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Detective Work

Rune Hansen tells us how he worked to bring his stylized detective to life with the help of Nate Wragg in Character Design for Production.


Hi, my name is Rune F.B. Hansen and I took a course with CGMA called “Character Design for Production” taught by Nate Wragg. I am going to break down my process and go through the creation of the character Booth Blackwood I did for the course.

I’ve done quite a lot of schooling, a bachelor’s in Computer Graphic Art from The Animation Workshop, a few fine art courses, and now online art courses. I worked mostly as a background artist on animated short films and tv shows, tried my hand at art direction (check out “Grandma’s Hero” on youtube!), even directed a ted-ed short about Norse mythology (also on youtube), but those jobs are few and far between when you are starting out.

So I started to feel stuck because you tend to get hired for the jobs where you’ve proven you can do the work and my portfolio was mostly full of stuff I did not want to do. So in a quest to improve both my skills and make a new portfolio I decided to do some online courses and heard a lot of good stuff about CGMA.

Designing a Character With a Story

For the first week, we had to come up with the idea/story of a character and then use that to sketch it out. Nate told us to keep it loose, come up with a few key story points and sketch a character from it, and most importantly trust the process and stay loose.

I’d been wanting to do a noir detective story for some time and I love horror so mixing them seemed like the perfect idea― a werebear detective that hunts monsters! But as I drew him it seemed more like two characters than one and I would prefer to practice drawing a human character so I focused on the detective aspect and waited on the bear part. I wanted an old school look and needed a weakness to balance out his brilliant detective brain. So gave him a war wound that requires him to use a cane, which would also help me develop a second character later on.

Character Pose & Expression Sheets

After some great critic and positive feedback from Nate, I pushed the shapes and design of the character more, and staying loose and sketchy helped implement the feedback fast and easily. Doing the poses really nailed down the story and helped me decide what kind of person my character was. I did some self posing with a broomstick too. You can’t be afraid to look silly if you need some good reference!

I had a lot of fun with the expressions, where the poses helped get a feel of the character and how he carries himself, the expressions pulled out the personality. A lot of fun to do, a lot of doing silly faces in a mirror and trying out styles for eyes, nose, and hair. I found out I still wanted the animal part in there, just hidden, maybe for future use. So his anger, scowl, and facial hair are all a reflection of that.

Model Sheets

Doing the turnarounds was the biggest challenge for me, having only done a few before this and remembering how much I dislike this part of the process, I struggled getting it done. Forcing the character into such a static pose, making you question every decision you made, and easily seeing all the flaws makes it hard. But getting it done and thinking in 3D also helped me understand the character better and made it easier, and faster, for me to redraw him over and over again.

Hero Pose

Coming up with a good hero pose means using everything I have learned about my character, going back and looking at the list of characteristics from the first week, and combining it with the evolution my character has gone through with each drawing. Of course, I took a lot of silly photos of myself again with a broom because great reference is key!

I was a little afraid he would look to “Sherlock”, but I hoped the cane and mutton chops would help the character stand out. I tried out a handful of action poses, but him using his intellect and deductive nature felt better and more true to his strongest attributes.

Tie-Down & Clean-up

Cleaning up the turnaround was tough, with no sketchy lines to hide behind, all the small mistakes had to be fixed and the last decisions had to be made. Making sure everything lines up and is easily readable can be a lot of work and I found myself spending more time on it longer than I thought I would. I never really liked the dead look my character got from straight on, but Nate told me most characters look a bit off in a turnaround, so I made peace with it and moved on.

Cleaning up the poses and facial expressions were great fun. Adding the extra little details and applying all the great feedback I have gotten from Nate over the last few weeks really helped it all come together.

Cinematic Moment

Having studied films for years and directed a few short films, this was my favorite part of the whole course. Setting up a dramatic moment, making your characters act and feel is a lot of fun, and makes your character look alive and part of a larger story.

For my second character, I wanted someone that was different complimented  Blackwood. I made a physically strong policewoman that would be just as renegade like him, but very different in personality. Of course, she is less fleshed out compared to Blackwood, I only had a few days to draw her compared to the weeks of work put into him, but she turned out okay. I might redesign her for future use.

The cinematic moment itself is of a murder they have to solve and I hoped to capture the old school noir look, feel, and the difference between the character in their standing pose and in action.

Final Thoughts

Taking this class was just what I needed after a few years doing the same low-level stuff on jobs. I was losing the joy of drawing. This was a great way to spice things up again and Nate is an amazing teacher. He’s good at giving the right amount of praise and critic and after each week I felt energized and ready to start the next part instead of feeling burned out. His teaching is full of positive energy and it rubs off on you, makes you want to do your best, and trusting the process makes it less stressful and more fun when you don’t have to worry too much about how nice everything looks.

Overall it was an amazing 8 hard and busy weeks and I plan to use what I learned in my art from now on and see if I can push it even further.
You can see more from Rune here:

ArtStation:  https://www.artstation.com/runehansen
portfolio:  https://runehansen.artstation.com/
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/runeh42/