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the #NonIdentikit challenge

Yesterday I was bemoaning the lack of variety in the faces I see comics people and illustrators drawing for their main 'beautiful' characters. When teenagers show me their sketchbooks, so often they've drawn one face, over and over, often inspired by Japanese anime. I grew up with Betty and Veronica, who had the same faces in their comics, and you could only tell them apart by their different colours of straight long hair.

Betty and Veronica, Sailor Moon

I'll do a longer blog post here about it soon, and include more images, but I've set a challenge for myself to draw 20 faces that don't fit the identikit model but are still strikingly beautiful, enough to make you turn around and think, WHOA. Faces that you look at and they're not your standard Hollywood ingenue or female superhero, but you can't stop looking. Sometimes they'll be from non-white ethnicities, sometimes they'll be the white teenage or 20-something women people seem to prefer drawing, but with a difference. A heavier chin, a big nose, a monobrow, the variations we get in real life.

Check the Twitter hash tag #NonIdentikit for updates, and feel free to use the hash tag to contribute your own! You can do detailed portraits or a bunch of quick doodles on a single sheet of paper, head portraits or full body, awesome outfit, plain clothes, whatever you like. (Keep in mind that some kids might be browsing, and hopefully be inspired.)

I'm hoping to learn a few things by doing this; practical considerations, how to create characters who aren't identikit but still have powerful visual appeal.

Edit: Here are a few experimental sketches I've posted on Twitter:


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2015 03:31 pm (UTC)
I like a lot of these but
...I think the whole point about them being non-identikit makes it harder to universally agree they are beautiful. They're all worth looking at, for sure, and I find some of them particularly beautiful, but others are faces that I'd be hard put to say are beautiful per se. Part of the whole point is, I think, that people will have more varied responses to these non-identikit faces - and some of the reactions will be (not surprisingly and actually not unreasonably either) - 'nope, really not my style!'.
Jan. 26th, 2015 03:43 pm (UTC)
Re: I like a lot of these but
Hi, thanks for the comment! You're right, not everyone will like unusual faces. I suppose another side of the argument is that I sometimes hear people saying a book or a character isn't getting a wide enough audience and I look at it and think, it's not because they're black/in a wheelchair/gay/etc, it's because it's not very well drawn.

It's really hard to make an unusual person a character that people will want to watch. I don't think any of my character sketches above are developed far enough to be ready to go into a book, but I guess if I draw enough and keep experimenting, one of them might make it in sometime. One of my unusual heroes is Edna Mode, she's the best part of The Incredibles and definitely the woman in the film I most want to BE. :D

Jan. 26th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I like a lot of these but
Not everyone will like unusual faces but that's not quite what I was saying, either. Edna's not beautiful (IMHO) but she is striking and worth watching!
Jan. 26th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: I like a lot of these but
Maybe I should have said 'striking' instead of beautiful. (I find the two usually equate, but not everyone would.)
Jan. 30th, 2015 03:03 pm (UTC)
Re: I like a lot of these but
Jan. 26th, 2015 03:33 pm (UTC)
In fact, of the faces on the Twitter hashtag generally, there's a lot of them that I don't find beautiful per se - interesting, different, striking, strong, worth looking at, etc etc - but mostly not beautiful, actually.
Jan. 26th, 2015 03:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's a lot harder than drawing an identikit beauty. But I guess the only way to get there is for people to have a play with it and try, and make mistakes. I love that the Internet can be a sketchbook that way, it's not like having something printed in a book, when there's no escape.

I don't think people have to throw in all the variations at once; it might be an identikit with one thing different. And there's a big difference between drawing someone traditionally beautiful who just happens to be non-white (say, a supermodel such as Naomi Campbell), versus someone who's disfigured, diseased, obese, etc. Tank Girl is kind of interesting because her body type would be identikit, but she's altered herself so that she's not. That's one route to go, there must be loads of different ways.

I don't know the answer, I'm trying to work out how books and comics can have unusual human main characters and still appeal to wide audiences.

Edited at 2015-01-26 04:06 pm (UTC)
Jan. 26th, 2015 04:07 pm (UTC)
The Hernandez brothers famously are great with this. Their characters are striking and beautiful, and most of them are non-identikit. Jaime Hernandez started off with one of his main characters, Maggie, being standardly beautiful, and fairly rapidly changed her from 'Archies comics type' to having more of her own style - big bum & thighs and all.
Jan. 26th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, I love that he has characters with big thighs! :D I never really got into his work, I remember two characters looking so identical that I had a hard time working out who was who. But I should go back and look again.
Jan. 26th, 2015 04:53 pm (UTC)
I wonder which two characters those were?
I think with Jaime it is sometimes difficult to be sure who you're looking at, but I find it's more to do with the fact that his characters age and change, so the same person at 16 looks quite different from them at 26 or 36 (rightly, of course). Having said that, his main characters Hopey and Maggie, when drawn as 16 year olds, did look quite similar - again actually quite realistically, but the older versions of those characters look noticeably different.
Jan. 28th, 2015 08:18 am (UTC)
I just finished reading This One Summer - I think Jillian Tamaki is really excellent at drawing non-identikit, compelling-to-look-at characters. I think it's totally personal whether or not they are beautiful but they are people you feel are real and can care about.

I used to love how pretty Betty and Veronica were when I was little, I guess i dreamed of growing up like them (!) but certainly not the best role models! Especially as the message seemed to be you can be a shambolic average chap and have the "loveliest" girls after you, but not vice versa... Poor Ethel couldn't even get that hamburger bin Jughead could she!

Really great hashtag and idea!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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