The art of creating heroes


One of the projects I’m working on this fall is an artist-in-residency at a local elementary school. This is a neat five-week project in which I work with a single classroom of Grade 5 and 6 students to develop and design heroic characters. Our end project is to create a detailed display that will show the different aspects of the character, including a written profile, a detailed illustration, a pose and expression model sheet, and some three-dimensional props.

For the first session, I introduced the topic by discussing famous characters from literature and film and showing some of the common traits and themes we find in those characters’  journeys. I also showed the students how I came to develop some of my own heroic characters, not only in my Kendra Kandlestar series, but for a new book I’m working on. I brought in a stack of my brainstorming journals and the students were able to flip through and discover some of my different character-building pages.


Afterwards, the students were each given their own sketchbooks and they set to work doing some brainstorming of their own, concentrating on unique abilities, specific physical traits, and interesting names. (I’m a big believer in interesting names!)


We’ve actually already completed the second workshop, in which we attacked our character design from a tactile perspective, building props and imagining costumes. But I will talk about in a separate post—I’ve been so busy, I’m playing catch up!

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