Last year I took the second character design class offered by Schoolism.com entitled Character Design 2 with Stephen Silver. This course was taught by Stephen Silver, a professional character designer working in the field of animation. He has worked on shows like Disney Channel‘s Kim Possible and Nickelodeon‘s Danny Phantom. Like I mentioned this is the second character design course I’ve taken from Schoolism and if you would like to read my thoughts on the first class you can read them here.
If you are not familiar with what Schoolism.com is, it’s an online school with courses being taught by working professionals. The classes normally consist of nine lessons and each lessen is a prerecorded lecture with the instructor walking you through that week’s subject. Before you sign up you need to decide if you want to take a self-taught version or an instructor led course. Self-taught versions are a teach yourself at your own pace with all the videos being unlocked once you start. The videos are only available for 100 days with the Self-taught class. In the instructor led version of the class the class will start on a certain day and a new video will be unlocked each week as you move throughout the 14 week course. At the end of each lesson the instructor will give you homework and if you took the instructor led version the teacher will critique your homework. This feedback is normally a 10 to 20 minute video of the instructor reviewing your work and telling you how you could improve your technique. Each assignment normally has around a week to complete. The difference in price between these two options is significant with the self-taught class being around 500 dollars and the instructor led course being around 1000.
For me I have taken both the self-taught and teacher led versions and have found the instructor feed back to be great but pricey. So for Character Design 2 I took it as a self-taught class. My thoughts are only based on the video content and not the instructor’s feedback on the homework.
It also must be said that this class was touted as a stand-alone class that you don’t have to take with Character Design One. I partially agree with this statement but there were several times during the course where Stephen Silver referred back to Character Design One. To me it felt like Character Design One was a course that would give you a foundation of character design techniques and the second course continues to build on the foundation that Character Design One had set up. If you feel comfortable enough with the principles of character design you probably could hop right in with the second course. If you’re not sure, Schoolism says on their class description that if you’re not sure if you’re ready for Character Design 2 they will critique your portfolio and let you know which course is best for you.
Now onto what Character Design 2 talked about each week. The first lesson was about looking for good control of positive and negative space (avoiding the “latter”), strong shape variation, and how to apply the golden mean to your designs. The first week’s homework was to design a cowboy character. This assignment was more of a get to know your work for Stephen since he had never seen the students’ work before. He only wanted us to design one character but since I took this class as a self-taught class I decided to design three characters. Lesson two was about learning about the importance of being able to design in different styles. He talked about the differences between feature animation and full-length feature films. Also, he talks about his work on the TV show Danny Phantom and he creates a new character that would fit into that universe. The assignment for this week was to select a show or style that you admire and create a character that would fit in the same world. Week three’s discussion was on caricatures. Stephen talks you through his processes and thoughts on creating caricatures and designs several characters based on celebrities throughout the lesson. I bet you can guess what this week’s assignment was? That’s right, designing a character from an actual person. The next lesson (4) is on designing female characters with the homework assignment being to draw three waitresses from three different shapes that he assigns. The shapes I selected for this assignment were: hourglass, pear and a prism. Chapter five is about the importance of reference. Six’s lecture is about how to work within the framework of a storyboard and adapt your characters to a pre-existing story. For this week’s homework, Stephen gives you rough sketches of a character which you need to refine and finalize the images, and create two additional poses for the same character. The next two lectures are about drawing specific types of characters. Seven is about drawing anthropomorphic animal characters and eight is about creating children characters and how to make them feel a certain age. The homework assignments for seven and eight relate very closely to the subjects they are about. The final lecture is on “the artist’s journey” and is about Passion, Motivation, and Success. It’s basically an inspirational lecture for the first half as Steven Silver talks about his journey as an artist. Additionally, in this lesson he talks about building your brand and he finishes this section up with how to be a professional with contracts and e-mailing clients. The final assignment is Stephen critiquing your online brand and the work that can be found on your portfolio site.
So, did I find Character Design 2 with Stephen silver helpful? Yes, it was very helpful. A lot of good information and he gives good insight into what working in the animation industry would be like. There were several weeks where I wish I had purchased the instructor led class. Specifically, weeks one and nine. In Week one, I wasn’t entirely sure about how to apply the golden mean to my characters and it would’ve been great to get some assistance with that. Although, it must be said with the self-taught versions you do have access to other students’ feedback videos. So I was able to watch them and get a pretty good idea about what Stephen’s thoughts were on the golden mean. It would’ve been great to also have gotten feedback on the final week’s critique. Simply because Stephen critiques your portfolio and tells you what you can do better to brand yourself and that would’ve been great. I would’ve loved to have this information up front because it might have swayed me to purchase the full course. I still found the self taught version to be a great value.
Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.