Toy Tech: The Essence of Character


Charcoal Painting 2015, Joseph Sapulich


Recently, I did a portrait of a very important person in the toy industry. Her unique character goes a long way to create company loyalty and to build a healthy corporate culture. Under her watch, she has already set many innovative policies in place, energizing the soul of the organization.

When creating concept art for toy ideation, film design or product development, capturing the unique essence of the character for that specific subject is extremely important. If you do, your concept art will bring your idea to life with a dynamic visual.

Find the most important area of your subject and focus on that with as much charm and energy as possible. Everything else can lose detail and recede into the background—but that one specific area capturing the essence of character must be clearly articulated and highly defined.

In this case, her eyes clearly speak volumes regarding her personality. So, the smile, hair and clothing details recede in importance and simply serve to support the most important area of emotional impact.

She isn’t just a company President, but someone who, on a daily basis, says hello to her employees and even knows their names—a very rare combination of strength and heart. All of that shows in her eyes—it’s the essence of who she is. Miss that and you miss it all.

The same is true for any toy concept, whether it is a character or a vehicle—everything has a unique central point defining the essence of what makes that specific toy unique. Capture the essence and you capture the imagination of the viewer.

It’s impossible to visually focus on a specific area of your work if it is super detailed and in sharp focus. This portrait, for example, would lose all emotional impact if it were rendered photo-realistically. The details would dull the impact, making the image an uninteresting academic rendering with no soul.

A word of warning to you young toy design students—just because a sketch looks loose doesn’t mean it can be drawn incorrectly. In this style, you can’t pile up detail to cover the mistakes. Simplifying an image and bringing it down to it’s bare essence is much harder to achieve, because all of the elements need to be in just the right place or the effect is off.

So, keep in mind, by adding a little bit of magic to your concept sketches just may be the difference between pitching an idea and actually seeing it proudly displayed on the retail shelves. Know what makes your toy idea stand out from the rest and make sure that is your focal point. Start from there and everything else will fall into place.

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