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  • Writer's pictureR Cipolletta

e26: The Detective (It_5)

The Leading Lady 24.10.20

Character Portrait (Sketch)

Ideally, I would have followed Mr. McCaig's formula more closely, starting with the story beats and then ultimately ending up with the character profile's, but after some consideration, and that chat I had with Sheza, I realised that this stubborn adherence to the literal had been stopping me from progressing through this project into any sort of drawing stage at all.

I've had this image in my head (left) of the character walking through a doorway with a shotgun or hunting rifle since the early weeks of the project, and I realise it was just silly of me to insist on ignoring it just so I could follow the formula. After all, isn't it more innovative and creative to adapt the formula to my own style?

There's also the point that the Detective has always been much more about the character than it has been about the story beats, the former informing the latter rather than the other way around. All reasons that this step should've come earlier in the project. I should have realised this sooner but, as they say, better late than never.


As drawing from imagination has never been my strong suit, I thought I'd push myself a little bit here and just work on puzzling out this character's anatomy from my head. I find that, in doing so, I'm getting better and better at trusting my instincts and iterating on my work. I always used to hate erasing and starting again, instead just painstakingly drawing the individual lines over and over until they matched the reference. With my current approach, I can only really tell I've made a mistake after it's made, and by that point I have no choice but to erase and start over. Frustrating at first, I now feel much more liberated as an artist and I can feel myself progressing toward producing faster and faster work.

Onto the character design itself. I followed my instincts a lot and let it write itself, not even looking at my previous notes, or putting up the McCaig tutorials as I had originally planned to do. Ironically, this means I'm able to follow his advice even better; as he says 'starting with instinct and worrying about reference later'. I struggled to take some of his other advice - in particular the one where he says that if you're stuck you should leave that section alone and focus on something else - but when I did finally force myself to do so, it proved itself to be excellent advice.

That back arm and hand on the gun were a nightmare. I couldn't get them right for hours! Which is interesting to me as the front arm and hand came to me in an instant. They still need work (that front elbow needs to be a bit higher and the bicep is a little too defined) but at least they came to me!

In terms of the rest of the anatomy, a quick chat with a course mate, Maggie, helped me to understand that the broad shoulders, while something I explicitly wanted, still had to be anatomically correct for a woman - meaning I may have to slim them down just a tad as they are quite huge. The legs are also very manly in their musculature but feel a lot more 'possible' and I'm not inclined to change them as I know she will need quite the muscle to propel such a massive body around on her hunting hikes. On that subject, she ended up being a lot larger than previously thought, towering over the doorframe at, what must be, around 7 foot. Suitably, the gun looks small and awkward in her grip considering how massive she is, and her feet are large, with a long stride to show off the broad stance she would need to not just topple over constantly.

Maggie recommended, since she's so tall, that I check out anatomical differences in hugely tall people, as the proportions tend to vary a bit from 'average' proportions. Off the top of her head, she mentioned spider-like hands and a tendency to be extremely skinny/bony as fat and muscle distributes itself thinly over the stretched out frame.

I trust her advice but I want to double check on those shoulders. Yes they are manly, and jump out at you as being slightly off, but that's kind of why I like them. Would it be wrong to keep them, by design? I've messaged my tutor for a second opinion.

I recently played and watched The Last of Us 2 and the infamous character of Abby kept springing to mind as I was drawing. Famously described as being 'built like an ox', there were a lot of unintentional similarities I'd created between her and my Detective which I didn't like.

I could shrug most of them off but the decision for my character to also wear a hair braid, as Abby does? That had to go. Instead I gave her a 'side bun' which I'm actually much more happy with because it's a hairstyle I often wear (making it easier for me to draw) but, not only that, it's a hairstyle I only carry by accident. I start off with a regular, high bun, but the weight of my own hair, and my general disinterest in fixing it, drags it down under my ear over the course of the hours or days as I wear it. It's my own personal Emblem of Laziness when I find that my bun has collapsed into a side one, which makes it perfect for this character who, canonically, doesn't care about styling their hair despite making the occasional effort (and then leaving it to the mercy of time and gravity).

Face Close-Up:

In a similar way to the body, I let the character's face draw itself as I went rather than going in with any preconceptions, and I am really happy with the results. Originally imagining her as some sort of white redneck, I was pleasantly surprised to find she is a lot more ethnic than I had originally anticipated - a little racially ambiguous in an oddly satisfying way. I don't particularly care nor do I want to categorise her as anything specific (as far as I will elaborate, she isn't strictly white and that's the end of it), but I really like it because it helps me deviate from the cookie-cutter white character profiles that I'm used to seeing all over the media. Perhaps an implied Amazonian ethnographic background would best fit her giant size, but I'm not fussed. It ticks my 'unique' box and this works for me.

Her eyes are high on her face and narrowed, to emphasise her more serious, paranoid personality type. The deep bags under them will feature prominently in the character render and contribute to the implication that she is not overly invested in personal health and implies that she is likely to let it get shot to hell in favour of prioritising something she deems more important (a hint of the obsession to come). The naturally furrowed brows, and downward-facing corners of her lips really pull the personality to the foreground - serious, sombre, with an edge of buried rage or resentment. Little crows feet around the eyes and the larger water/lash line help indicate her age but I will add more as I iterate on the concept - perhaps even reducing the size of the eyes as well.

The nose, and its downward curve was an obvious addition, creating sharp features that matched the high, sallow cheekbones and pointed chin. It screamed 'harpy' to me and helped me to weave in that femininity I didn't want to lose, but keep her within the right age range and not particularly 'soft' like some feminine features end up being stereotyped as. I'm amused at the connection between her prominent nose and the investigative 'nosiness' that makes up most of what I know to be her character arc and, combined with her other features, I feel it makes her easily recognisable in a crowd, if her massive height somehow wasn't enough.

Visual Foreshadowing to the Plot Development:

While I was really happy to let these decisions make themselves for an organic look stemming from unfiltered creativity, I still managed to stick pretty closely to the 'WHYs' I knew were already decided about her. She is sour, strong, and aggressive-looking not just for aesthetic reasons, but because of the narrative implications. Her character needs to scream "CONTROL" when you look at her - deliberately, unequivocally, and undeniably - so that when she begins to lose herself to the paranoid, and obsessive, mental spiral of the 'cases', her features can contort away from this neutral point and add to the uneasy anxiety experienced by the viewer.

I want to freak out the audience long before the character seems affected. Within the story, the justification is that she is strong and can keep her cool longer than most people; but outside of it, the justification is to manipulate the reader just as Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) manipulated me. I want it hardwired into the audience that if she is afraid (when normally she seems to be impervious to such an emotion) then things are really serious. Everything about her screams this message, from the no-nonsense hair style, the focussed glare in her eyes, right down to the massive hands that dwarf the barrel of what should be a pretty formidable gun.

Though I don't know when I will use this, I know for a fact I want to pepper this message in from the start, ready like a bullet in a chamber, for me to fire at the perfect time during the story arc...



  • Harpy nose for a more invulnerable but feminine look.

  • Huge stature - taller than the door frame.

  • Extremely broad shoulders.

  • Ended up being a lot more ethnical than I imagined when I drew the face. Amazon?

  • Deer in a tree.

  • and deer in a tree.

  • Fear of another predator. - few consistencies, but otherwise it's really random. Predator >> predator.

  • She disappears in the story - maybe dies?

  • Ouroboros - the animal that pursues itself <-- interesting! (Necklace Pic)

    • Metaphor for purgatory <-- Dante's Inferno. Markiplier's "Damien". CHOPPING WOOD IN A DENSE FOREST AND THEN SUDDENLY ALL THE TREES AROUND HER BECOME CHOPPED??

    • If there were a rational explanation, what would it be? Carbon monoxide poisoning...? ref reddit story

    • If I'm committing to do so many out-door shots then I definitely need to look into Sheza's recommended source...

- R Cipolletta



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