Tutorials & tips

Design Tutorial: How to Overcome a Creative Block

Learn to create characters by setting your pencil free and leaving your comfort zone, with these tips from Cecy Meade

Drawing for pleasure is usually fun, however, drawing every day for a living can be wearing. If you have to constantly churn out new characters, you will of course have days where you feel less inspired or you just can’t find a way to create something fresh and original.

To help you overcome these creative blocks and tap into your creativity, designer and 2D and 3D illustrator Cecy Meade shares her top tips below. Although they focus on character design, these tips can be applied to any illustration task or, in fact, any creative task.

Take inspiration from an everyday object

You needn’t spend hours racking your brain before getting to work. To create your character, start by taking inspiration from any old object that you have nearby. You can use it as a reference while you draw. Cecy has chosen a small potted cactus. You can choose whatever you like–for example, a mug, a pencil, a pen–as long as it isn’t too complicated to draw.

You can begin by drawing its original shape or creating a close resemblance, and then later you can play with this and experiment.

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Cecy Meade uses an everyday object, such as a cactus, to overcome a creative block

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

To start, Cecy Meade recommends using a pen instead of a pencil, so that you can’t erase what you draw. This way, you won’t be able to correct any mistakes and you’ll discover that they will help you to find new creative pathways.

Play with the features of the original object

Now it’s time to experiment: taking the original shape, begin to distort its features to create new characters. In the case of the cactus, Cecy Meade tries out different characters, giving them bigger eyes and smaller eyes, or bodies which are longer or wider, or more childish features or more adult ones. The idea is to create a “family” of characters and explore different bodies and expressions. When you have a professional deadline, you can take these different features and apply them to the character you are creating.

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Create a lots of variations of the same object as a way to train your imagination

Keep practicing until you’ve run out of space

Cecy Meade recommends following these steps: take a unique character or an object and make changes to it, which could be infinite, until you come up with features that you really like. Then, Cecy fills pages and pages with different versions of the same character, exploring all her options.

You often get interesting results if you always play with the same shapes or silhouettes, however, combine them with different bodies and facial expressions.

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Play with similar shapes, in this case = curves, to discover new characters

If you have enjoyed this tutorial, learn to transfer your characters from paper into new dimensions with Cecy Meade’s online course, Introduction to the Creation of Characters and 3D Modelling with Maya.

Discover Cecy’s tips in the following video:


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