These two main characters of HBD are based on two very real girls, the authors of this project. We share a similar story: we were both born in Belarus, but moved at a young age. Masha had to move to the Netherlands, and Marta – to the US. Both however always kept that love for the Homeland, and one day returned to their home country. They found themselves shocked by certain cultural phenomena. Baffled and confused, they asked their friends to explain what is happening. Their Belarusian friends often had no other explanation other than “That’s Belarus, Babe!” – hence the name of the project (=”Heta Belarus, dzietka!” in Belarusian).
We both decided that it would be fun to tell our story though the eyes of these two blue-eyed blondes. But first, of course, we needed to find the visuals for these two characters so they would be easily recognizable from one comic strip to the next.
The search for these characters began with photo references and a very literal interpretation of the girl’s faces. Let’s take Masha as an example:
Similar process took place with Marta’s character. The main goal was to find the most prominent face features/shapes, keep their essence, but simplify as much as possible.
After about 10 more iterations, the girls’ faces began to take this shape, which I ultimately liked and decided to keep. Masha developed her signature tub-shaped jaw line and a triangular head, while Marta received an oval head and some jagged hair.
Both girls are very fun, energetic and light. The color palette includes very clean colors: orange, bring pink, yellow, blue and powder blue. The overall appearance of both characters was kept very flat, for the point of these comics is to communicate an idea quickly.
The many faces of Marta
These two characters became widely recognized within the Belarusian society. For our book presentation in November 2015 we created a 5-foot tall cardboard cutout of the characters to be used as a photo zone/book stand.