ArtWorks I: OC Week! 

Our group shares drawings from the warm up: “Draw your character with in a moment of surprise”


This year’s ArtWorks I program was all about Original Characters! Commonly referred to as “OCs,” Original Characters are exactly how they sound; they’re imaginative characters created for stories, cosplay, comics, visual art, and fanfiction. OCs can be wholly unique, or inspired by existing movies, books, anime, mythology, etc. Creating an OC isn’t just about defining a character’s appearance – it’s about delving into and developing facets of their personality and the world around them. Our group was immersed in multidimensionality this week, as we learned techniques for improving how we depict our characters and share their stories. 

What better person to lead AIR’s first OC program than visual artist and longtime AIR instructor, Sam Paolini! Sam led us through lessons that helped us create visual range for our OCs. We learned techniques for portraying our characters in a variety of positions, perspectives, temperaments, and expressions. We also put our characters through a “silhouette test,” which helped ensure our characters remained recognizable when represented as a single dark shape. After brainstorming and lots of sketching early in the week, teens moved into final projects. 

Sam created three final project options for teens to choose from. Their options allowed OC individualities to shine and created space for some writing! Our options were: 

  • Character Profile: Similar to a trading card, this is a snapshot of your character with a description. This option includes both writing and drawing elements, and is preferable for those who feel most confident with writing, or who wish to pair language and visuals. The character description should include a name, some statistic, and/or a paragraph or story about them. 
  • Comic Page: Use this option to showcase your character in a day to day situation. Use dialogue to showcase traits of your character. 
  • Character Collage: Depict your character from different viewpoints and settings to showcase their world and personality. 

To help our teens understand project options, Sam created their own original character, “Krely from Tonomaly,” and they were a hit with our group! Not a session passed without some mention of Krely- they became an AIR participant in their own right! 

Midweek, we hosted a very special guest to help us with our storytelling: young adult fiction author, Lisa Bunker! Lisa led us through two writing prompts around character development and voice. We practiced writing a monologue and dialogue from the perspective of our OC, focusing on ability to express emotion, self awareness, conversational rhythm and intentional use of description. Lisa worked so intuitively with our teens and responded enthusiastically to our characters! She left us with newfound skills and wisdom from her experience: 

“One of the things about writing is- we have to be willing to go wherever or stories, characters or situations take us”

“I meet a lot of people who say, ‘I want to be a writer someday,’ and I think what they mean is that they want to be a published writer, but I just want to be really clear about it: If you are writing, you are a writer. You may end up a published writer, but in the meantime, if you are doing the work, you get to own that word. And keep doing it! The more you do it – the better you’ll get.” 

We ended our program with a celebration of teens and their creativity! At the event, each participant had the opportunity to share the name of the OC they created this week, along with its species, and 1-2 key facts. Teens spoke so fervently about their characters, and even though we were meeting virtually, the passion was palpable and inspiring! We then watched a slideshow of moments and creations from the week, and ended with a certificate ceremony to recognize each participant. This group was so creative, animated, and supportive- we’d like to thank them for sharing their kindness and their characters with us this week! 

Click here to see a slideshow of amazing work by our teens! 

Click here to watch Sam’s introduction to OCs and our final projects! 


Teens share sketches made during Sam’s most famous warm up: “I’m Walking Down a Path”

Made by Sam Paolini to illustrate final project option #1: Character Profile!

Made by Sam Paolini to illustrate final project option #2: Comic Page!

Made by Sam Paolini to illustrate final project option #3: A Character Collage

Guest writer and young adult fiction author, Lisa Bunker, leads us through a writing prompt!

We opened certificate packages as a group at our end-of-program celebration!

Congratulations to participants of our 2020 ArtWorks I program! Thank you for sharing your creativity with us!

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