I became fascinated recently by how some artists/illustrators are able to create characters based on real people. I wanted to understand what it was they took from the real person that made the character recognisable. I began a little illustration project that I am plugging away at as and when I have the time.

marimoreno’s animal-ised Game of Thrones characters were the big inspiration for this, Sansa looks just like Sansa! I’m going to ask my sister if I can add a photo of her to this, as it won’t be entirely clear how much the later iterations look like her unless I do. Watch this space!

Practising Illustration—Real to Cartoon

Iteration 1 was a simple digital sketch. The face doesn’t quite fit, and it was then I realised that there were no Disney characters with similar hair that I could compare!

Exploring the characteristics of Disney illustrations has been interesting as well. The style here is inspired by it, but by no means perfect. I’ve used more detail than they have (at the most recent iteration), and think I need to continue to reduce it when colour is properly added in.

Practising Illustration Iteration 2—Real to Cartoon

The second sketch was more accurate. Her eyes doing most of the talking in terms of recognition—eyes seem to be key. I got a bit excited and coloured some things in. Still a bit confused with the hair, but getting closer.

To add even more complication, I decided to add her horse. The horse depicted is her actual horse, and for the most-part looks just like him. That too, will become clearer with colour, I think.

Practising Illustration Iteration 3—Real to Cartoon

For the third iteration, I gave her a dress. A hybrid of an actual dress I gave her (the top half) and a more Disney-fied gown for the lower half. Adding in her horse made positioning things tricky. I had a good reference photograph for his position and expression which was very helpful! The plasters on his leg and face are to illustrate how accident prone he is. The duck is a Hunger Games reference that I use as a term of endearment. It’s all in the details!

Practising Illustration Iteration 3.5—Real to Cartoon

Moving into Illustrator was tricky, but necessary for an initial cleanup. Again I got overexcited about colour, and did some before getting the strokes right. I felt like her expression needed some work here, to be closer to the second sketch. I also started to have problems with her left arm. Perspective is tricky!

Practising Illustration Iteration 4—Real to Cartoon

I moved in closer to her face and started reworking the expression, however realised removing the colour and working on the stroke widths was the answer. Disney tapers its strokes in different ways, and often the colours are variants of the colour nearest to them. Getting the structure right first was going to be integral to this.

Practising Illustration Iteration 5—Real to Cartoon

This is where we are at the moment. The horse has had some stroke adjustment as well, but I’ve focussed on her face a lot more. Going back to something that looks messier than what you had before can be scary, but it can be necessary to do to get somewhere even better!

Sometimes I begin something and then find the answers I need without finishing it. I sort of have with this, but am aiming to finish it anyway. I’m still amazed at how you can remove a lot of the detail from someone’s face, but still be able to recognise them.