Time to ask that question that you may have answered over 5 times: What was the school experience that most improved your drawing, and (if it applies) what was the experience that most ensured your current illustration job? If you need to know, I'm asking out of anxiety.
Heya! I don’t mind answering at all, thanks for asking :)
I went to ACAD for my degree, and I would recommend their VisCom program there.
The experience that helped me improve most? Probably this one teacher I had named Mike Kerr who pushed me really, really hard (to the point where I was so frustrated with him) in my Character Design classes.
He never approved of any characters I designed and kept telling me to make them more interesting, which drove me nuts. Well into my third year, he randomly challenged the class to design a dragon character within the day, and then something in my head snapped. All of a sudden shape theory made sense to me. I don’t know what it was exactly, but that design challenge made it click. That’s the defining moment of improvement I experienced in college for sure.
And to your section question of what experience helped lead me to my current job: networking for sure.
Specifically, I went and spoke with Mike Mignola at the Calgary Comic Expo shortly after I graduated and I had this incredible discussion with him while he looked through my sketchbook. He asked me where I wanted to go as an artist and I explained I was interested in working on animation as a designer. He told me about the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank and that I should definitely check it out - anyone who’s anyone in the industry usually makes an appearance there.
Well, I did end up heading to CTN that year and I happened across some of the folks that I now work with while I was down there. By chance their studio was hiring, so I kept in contact with them after the convention and the rest is history. It was definitely being in the right place and the right time, and to quote many people I’ve asked similar questions to: you have to go where the work is.
Seeing as you have a degree in design, would you mind sharing some tips on how to make a memorable/"good" character?
Ahh I’m pretty poor at articulating myself on the subject since I feel a lot of it is intuition! But I’ll try to give a few points:
Develop an interesting silhouette with shape, scale and contrast! No amount of accessories can save you from a generic silhouette.
Have a vision for the character and let this inform the shapes you choose (ie: a strong, menacing character using harsh, large square shapes)
Play up stereotypes/archetypes, especially if you’re just starting out.
Draw the character a lot. Don’t just try one design and settle with it. Play with the shapes and scale contrast in a lot of different combinations
Use the ‘rule of three’, especially when you get to colours (typically don’t use more than 3 hues for a colour palette)
More often than not: less is more!
That’s all I can think of for now! Hopefully it helps. I’d also recommend checking this tutorial on stylizing animals cause it explains how my brain works when it comes to designing better than I can: http://fav.me/d4qva2f