn’t like that it leaves the hands open, but I gave in when I realised that not all the lines meet anyway, and I can ‘close’ them with colour later.

Then of course there is the question of what to keep, things that are nice but not necessary. I get way too invested in my characters clothes, but I still didn’t want to get rid of everything I like. So I knew I was going to simplify here too, but I couldn’t resist having some fun. A cowgirl needs a hat, and boots at a minimum. I may loose the belt though. I’m reminded of Chanel’s take one thing off quote and think two stars might be too much.

While I was in a good flow I decided to play around with expression. It’s amazing how much energy, and expression a line can carry!

Then I wanted to push the expressions further. I felt that though the faces alone were quite expressive the simplicity of Yna’s design meant that the expression would need to be carried through the whole body to be exaggerated.

Playing around with this character design has cleared the way to a new direction in style for me. It feels like this style will allow me to loosen up and practice without feeling so overwhelmed. At the very least I’m excited to see who this character grows into. I already have an idea for a companion but I’m trying not to get ahead of myself!

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