In this blog post, artist Abrian Curington provides a fun behind-the-scenes account of creating the characters for the comic Lifeology course “How does the coronavirus work in my body?” This course was created with middle and high school students in mind, to help them learn more about the virus and the immune system in a fun way. Share it with a young adult today!

One of the most frequent questions I get about making art is “how are artists so creative?” The truth is that nature has already created things more wonderful than we can ever imagine. It’s the artist’s job to roll all the research together into a meaningful design.

Let’s take the 2019 novel coronavirus comic for kids I illustrated for example:

Our star, Coronabot, was a little tricky to design and portray in a comic, since we do not know much about how the 2019 novel coronavirus behaves yet. Why, as the artist, do I care about how a virus behaves? Because how I design it is based on its function!

What we do know (for now) is that viruses don’t have minds, they don’t breathe, and they’re encoded with a mission (through genetic material). The writers of the comic described the virus as “not really alive” – not in the way we are. They suggested the idea of a zombie. When that was originally was written in the text, I was a little concerned. I didn’t want to go the zombie route, because that implies that the virus was once a living, healthy individual. But through the power of collaboration, we settled on the idea and design of a robot!

Here’s a timelapse video segment of part of the design process:

From the model that is being shown at the beginning of many COVID-19 studies, we essentially have a round, spiky ball. The colors are totally up to the modeler’s imagination, but I took from the popular grey and red image, as it complimented the idea of a robot. I tried for a few circular designs, but I was ending up with something that looked like a grumpy Rollie Pollie Ollie character!

In the end, we went down the avenue of the puffed out chest, braggart robot, as it seemed to have the most personality.

The immune squad was fun to design, because I knew I wanted to make them white (being white blood cells), but I thought it would be fun to vary their uniforms, and introduce a few shades of grey. Their designs are entirely to do with their functions in this story, as some cells have multiple roles. For example, in this case, the helper T-cell has more of a sidekick roll, so I have it drawn more like the young intern helping to relay information. The NK cell is no-nonsense and battle ready, the T-cell patrol is ready for a fight, and macrophage is all set to clean up the aftermath.

This project was my first time using Procreate on an iPad, to create illustrations. It was an interesting learning curve, but I did love the portability!

Here’s another timelapse video of me making an illustration that changed many times throughout its creation:

Through the power of collaboration, research and design, we were able to make a fun, yet informative comic Lifeology course on how the 2019 novel coronavirus works in our bodies!

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at it, it can be viewed at our Coronavirus Center