Material Exploration: Character Design

After the design meeting on the 07/03/2018, I had received some feedback regarding my brief. One word of advice was that it would be good to create a set of characters or a mascot that can be an identifiable factor of my campaign. For the rest of the week I pondered as to what I could make that would be unique but still represent an awareness for plastic in the ocean.

In my previous material exploration, I drew marine animals as they are seen in reality. As I looked back upon my contextual research, I remembered Gilles Cenazandotti. Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.22.29 AMHe uses various found objects, predominantly ocean plastic, and turns them into sculptural works of art. They are in the form of endangered animal species; an ironic reflection upon the way in which man-made materials have become invasive to the natural world and affected or changed the speices way of life.

His work has inspired me to create a set of characters that represent a hybrid of both natural animal bodies and plastic waste items. I am also using Lize Meddings to influence a minimalistic cartoon-like stylisation. I’ve also googled images of marine animals entangled in plastic waste as inspiration for making hybrid body forms. Pete Cromer has also composed imagery using strange abstract blobs that look like cute characters.

Anthony also had a chat to me and suggested to make characters that represented the results of consuming plastic. He told me to look at the successful campaign called “Dumb Way’s to Die”, which used cartoon characters to demonstrate many creative and silly ways to kick the bucket. The video left people curious throughout the viewing experience as to what it was all for because all the way through a fun song plays but no factual information is being delivered – the video then presents their overall message at the end to “be safe around trains and rail crossings” (Global Digital, n.d.). The clever design and presentation of the campaign was able to hook in a younger audience and keep them entertained to view the message at the very end.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 3.27.30 PM.png

From here, I googled phrases like ‘plastic items’ and ‘plastic bottles’ and began to draw some concepts of creatures that were a fusion of animal body parts and popular plastic items such as eating utensils, toothbrushes and coffee cup lids. Here are my first concepts below:

Initial Character Concepts

First I drew a rectangular rubbish monster with a spoon and toothbrush for arms. Plastic bottles protrude out of its head. The next is a bowling pin with octopus arms. A jellyfish has become stuck in a bucket, which is now his head. A balloon has transformed into a round narwhal. My last creature was an idea from rock pools; he is a round rock with a starfish on his face. He wears a coffee lid as his hat and has utensils for hands.

After examining my rough concepts, I began to think of how I could develop my characters to make them look more like a representation of animal and plastic combined. I drew my rubbish monster with a water bottle body and a straw for a hand instead of a spoon.  I changed the look of my narwhal into a humpback-looking whale to simplify the features on it and have it become more identifiable as a ‘whale’.

Character Improvements

I made the jellyfish have more rounded tentacles as well as a feature tentacle with wavy fronds to make him look more flowing and exotic as jellyfish naturally are. The handle of the bucket is also thinner so as not to detract from the tentacles. My rock pool creature inspired me to make a creature with a shell on its head. It holds a plastic bag and sand shovel to clean up the beach.

After presenting my characters in a design meeting, I went away and analysed which creatures work best and why. I think that the rubbish monsters and bowling pin creature are too ‘abstract’ in their form and do not clearly represent an existing marine animal, whereas the jellyfish and whale developments manage to achieve the hybrid of animal and plastic much better. I also think that the rock pool and shell creatures may be too abstract and even a bit too ‘human-like’ but I will keep them for now.

Character Analysis

Therefore, I continued to develop even more characters, this time focusing on creating creatures with a clear connotation to a real marine animal – yet still fused into a plastic object. The idea was to think outside of the box and create creatures that were quirky and cute but represent a more serious side to the story: their bodies are still recognisable as an animal but a component of them has been changed due to the plastic they have eaten in their marine environment.

Character developments

The animals that I turned into hybrids were a hammerhead shark, bottlenose dolphin, hermit crab, turtle, seahorse, polar bear, penguin and a walrus. I thought it would be a good idea to use animals from a variety of places globally, as well as animals that are popular and easily identifiable. This way, my audience will not become confused over what the creatures actually are. From here, I asked some of my peers what they thought of the characters above and I received positive feedback and discovered which characters were most easily identifiable to my audience and what they thought was ‘funny’, ‘cute’ or ‘an interesting fusion’ of plastic and animal.

After this feedback, I selected the ‘favourite creatures’ and made a sketch up of the final collection of characters. They are now known as the “Plastic Fantastics” – which is also the name of my campaign.

Character finals.png

The next step will be to incorporate colour into my creatures. This will play an important part in the presentation and style of my campaign.

As a continuation from my material exploration, I experimented with more of my marbled paper to bring colour to my characters. In the first image, I simply enlarged my jellyfish and built up his body using two different sets of texture. He was then glued onto a navy blue background. Like my previous orca on the purple background, I was using Pete Cromer to influence me with the use of  a single coloured background with the character resting in its space. I chose navy blue to represent the deep ocean. The blue background contrasts with the white jelly body, while pink, green and blue complement one another and create a brightness to the image.


I recently found another artist to whom I thought would be a good influence for my work; Yoh Nagao. Nagao creates collaged compositions using cut out images and pieces from fashion magazines to create animals and figures that rest on top of an acrylic painted background. Amongst the background, marker pen has been used to make marks that bring shape, line and movement throughout the composition. Here is one of his works below:

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 1.16.11 PM

Artist: Yoh Nagao. Using ‘cut and paste’ collage technique onto of acrylic and marker pen background.

I took the idea of using marker pen to make similar marks in the background of my artwork below. Rather than using acrylic paint, I used light blue cardstock instead to speed up my process. Once again, the character has been composed out of various scraps of marbled paper. This image is a lot brighter and playful in its nature; the use of shape and line in the background brings an energy and liveliness due to the sense of movement it makes. I find the use of the geometric shapes as pattern in the background to of interest because to me, they represent abstract forms of microplastic floating in the ocean. This is a new aspect that I want to incorporate into my designs.


Lastly, I decided to try making a small composition on canvas, using acrylic paint and a sponge brush to blend the background. I then cut out mountainous shapes and pasted them over the dried background with PVA glue. I noticed that Kate Shaw then brushes over the areas where she wants the mountains to look like reflections in the water. I did this too, and placed my dolphin’s as though they are jumping and playing in this poisoned, sickly sweet sea-scape. I made this piece to explore a combination of media and the marbled textures in a composition that tells a story of a contaminated sea-world.

Scan 1

Thus far, the idea of using bright colour and marbled patterns on the characters and scenes look quite striking. I am interested in further developing the ideas of having bright colours, the textures and geometric patterns as I transfer over to working in a digital space. My next post will be about using Illustrator to digitally draw and colour my plastic fantastic creatures. In this stage, I will decide what my final colours will be.

Reference list:

The best of Global Digital Marketing. (n.d.). Case Study: Metro Trains’ Dumb Ways to Die. Retrieved from:

Yoh Nagao. (n.d.). Art 2016- 2017. Retrieved from:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s