Ideas for picture books can come from anything and from anywhere but for this workshop we started by creating characters from shapes.
First, everybody painted lots and lots of shapes. We had three colours to choose from, a muted yellow and red and a brilliant turquoise. For the first shapes we were only allowed to use the warm colours. After we had a good stack each we piled them all on the floor and chose a dozen, from any but the ones we ourselves had painted, then we took them back to our desks and tried turning them into characters by drawing over the top in a darker line.
Sometimes we were free to do whatever we felt fit, other times I would get everybody to try and do the same thing. I seem to remember that everybody had to do at least one cowboy and at least one cow... When all those were done we picked a single shape that we wanted to retry and painted that shape another dozen times. Now we turned the twelve similar shapes into twelve different characters.
|these pictures are from a worksheet I made to explain things!
By this time we had a huge pile of characters and I asked everyone to pick one, no matter who had drawn it, for them to develop.
Beginning with the shape again, we painted at least a dozen shapes that we knew were going to be this character we had chosen.
|here are some great beasts by Daniela Martagón... click the picture to go to her blog!
Finally we drew random shapes and tried to 'force' our characters into them.
Once we had explored these characters quite thoroughly we went on to make a group around them.
I wanted us to make a companion for the character, based on a rearrangement of their basic shape and colour, a complimentary character who would make an interesting visual contrast with the initial character whilst keeping many points in common, and an opposite for them, using very different shapes and our one, cold colour.
Here are some Mariachi band members I made up at this point...
As before, we would select our favourite from those we had drawn and try and refine it by redrawing, always starting with a flat colour shape.
I liked this one:
Here is his friend:
And his opposite or antagonist: