Sunday, 29 April 2018

Maxime Illustrations Part I

Unfortunately I haven't had much opportunity or desire to draw or paint much, until just recently. It's been a dream of mine for a while now to make a very special edition of one of my stories, complete with glossy illustrations dotted throughout the chapters, hardback, with a lovely dust jacket and gold lettering... (I could even paste in the Ex Libris that my dear friend's sister inked for me... *sighs dreamily*) 
Naturally, when the urge to draw came over me again, my thoughts turned to Maxime, the character of my upcoming novel! 

Hiding - © Ellie Morris

In this case, I wanted to sketch out how certain characters looked, what they were wearing, and their expressions in particular scenes. What I intended to just be a character design of Maxime, turned into a fully-shaded illustration, also featuring Leopold and the dastardly Monsieur Dalle! I was having far too much fun adding details, shadows, and more characters to it. 

It shows a scene from Chapter 2, where Maxime is caught in an awkward situation, listening to his new co-star, Leopold, and his director, Dalle, talking about him. He hides in the bathroom to avoid them (Dalle especially, since he makes him deeply uncomfortable from day one), but in this picture I had him hiding behind the boxes of props and cameras to avoid detection, since the set is disorganised and in a messy state.  
I wrote the chapters first, then drew from how I imagined it. 

A Night Alone - © Ellie Morris

 I'm pretty pleased with how my design for Maxime came out, as it is happily just as I imagined him to look. I usually struggle to draw men/boys a lot, so the facial features on Leo and Dalle might not be the best, but I had fun with designing them, too. The more I dislike Dalle, the more wrinkles I add to his face!
Drawing out characters and scenes is a good way to build on ideas, from my experience. It helps to imagine the angles and where everything is situated, as well as mood, expressions, body language, and colours. I'm a very visual person, so it works for me!

In the second image, poor Maxime is collapsing on his hotel room bed after a long first day at work. He'd been awfully nervous and excited all day, so his tiredness caught up with him, and the poor boy has the flu, to boot! His parents and sister could not make it to Paris with him for his first day at the film studio, so he had to go alone, and dreaded staying in a faraway city at night, all alone.
I just want to give him a big hug - and I know my friend that has been reading the chapters so far, does too.

I'll update with more illustrations as I finish them, as I have quite a few planned.


Monday, 9 April 2018

Fashion and Fiction: Dressing Your Characters

Here's a confession: I sometimes go a bit overboard when writing about clothes/costumes in my books. Loving historical costume (or just dressing up in general, heh) is a passion that really puts its mark on my characters.
For example, Aika from When the Summer Ends is considered odd because she loves dressing in clothes from other eras, even just to potter around in her garden. She is a lonely, quite isolated character that doesn't fit in much anywhere, whether it is America or France, with her mother or father, or at school... I thought the fact that she wears unusual clothes in everyday life would be a way to illustrate how alienated from people and places she feels, as though she longs for the past, which she views through rose-tinted glasses, and nostalgic fantasy.
In my latest story, Maxime is an actor. He loves wearing costumes, as it is a perfect way for him to get into character; to be forced to move, sit, and have the posture of his protagonist, and to feel the fabrics and tactile sensations that the character he plays would have felt in the days before polyester and synthetic fabrics.

With the arrival of a new dress for my BJD version of Aika, how she relates to the clothes she wears must have been playing on my mind, so I turned some simple photos into a story of sorts, using original text from my novel, When the Summer Ends. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed making them!

Aika's Wardrobe I - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe II - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe III - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe IV - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe V - © Ellie Morris

In my story, Aika wears historical-inspired fashions that she either commissions or makes; she has a strong love for 18th and 19th Century fashions! But she also has a wardrobe of stylish but modest late-1950's-early-1960's clothes, to befit her family and lifestyle. Some people say that she dresses very eccentrically.
On an unrelated note, I thought it was kind of funny how Aika and Maxime's stories are different, but still contain similar elements. Aika was born eight years before Max, but I wonder if they would like each other, should their paths cross. (It wouldn't happen, but it's interesting to think about).

Clothing, although sometimes it can be very discrete, does have a way of expressing things about the wearer. I'm not exactly talking about how wearing ripped skinny jeans makes one a slob or a punk or whatever, but that it can show things that words and actions may not.
Whether it is intentionally or not, the way a character dresses can express any of the following:

If a character is confident, they may wear somewhat more revealing, or even wacky clothing -- especially if that confidence is also based around their appearance.
An example that springs to mind is Vince Noir, from the TV series "The Mighty Boosh", since I watched it recently. Part of his personality is focused around his almost constant sunny disposition and laid-back attitude. But he is also very intent on following and being ahead of the current trends, jumping from one sub-culture to the next, whether it be mod, goth, punk, or something else. Therefore, he isn't afraid to express himself through clothing that is outlandish and unusual - and also very form-fitting on occasion - due to his relaxed and confident personality.
On the other hand, a more shy character may wear something subdued and modest in order to not draw attention to themselves; but alternately, they could also wear something more alternative and fitting to their aesthetics to give themselves a boost of confidence! It's all up to your character and circumstance.

When you are feeling unhappy, do you decide to wear dark colours when you get dressed that day? Sometimes I do, as sporting an obnoxious shade of pink when I'm feeling down can irritate me; I don't feel pretty on the inside, so why should I bother on the outside? I've also heard some people say that intentionally putting on colourful clothes when in a dark mood is a way of trying to boost their spirits.
Wearing black when in a dark mood, or when you want to be invisible, can also be accidental. If your character is going through some hard times, maybe the first thing they throw on is a black T-shirt, or a change of pyjamas, without even thinking of the reasons why. 

Maybe they don't even want to change their clothes, if they are deeply depressed. An example of that which I will always remember is in Stephen King's "Misery", where his character Annie Wilkes suffered from painful mood swings; in her happier moods she would wear pretty but still practical clothes with light colours, but when she became severely depressed and angry, Paul Sheldon noticed that she rarely changed her attire, and that her dressing gown was covered with food stains. 

Is your character a part of any particular scene? Do they express themselves through pins, badges and patches on their clothing, or carry a bag with the logo of their favourite bands/ musicians/football teams? Are they a part of an important cause? - such as human or animal rights, global warming, or a particular charity - which could be a reason to wear T-shirts with slogans relating to those passions.
Very often, I see people that wear merchandise of their hobbies, fandoms, and celebrity crushes. It can frequently be the first thing people notice about them, and a way to strike up conversation with like-minded people. In high school, the girls in my form often knew who was 'Team Edward' and who was 'Team Jacob' just through giving a quick glance to their backpacks, coats, jumpers or stationary (for the record, I was neither, and would always answer "Team Voldemort" as a joke when asked who I supported!).
Interests can also be shown through makeup, accessories, body modifications, and certain haircuts. Somebody may wear earrings of their favourite animal, or shave certain designs into their hair, if their hair is short.

There is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes dress codes are important. If clothing for a formal occasion is warranted, a character may have to dress themselves accordingly, whether it is for a wedding, funeral, a Sunday service in church, or a particularly grueling meeting with a loathsome individual like a strict relative, an ex that they are wanting to outdo, or an enemy that needs taking down a peg or two. 
Would your character worry endlessly over what to wear to an impromptu date or night out? Perhaps the situation has taken them by surprise, and they have no idea what would be suitable to wear. Or maybe they are a rebel and just don't care about convention! 

Religious beliefs can often be expressed through attire such as jewellery or ceremonial clothes and headwear. Sometimes you can even spot or guess which organisation a person belongs to through the type of pendant they wear, or which saint or idol they look up to.
Another idea I thought of was inspired by some people I used to know at college and online, who wore eco-friendly clothing made of hemp or recycled fabrics, or wore vintage to avoid fast-fashion and preserve heritage. These clothes are also influenced by beliefs about society, the environment, and how things are produced in the modern age.

I can easily tell when a film, novel, or photograph was set or produced, simply based on the clothing that characters wear. Fashion is very transitional, and varies wildly, even just in the past fifteen years. The 20th Century is a very good example, as so much changed in those 100 years!
Hemlines rose and fell dramatically (think of how showing legs was considered scandalous in the years before the 1920's, and how women of the 20's embraced shorter dresses that enabled new dances and trends; the Mini skirt of the 1960's, and then the outrage in the 1970's when the Maxi skirt came into fashion).
Casual wear such as jeans, and trousers for women became gradually more acceptable in those decades. Fabrics also went through big transformations in 20th Century, with synthetics and rationing contributing to different trends over the years. The colours and patterns of clothing is also a good way to show what era something is set in (and ditto for home interiors, too).

If your character lives in a really hot country, it is likely that they will dress in a way that enables them to stay cool - and vice versa. Does their location have a specialty for a certain type of fabric, such as tartan wool, silk, or cotton, which is easier to wear since it is local (I think this applies more to historical novels than ones set in the modern day)? Do they have events where they wear national costume? Do they take pride in their country by wearing patriotic gear? Do they own a T-shirt from a country that they visited?

All of these can show a reader things about a character, without having to tell them directly.

It will be interesting to hear what readers think, so please leave a comment on what you or your characters like to wear, and if you have a reason for it!
And why not give some short (or long) descriptions of your character's sense of style a try, if you haven't written about that kind of thing before? It could possibly add a subtle hint of symbolism to your story!

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