A popular exercise for cartoonists and character designers is to randomly pick from a list of characteristics (occupations, personality types, animal types, emotions, etc.) and then sketch a cartoon character based on them. Some artists, such as Chris Ayers, actually keep a Ziploc bag full of little slips of paper with such traits written on them. They pull out a few and then sketch a character that matches whatever combo they get. After reading one of Chris Ayers’ books I created my own ziploc bag, which I blogged about here.
Stephen Silver recently released a terrific iOS app called “Character Design Shuffle” (iTunes link), which takes this concept into the digital age. Simply select from a group of categories, hit the “Shuffle” button, and then draw the results that pop up. It’s a terrific tool and in hindsight its amazing someone didn’t come up with this idea sooner.
I’ve had the app on my phone for a few weeks but have been so slammed with work that I didn’t get a chance to try it out until this morning. The app gave me this description: “Female, Weasel, Doctor, Scurrying, Devastated”. The above warm-up sketch is the result.
For the past couple of years I’ve been doing little bits of animation and/or character design for the DVD series “What’s In The Bible?” from VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer.
Volume 11 has just been released. It covers the book of Acts, explaining what happened after Jesus ascended back into Heaven and how His followers travelled the known world telling others about Him. There are lots of stories including miracles, persecution, imprisonments, and even martyrdom.
Perhaps the most well-known character is Saul, an angry Pharisee who took special delight in chasing down Christians and throwing them in jail. That is, until the day when Jesus appeared to him face-to-face. Saul became a new man, changed his name to Paul, and spent the rest of his life traveling thousands of miles to spread the good news about Jesus. Along the way he also wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament.
My job was to design Paul. Besides looking like he belonged in the same world as the other characters he had to have a face that could look like an intimidating villain at the beginning of the story and a kindly, likable friend by the end of the story. So it was a bit of a challenge. The client also requested that he have a slender build, dark eyebrows, and a goatie.
I started by doing a bunch of thumbnails, searching for the right look:
Eventually we settled on the following design:
Here’s the trailer for Episode 11:
And here’s a clip showing Saul’s conversion:
You can order “What’s In The Bible?” volume 11 either as a DVD or as a digital download at whatsinthebible.com. I don’t get any royalties or kickback if you buy, I just really believe in the project.
Last year I did some work on the new VeggieTales DVD that’s just now hitting the shelves, called “The Little House That Stood” (Amazon link). My comp copy came in the mail today. It features two stories: The first combines the Three Little Pig with the biblical parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. The second story is a goofy retelling of Humpty Dumpty.
I was hired to do a smattering of concept art for this episode: I roughed out some early costume concepts; illustrated a few pieces of texture art for some signage and misc. props; and designed a cartoon goose that Larry calls “Mother”.
First, here’s the turnarounds for the goose I designed and a screen shot of the final animation:
In the first story Larry, Bob, and Mr. Lunt appear as construction workers. Here’s some quick, rough thumbnails I whipped up of possible costume ideas:
Finally, I created several pieces of texture art for the show. Here’s two of them: A backdrop for a weather forecast, and a fold-out map for use as a prop. (I slipped in a reference to the original “Superman” movie on the map. See if you can spot it.):
(Click to enlarge.)
You can order the DVD “The Little House That Stood” from Amazon or from your favorite Christian retailer.
It’s been over a year since I last refreshed my PDF Portfolios. Since I just posted a brand spankin’ new logo, I thought it would be a good time to update them as well. The new portfolios come in four flavors: Character Design, Toy Design, Illustration, and FPO/Comp Art. Click the links to download or grab them off my Downloads page. They’re yours to keep so print them out, file them away, or share them with your friends.
Contact me if I can ever be of service and, as always, thanks for your interest in my work!
Recently I posted some character design sketches I did for volume 10 of “What’s In The Bible?”, the new DVD series from Veggietales creator Phil Vischer. Using the regular mixture of puppets, animation, and live-action this two-part DVD covers the time between the Old and New Testaments and then the story of the Gospels – in other words the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I just got my copy and after watching it for the first time I gotta say I was really pleased with how it turned out. I think I can safely say this is my favorite episode so far.
Here’s the trailer for Volume 10. If you’ll allow me to play salesman for a moment, you can order physical DVDs or digital downloads at www.whatsinthebible.com. Also, if you subscribe to JellyTelly.com you can stream all episodes of “What’s In The Bible?” to any computer or mobile device.
And no, I don’t earn any royalties or kickbacks from sales of the videos. I just really believe in the project (both it’s content and quality) and I want to help spread the word.
Last year I was hired by Goldfish Swim Schools to create a mascot for their company, a goldfish named “Bubbles”. They liked the mascot so much that they’ve since hired me to create a series of stick-on tattoos and coloring book pages for children featuring Bubbles in various costumes and themes. They’ll distribute one per month for an entire year. I recently completed the first coloring book page, with a pirate theme. More to come.
As some of you know, one of my clients is VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. Over the past few months he’s hired me to do little snippets of animation here and there for his new educational series “What’s In The Bible?”. Recently he wrapped up a 9-DVD series on the Old Testament and started work on the New Testament, which is the part of the Bible that covers everything from the life of Jesus onward.
I’m an OK animator but one of my specialties is character design. I was pretty excited (and a little humbled) when Phil asked me to design several of the major characters from the life of Jesus, including the Disciples. Another artist had already designed Jesus so my job was to create characters that looked like they belonged in the same “world” as Jesus, visually and stylistically.
(Click to enlarge)
I started with the Disciples. Since I wasn’t animating the characters, only designing them, to simplify things I used only three body types – large, medium, and skinny/small. That way the animators only had to build three “puppets” and then just decorate them with different heads and clothing.
I was also asked to design members of the four major Jewish sects that existed in Jesus’ day – the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots
The Pharisees (pictured above) were the religious conservatives of their day. They took the Scriptures very literally and were extremely strict about following all of the rules. They were also very self-righteous and spent a lot of time following Jesus around trying to trap him or trip him up.
The Sadducees were sort of the religious liberals of their day in that they held to a looser interpretation of Scripture, even going so far as to say there was no life after death. They were very wealthy and seemed more interested in politics than religion. They bent over backward to keep the Roman Empire happy.
The Essenes were a bit like monks. They pulled themselves away from normal society and started communes in the caves and hills, where they spent much of their time praying, reading, and making copies of religious texts.
The fourth group were the Zealots. They had a fiery religious passion and they hated being ruled by the Romans. They believed God should be their only ruler, and many Zealots had no problem using violence to achieve their goals. Interestingly, one of Jesus’ disciples (Simon) was a Zealot while another (Matthew) was a tax collector who had spent his life working for the Romans, yet both found peace and friendship through following Jesus.
I also designed the apostles Paul and Stephen, but since they don’t show up until the next DVD I’ll have to wait to show them to you.
Here’s a YouTube trailer for What’s In The Bible? Volume 10, the episode that uses these character designs. It should be available for purchase in February. In the mean time, Phil Vischer is currently offering a free download of the first episode using this link. If you have kids you might also want to know about JellyTelly.com, a subscription site (only $5/month) that gives you instant access to over 100 hours of Christian media for children, including every single episode of What’s In The Bible?. Just thought I’d mention that.
Merry Christmas everyone! I’d like to use the occasion of Christmas to post a link to an animation project I developed in 2010 for the ministry of Living Waters. They hired me to produce a short cartoon that explains the basic Christian message, and in a round-about way I hope it helps explain why the birth of Jesus Christ was such a big deal. To date it has received over 430,000 views on YouTube and has been subtitled into nineteen other languages. I only did some of the animation but I designed all of the characters, props, and backgrounds (the above image is based on a still from the cartoon). If you like the video you can download an HD version for free to use however you’d like.
If you haven’t already I’d be honored if you’d take five minutes out of your busy holiday to watch it. If not, thanks for indulging me. Either way, here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas and happy new year!
Earlier this year I was hired by a chain of swimming schools in Wisconsin to design a mascot for their company, Goldfish Swim Schools. You can see a few of the initial sketches here. They named the mascot “Bubbles”, and they liked him/her/it so much that they asked me to create themed variations for use on calendars, removable tattoos, etc. They gave me a list of themes, and the above image is what I came up with.
I recently completed a second batch of themed costumes that I hope I can show soon, and now I’m doing some coloring book art for them featuring Bubbles. If you’ve got company or brand that could use a mascot, drop me a line. I’d love to chat about how I can help you out. You might also want to read my blog post, The Power Of A Mascot.
My name is Cedric Hohnstadt. I own an illustration studio where I specialize in designing appealing characters and products. My clients tell me I'm reliable, professional, and bring fresh ideas to the table. More info...