The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a treasure trove of weird toys from creepy dolls to retro computer games. Jake and Dinos Chapman’s exhibition ‘My Giant Colouring Book’ illustrates the horrors lurking within the pages children’s dot-to-dot, colouring books. Using these books as the basis for a series of etchings, they actualise the potential for the uncanny and the terrifying that haunts the world of children’s stories.
I often check out the Character Design Blog, which features interviews and showcases of work from commercial character designers in games, illustration, animation, comics and films.
A source of inspiration for contemporary character design is Pictoplasma, who publish a series of books as well as running events.
American artist, Ray Villafane, carves pumpkins into a variety of character heads. Check out the pictures here. Happy Hallowe’en!
What he may or not realise is that he is following in a very old tradition of folk art. In the past, toys were a luxury that many working people couldn’t afford to pay for – so they made their own. Apples were an ideal medium for carving dolls heads out of and this folk art is still practiced in rural America. I have also seen a British example in the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The Museum of Childhood has an extensive collections of historical toys and is a fantastic resource for ideas for character designs.
I am currently experimenting with apple heads myself, since finding this wild apple on an isolated tree at the top of a mountain in the Pyrennees when I was on holiday this summer. I call her Mrs Applebaum and am using her as the starting point for developing a new character.