Character development Archives - The Singing Bone

The Singing Bone Brothers

Brothers of the Singing Bone

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To distinguish between the two brother in my first rendition of the characters, I simply added hair and moustache to Simpleton. The idea was that Simpleton, in the end, was his own worst enemy, and he is killed by an extension of himself. The idea still appeals to me, but it felt a bit too rushed of a reveal.

The understanding of seeing part of myself in the evil that hurt me comes further along the journey. After all, how can I learn to forgive someone who never sought to express regret? In these early moments of the story, a clearer distinction still needs to be made between the person being hurt, and the person doing the hurting. I also found a new opportunity to highlight Simpleton’s naivety by making the brother much more menacing in appearance and having Simpleton seemingly oblivious to it. When he presents the boar’s head to his brother, it is with a big smile, despite the brothers’ aggressive charge and demeanour, he is not the slightest bit afraid. After all, at this point in his life, he has no reason to believe that was is traditionally a source of love and support (brother, family) would turn out to hurt him.

In the end, perhaps I can have the ‘evil’ brother shave off his hair only to reveal a striking resemblance to Simpleton underneath. Only with empathy, and seeing parts of yourself in others, can the story be complete. I have grown to understand that this story also reflects my own struggles and feelings of betrayal from a person who was once my closest friend. I still hold onto that hurt, and I need to work through it.

The Singing Bone

Where a new face can come from

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Sometimes I can get ideas for drawings in the most unexpected places. In this case, a simple workout at the gym and noticing a sign on one of the machines I was using yielded a new face for one of the dwellers at the inn. I ended up naming her “Jana”.

My approach to this part of the story was a little more emotional. I started to give name to the characters I was drawing and assigning them stories in my head, even if they were not hugely important to the story itself. I did not want the drawings to be purely visual, I wanted something behind it that had life and a belief in the existence and importance of this world beyond the physical. That, in turn, I believed, would feed the visuals.


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I became overly concerned over small details that few people would even notice. In truth, I probably would have received better results if I had continued to work quickly and without too much restraint, but I could not help it. As it was, it would take me hours to create a drawing that a ‘real’ cartoonist or illustrator would do in 5 minutes. I would hurt myself a lot with this thought.

I would zoom into the drawings in photoshop and smooth out the lines as much as I could, despite the fact that I would then redraw everything in Illustrator afterwards. Using vector illustrations was a way of compensating for what I perceived to be a lack of talent and a growing insecurity. I had not drawn much in recent years and I was doubting myself. These computer softwares were a cushion and a way of enabling my desire to create in a very controlled environment.

The above drawing shows the evolution from paper, to Photoshop, to one year later when I tried redrawing the face again and going through the same process. Some improving, but I have long ways to go to get to the point that I hope to be. Strangely, every step of the way, I’m aware of a quality in the drawings just enough to to convince myself to keep going and move forward. There always comes a point in the future when I look back and wonder what quality I saw in the drawings in the first place that led me to pursue the project. After all, my more realistic work was still getting more attention.

My state of mind was summed up well by a friend in their message to me in December of 2012.

“I hope you start putting yourself back into the equation. Art is all about self-expression and you’re cheating it (i.e. Art) and yourself if “you” are not in what you create – which I’m sure you already know. But, you have to be ready and willing to see what comes out – I’ve shocked myself in the past with some of the things I’ve sketched. But, all of it represents my emotions, which are commonly very raw and obvious in my creations.
Then again, who knows, maybe you never really took yourself out of the equation… maybe the feelings you have about the “human touch” and imperfections are what kept you from including it in your work. The mind is definitely a curious thing : )
But one things for sure, you gotta start having fun with it.”

The Beginning

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I first started working on the Singing Bone in the summer of 2009. It has been a love and hate relationship ever since. I remember first drawing the main character of Simpleton late one night when I was very tired in my apartment in Cote St-Luc. My first instinct was to wait until the next day when I would hopefully be more awake but I’m glad that I went through with it anyway. Some of my better drawings came when I was most tired. I was quite happy with at the time but I’ve been feeling shy about showing these early sketches ever since.

I was inspired by the naive and puppet-like quality of the characters in Henri Rousseau’s paintings. Portraits and realism always came easier for me but I struggled with ‘cartoon-like’ work. yet, for some reason, I always gravitated back to comics. The subtlety that lends itself well to realism does not work so much when applied to comics, at least, not the way I applied it. I was also clearly still in my shell and carried a lot of insecurity in regards to the quality of my drawings at that time as I had spent the years prior not focusing that much on illustration at all and focusing more on my graphic design career.