Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thrifty Costume Design Part II: The Sketch

Last week I showed you my research process, now I will show you how that research becomes a design  sketch. I mentioned that I consolidate my research for each character onto one single sheet of paper. This makes my sketching process much more streamlined.  For today's example I'm going to use the sketches for the characters I am referring to as the clowns, lower class characters that provide the comic relief.

Step One: The Gathering of the Tools
I don't use anything too fancy, just a mechanical pencil and an eraser. My preferred sketch pad is whatever I've got floating around in my art supplies. I have this theory that paper gets toothier as it gets older. So I will buy a sketch pad once or twice a year and then I let it "age." When I go to do a little drawing I just pull out whatever I have that has a nice rough surface. I have a preference for Borden's Penny Bond, when I can get it. For coloring I have my trusty Le Pen and Prismacolor art markers.

Step Two: Put on an audio book or pop in a DVD. Preferably one I've seen or heard one hundred times already. If either of these options involve Harry Potter, so much the better.

Step Three: Chose a pose from the research or a photo, figure out the proportion and start sketchin'. I use the eight-head method of figure drawing. (Click on the link for an in depth tutorial.) I mark out my guidelines....

...and  layout my figures. The trick to really successful figure drawing is remembering that there are rules to the human body. Such as your shoulder line and hip line will always be either at opposing angles or parallel to each other. Or that you can only stand with your weight either evenly distributed on both feet or if your weight is mostly on one foot, then that foot will be always be directly under your chin. (Go ahead, try standing off balance, you may rejoin the class when you've picked yourself up off the floor.) 

Step Four: Draw The Clothes, picking and choosing from the research to figure out what the costume will be. I just keep drawing (and erasing) until I have a completed pencil sketch. Because I'm drawing from images of real clothes it's easier to figure out where the wrinkles and drape lines actually go. 

Step Five: Shading. Now, while I have drawn in wrinkles in the clothing, the drawings are still very two dimensional. Instead of sketching in the light and shadow, I prefer to paint it in. I take a Marvy Le Pen, this time I used brown, and ink the drawing like a cartoon. Then I take a wet brush and start "painting." Because the Le Pen is water soluble, the ink bleeds and creates the shadow and depth. It is also going to give my finished color drawings an overall "tint." Which in the case of the Steampunk element, is helpful in understanding the finished designs. 

If you are lucky, you have a helper...

Put down that brush and PET ME!!!
Step Six: Choose a Color Palette. The fun part for me is deciding what the color palette of the show will be. This takes clothes from the realm of the ordinary into the theatrical.  Shakespeare's plays usually have two or three different worlds of people and I like to choose a different palette for each world, sometimes unified, sometimes opposing.  In this case I used two different images from one artist, photographer Annie Leibovitz. 

Specifically this one from her Romeo and Juliet Series for the upper class world I am calling The Establishment.

And this one from her series with Queen Elizabeth II. These colors are a more traditional, warmer l Steampunk palette and will represent the lower class characters I am calling the Underground, which the Clowns are part of. 

As you can see, because they are both by the same artist, there are underlying tones that unify the photos.  There is also the use of the colors red and blue as an accent and unifying concept, especially in the R&J series. If all goes according to plan,  these elements will unify my costumes as well. (Funny side note, the subjects of the photos are the opposites of the worlds represented in my design. Amazeballs.)

Step Seven: Coloring the Sketch. I use Prismacolor art markers to lay in the color and enhance the shadows and highlights created by the Le Pen. (Note the giant cup of coffee, very important to the process.)

And Voila! A finished rendering. (The Director loved it BTW.)

Here is the research for reference:

I was able to share my designs with the company on Monday and everyone seems really excited. My favorite moment was listening to the set designer explain how he had created a multi story set that is white and smooth at the top level and rusty and textured at the ground, I realized my costume designs have simpler, streamlined shapes  and clean colors for the upper class. While the characters who are lower in society are "rusty and textured". We are inadvertently, on the same page.  Flippin' sweet!
Now it's on to the details of finding the clothes. Check back next week to see how these drawings become a thrifty reality. 


  1. That is crazy!! Yes. That is the best adjective I can come up with.

  2. Love your 'helper'. I'm new to your blog and love all your thrift finds and Pyrex. I'm a new follower.