I recently took a really great character design course at the Animation Collaborative with Pixar Character Designer Dan Holland.
During the last several sessions of the class we worked with the Story Class team and their teacher/director Louis Gonzales to develop character designs for their story. I focused on the satan character, "Booker", who is a voodoo supernatural otherworldly creature.
I first started with a lot of research on voodoo both in the Caribbean and in Africa. I found some amazing reference and riffed on the designs keeping in mind that the creature underneath was supernatural.
These are my first pass very rough 5 minute sketches meant for exploration:
I also explored some ideas with incorporating alligator features in his face, since alligators are a common animal in the New Orleans region. These were super quick, like 5 minutes each - just gut reaction sketches.
After creating lots and lots of quick "gut reaction" sketches like the above, I started seeing if I could combine the two ideas into one. I gravitated toward a black gown, a skull with alligator like teeth embellishments as well as possibly gold filigrees, and necklaces that have lots of jewels and charms. I wanted the hands to suggest that the guy under there was not a human but some other being. I wanted the eyes to look like alligator eyes.
I narrowed in on the historical concept of satan: a former man who then became an angel, who then fell from grace and became the devil. I thought about what he looked like as a man, then an angel, and then the devil. I wanted to incorporate some evidence of that story into his design.
I wondered what he looked like without his mask - a demon with alligator teeth and eyes, alligator skin and maybe even snakes crawling all over him. Perhaps the mask he wears is the skull of his former human being self.
The Booker/devil character in the story presents the main character, Lou, with a magical trumpet that can play anything he wants with the expertise of a seasoned artist.
I thought he might also sit on a throne of sorts made of animal skins, horns and imagery that symbolized fate. I didn't have time to explore the throne more than this - I would like to go back and do a much more thorough exploration.
After presenting these to the director Louis and the story team, Louis felt that the Booker character was even more of a human being than I depicted him rather than a demon like creature. I went back to the drawing board and did some more sketching. The story team really liked the quick sketches I did of the character in a zoot suit with charms and a head dress but wanted a human face.
So I worked up some exploration of variants of the head dress, all based on the alligator motif with feathers, shells and sometimes horns. I also like incorporating charms which seem common in voodoo art.
The one I liked the best is in the middle. His design is derived from african mask animal designs. I thought his beard might be dread locks with some charms worked in. I looked at patterns of fabrics from African voodoo culture and tried to think about how I might incorporate those designs into the zoot suit. I also tried adding some pins like you would see in a voodoo doll.
I think I could probably come up with many, many more concepts for this character, but I want to make some final decisions now that the class has ended. I'd like to paint these up and also put them into some compositions.