Skip to main content

Watch Trailer

Illustrating Characters and the Stories They Tell

with Mary Jane Begin

Log in or Sign up for FREE and get full access to these and thousands of other Open Lessons in our catalog! Watch 2 Lessons For Free

  •   Trailer

  •   01 Class Introduction

  •   03 Creating Characters


Class duration: 2h 28m

See all 14 lessons
  • 10K students

    100% satisfaction guaranteed

  • 81% recommended

    11 student reviews

  • Access anytime


Get the Pass

starting at $25 $13/month*

Unlock this class plus 1500+ more >

Watch Now

You already have access!

Buy Class


About The Class

Storytelling through character development

This class will teach you how to draw characters as a way to develop stories. Instructor Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and professor in the Illustration Department. Mary Jane explains the importance of narrative in all creative fields, and how to develop them.

In this class she covers: 
  • The key elements of story creation: working from the inside out, letting intuition flow, working with limitations
  • Seeking out prompts to springboard story
  • The elements of Character development

Mary Jane will give you a prompt to jump start story and demonstrate how to develop it. You’ll learn about the fundamental human response to a particular character style, and how to make decisions that elicit story.

Lesson Plan

  1. 01

    Class Introduction

  2. 02

    Rely on Your Own Story

  3. 03

    Creating Characters

  4. 04

    Developing Personality of the Character

  5. 05

    How to Make Characters Feel Authentic

  6. 06

    Character Development Q&A

  7. 07

    Start with the Shadow Cast by a Character

  8. 08

    Demo: Start with Shadow Cast

  9. 09

    Demo: Facial Expression & Body Anatomy

  10. 10

    Demo: Character Costume & Props

  11. 11

    Demo: Add Details to Sketch

  12. 12

    Demo: Add Color to Sketch

  13. 13

    Demo: Finalize Image with Color

  14. 14

    Illustrating Characters Q&A


Meet Your Expert

Mary Jane Begin

As an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and professor in the Illustration Department at RISD…Mary Jane feels INCREDIBLY lucky; she gets to do all the things that she loves to do ... read more

See instructor's Classes

Bonus Material

Access your course materials here!

Get access to exclusive bonus content when you purchase this class.

  • jpg Shadow Shapes
  • pdf Exploring Character Development Workbook
  • pdf Illustrating Characters Keynote

81% of students recommend this class.
See what some of them have to say.

  • Tracie Hawks

    Tracie Hawks

    December 2018

    I loved this class. The exercises are fun and inspiring. I was actually doing research to help me develop my own class when I bought this course and I'm thrilled I did. Bonus for me: I am going to work on developing a character and story I've left on the shelf for about four years thanks to this experience. I highly recommend to anyone of all skill levels.

  • LIse Brown

    July 2018

    I didn’t pay enough attention to the description so was surprised by the focus of the class — but in a definitely good way. As a member of SCBWI, I’ve learned a lot about illustrating characters by going to conferences and participating in our active local group. Most of the instruction I’ve received, as I suspect is also the case with most formal instruction, has been from the point of view of being given a character from a story to illustrate. This class covers creating a story based on the characters you draw, placing the drawing first and finding the story as you work. Of course there is overlap in the two approaches — overlap that emphasizes important steps. The creativity process is demonstrated clearly and in depth here in a gently encouraging way. However, while I, like the instructor, believe that everyone can be creative, I also question whether this approach would work for all illustrators: not all have time to write the stories that go with the characters they create, as ours is usually a business driven by clients who already have a story and characters. I’m not saying that this would not be a valuable class for them, just mentioning the different take on the subject. I had expected more of the usual angle of how to create a page of character sketches for your portfolio or how to develop the illustration of a character from a manuscript. Though help with these topics is partially covered in the progress of the class, they are not the main focus. All-in-all, the different approach is to the credit of the class — encouraging and expanding a student’s horizons. Also, plenty of little gems are thrown in during the lecture and demos, from techniques to the psychology of creativity. The instructor is competent, clear, and pleasant. She conveyed a lot of information that I didn’t realize until I was thinking about it later. One note: the titles for the breakdown of the demo are not exactly accurate, The demo is of the instructor creating one character as she draws. I understand that the producers wanted to segment it, but really it’s one continuous process, and some of the titles for those lessons are misleading.

  • Lynne Perkins

    Lynne Perkins

    May 2017

    Amazing lecture! Everything an illustrator learns in art school covered! Thank you for sharing. I miss the imput and critiques I experienced during my college years and this class brought to mind so many enjoyable memories. The advice was given in a generous and kind, inspiring way!

    Similar classes you might like

    You know who’d love this class...?

    When gift-spiration strikes, grab it. Give this class to a friend who’d love it. For their birthday or just because. (Or just because you missed their birthday.)