3.12 Animal farm

The purpose of this exercise was to try doing some character design.

Key words from the brief:

  • Develop an animal character that is capable of showing a range of emotions, movements and reactions to different situations
  • Come up with extreme examples such as ecstatic or terrified
  • Explore what these expressions might look like extended into the body
  • Develop a range of drawings showing your character from different angles, with different expressions and in different poses.
  • You may want to develop some model-making


I started this exercise the week before Christmas and with this in mind decided to develop a turkey character. I thought it would be possible to build a sequence around the concept of ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’, an idea somewhat inspired by the recent General Election.

Additionally, I was looking for a farm animal that would be easy to draw from different angles. It seemed to me that I should be able to easily construct the turkey body out of a small number of geometric shapes. Keeping the design simple would make animating it at some point easier.

Character design

I did some internet research to find turkey farm reference to work from and then spent a couple of hours loosely drawing to become familiar with the subject and to try out different materials/visual approaches.

As these became more refined I used Donald Duck reference to help me create the facial expressions.

Sketch book page05
Heads with different expressions
Sketch book page06
Posture development


I decided to work up two versions of the character into finished artwork.

Happy turkey

I was mindful that the basis of this exercise was to create a character that could be animated, so the design was intentionally build from component parts e.g. the body in the sketches below is the same with different heads.

Turkey front sequence sketches
Reference sketches composited together

The inked-up lineart was created on a lightbox using a Pelikan Fountain Pen and black Indian Ink.

Character inked on a lightbox – artwork approx. A4 sized

I scanned  the line art and then added colour using Photoshop.

Happy turkey artwork
Happy turkey final artwork coloured in Photoshop

Angry turkey

The second character was created using the same process.

Angry turkey thumbnail composite
Reference sketch made by compositing thumbnails together
Thumbnail and lightbox
Inked image on lightbox
Inked artwork
Angry turkey artwork
Angry turkey coloured in Photoshop


What went well

  • I was pleased with the result and the exercise gave me some insight and confidence in character development, an area that I need to develop.
  • It was sensible to keep it quite simple because this enabled me to concentrate on posture and expression.
  • It was interesting to look back to a similar exercise from Key steps in Illustration called 4.7 Character development . I feel like compared to the Illustration 1 exercise, I’m now more confident and assured in my approach.

What I’d do differently/better

  • If I’d had more time I would have tried making a very basic wireframe animation in Animate.
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