While every artist’s process is different, almost all of us can relate to a very specific frustration: starting over. Nothing compares to the feeling you get after spending hours on a project, pouring your heart into it, only to be told to start over. It can be for any combination of reasons: it should be in another medium, the character design needs to be reworked, or it simply doesn’t feel right. In any circumstance, it means restarting, and sometimes that can feel like you’ve wasted all those hours on the initial product. Of course, this is something we’ll experience again and again, especially in the field of animation, wherein designs often go through a slew of different artists before being finalized. In such cases, it’s important to keep in mind the flexible nature of designing– in both professional and personal projects –and I’ve found that development art is a great way to stay inspired.
CharacterDesignReferences.com is a great resource for studying and inspiration, as it archives development art from every animation genre you could possibly think of. Whether your interest lies in anime or the latest big budget films, you can find some of its earliest content on this site, and by extension, a lot of art that was ultimately unused.
One collection I found particularly interesting was that of the 2012 movie, Hotel Transylvania. The characters are drawn in dozens of styles and mediums, ranging from heavy graphite sketches to clean, precise digital rendering. Most of them look nothing like the final product, looking closer to children’s book illustrations then the classic Sony Picture Animation style present in the film we know today. But looking through all the variations, it’s easy to see that they all played a vital role in nailing down the perfect designs. Elements from every illustration were pieced together to find the most compelling version possible. So while all those artists worked tirelessly on concepts that would never see the light of day, their influence is visible all the same.
I think this is something great to keep in mind while working on your own projects; when one thing is rejected, by yourself or an employer, you can still rest assured that it wasn’t for nothing. It brought you another step closer to the ideal design.
It goes without saying that the website is a wonderful resource for more than just development art. It exhibits countless examples of beautiful concept art, artist interviews, and anatomy references, so I highly recommend taking a while to explore everything it has to offer!
Featured Image: CharacterDesignReferences.com