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I'm Sijbren Schenkels, a character designer and animator. Spread the Pixel!

28, Male


The Netherlands

Joined on 10/11/16

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Posted by Sijbren - March 20th, 2019


It’s been a couple of months, so I thought time for an update. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot to cover. I continued with the character designs, this time the priests of the Pietra Bianca Cathedral.  

Just like I did before, I took a lot of inspiration from medieval illustrations, but also from a lot of movies. For the designs for the priests, I looked at the movies Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Franco Zeffirelli) and Becket (Peter Glenville).


Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a great example of a typical 70s representation of religion. Instead of a historical accurate view, we get a more aesthetic and mythical view on the subject. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for. It’s also about Saint Franciscus of Assassi, which is becoming a returning source of inspiration since Name of the Rose. Particularly the ending of the movie was very interesting for me, because it visually shows the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. This worked as a strong contrast to the monk Franciscus dressed in drags. The movie has beautiful backgrounds, which I’ll refer to later when I will be working on my own. 


Becket seems more like a movie about kings at first sight, but the church plays a big role in this movie. The clothing looked a lot closer to traditional dress, it works well as a counterpart for the former movie. It took its time displaying extensive rituals. I don’t know how historically correct all of this is, but that’s not really the point of my research. The goal is not to replicate Roman Catholic tradition, but to create some depth for my own fictional church. 



To get a general feel for the style, I started to sketch different priests, bishops, archbishops and even some demons. The clothing was very important, contrary to the monks that all wore the same robes. The hierarchy has to be visible by their clothes. In the end, it has to feel like an actual complete church order. 



As is to be expected, I looked at lot at illustrations depicting the Holy Virgin Mary, for the design of the Holy Mother Arabella and at baby Jesus for the design of baby Elios. I found the way she tilts her head and her motherly gaze (both proud and exhausted) towards her son especially important. For the son, he has to be the most perfect baby with an almost mature look in his eyes. 


Holy Mother Arabella and Baby Elios


Basic Priest


Thurible Priest


Stage Priest


Flabellum Priest

I kept the priests quite plain, the bishops and archbishops will have more exuberant clothing. I wanted to give each priest a different outfit (again, to contrast with the monks). Aside from their variety, it was important to give them similarity as well. Because the story has its own fictional religion, details will differ from Christianity. These will have a big impact overall. For instance, it does not contain the symbol of the cross. The symbols people associate with within this fictional religion will be locks, keys, cubes and triangles. This will challenge me to dig deep into the visual symbols of the Christian faith. 

The project will be on another hold for a little while, because I have to work on a smaller project that’s a bit more manageable for a starting animator. Next I’ll be designing the bishops and archbishops of the order. But it’s probably going to take a while before I’ll have another update. 

Thank you for your time,

Sijbren Schenkels



Posted by Sijbren - November 6th, 2018


The script is near completion, as you can see at the Progress Bar. I’ve been working on another animation project these past two weeks, so I haven’t made much progress yet. Because it’s already a while ago since my last post, I thought this was a good opportunity to go through the start of my character designing process.  


My first focus was the designs for the monks at the translator’s school. Before I started drawing, I did a lot of research. I searched primarily for old illuminated monk illustration, but also some modern monk depictions for a broader scope. By replicating the artwork I get a better idea of what I want for my own art style. But these illustrations are far too detailed for animation purposes.

I also watch a lot of movies for inspiration, at the same time I can see what is already made. For the monk designs I watched The Name of the Rose (Jean-Jacques Annaud) and Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois).


The Name of the Rose shows the unity of a monastery by the monks all dressed in the same black habits. At the same time the monks have very distinct haircuts, even if they are all tonsure haircuts. Another interesting detail was all the monks had old worn faces, none of them were young. I’ll be using this movie for future references, because it’s one of my main inspirations for this project. I’m also reading the book for even more details on the subject.


Of Gods and Men was about a Trappist monastery. I found these habits very interesting; they have a very strong white and black contrast and very clear form. Just like in The Name of the Rose the monks are very distinguished from one another.


After the research I made quick sketches. This is for experimentation with different shapes and to come up with a lot of variation. It helps to narrow down the big load of reference I gathered. Then I made a list of the characters I needed. Nine characters: Philip the Bearer, Bob the Unique II, four monks and three old monks. I designed one monk a day, to give myself some work structure.  


Philip the Bearer


Basic Monk


Jolly Monk


Scholar Monk


Bearded Monk


Tall Monk


Small Monk


Skinny Monk


Bob the Unique II

Philip the Bearer and Bob the Unique II had to have a very strong design to emphasise their important role in the story. Because Philip is the protagonist, he will have the most angles and movement, so I had to keep his design very simple and recognizable.

I’m happy with the results, but the designs still feel to detailed and not optimized for animation. Later I’ll be redesigning them to make them look a lot simpler. Next post I’ll be continuing character designs and hopefully show some new art.

Thank you for your time,

Sijbren Schenkels   


Posted by Sijbren - September 19th, 2018

The first draft of the script is finished. Now I have a far better view on the final product. English is not my native language, so I still need to fix some errors of the script with the help of a friend. Because I haven’t done much environment designing yet, the script is still lacking some background descriptions. That’s why it’s a first draft.

Before I’ll explain the action plan, let me describe the final product.  

What do I mean by interactive animation? A narrative told through simple immersive gameplay. It will be fully in frame-by-frame pixel art animation, coded in Game Maker Studio 2. Every detail will go through a research and designing process. Gameplay will consist out of walking around and talking to NPC’s. Followed by surviving the desert, managing the HUD by eating and drinking enough. This will be combined with the retro mode 7 effect and other screen effects. I call it an interactive animation and not a game, because the focus lies more with the visuals and conveying a story than the gameplay. It will be around five minutes long.

For the action plan I have split the project into smaller components.
These components are:

Dialogue Box
Mode 7
Screen Effects
Environment Animation
Main Menu

Each component will go through a process of listing what needs to be done, research references, doodling some ideas, sketching, basic tests, designing the actual assets, animation, combining with other components, code, test code and bug fix.


The production bar illustrates the overall completion of the components. Every icon portrays a component. Most of the time, I’ll try to focus on one component at the time. Sometimes I need to combine components, so it’s required to work on multiple at the same time. The first components I’ll be working on are Script, Characters and Environment.

I hope this gives a clearer idea of my work flow. Lately I’ve been busy with working full time at a warehouse (not very interesting), but also working on a new showreel for an animation festival. I wanted to make this post a few weeks back, but I didn’t have the time. Next post will be more art and less talking.

Thank you for your time,

Sijbren Schenkels  


Posted by Sijbren - August 9th, 2018

Dear people of the internet!

I’m Sijbren Schenkels, a dutch character animator/designer. I’m an animation school graduate, where I made a few short films: Stay PositiveSocial Fabric and my graduation film Cakewalk.

Even though I like working on short films, I can also see its limitations. In order to create an understandable short, the story cannot be too long and complicated. That’s why I’m searching for new ways of mixing animation with other media. With my new project I hope to find a new format, that enables me to tell longer stories and use animation more efficiently.

Animation and games have always worked well together. The immersive nature of games can give animation the attention it deserves. Aside from the previous reason, I want to get some practice in a lot of game related components, in both art and programming. My goal is to create an interactive animation, that has story told through the gameplay. In short, the story goes like this; a monk needs to cross a vast desert to deliver a scroll. The challenge will be to show visually the effects of dehydration and exhaustion of the monk. The final product will be a story driven interactive animation completely in pixel art, featuring a retro mode 7 like effect, including a start menu and HUD.


The story so far:

The holy book Magi Moralis is only missing one last part: “The Prologue”. But the original text is written in Babylon Code, which only one person can translate, the old monk Bob the Unique II. After the scroll was translated, it needed to be delivered to the most important church Pietra Bianca, where the supreme pontiff Santo Scultore waited for its arrival. To reach Pietra Bianca, one must cross the Keno desert. Bob the Unique II (just like the other monks) was much too old to survive Keno’s harsh climate, so they send a young scribe named Philip.


There is a reason why I want to start a devlog for this project. It will be a very long project requiring with a lot of research, design and programming. The progress might prove very interesting to follow and it motivates me to keep a steady pace with uploading new work. It’s also an opportunity to provide this project with more attention, then it would have in just one go.

Hopefully I will be able to provide an update every week. At the moment I’m working on the script and the action plan, these will give a much more detailed view on the project. I also finished some early designs for the monks, which will feature as the protagonist and non-player characters.

I’ll be posting progress on Newgrounds and Tumblr, later on Gamejolt and Itch.io when I’m further in production. So if you’re interested in seeing an interactive animation project being build up from the ground floor, please follow me. You can also check out the artwork separately on TumblrFacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thank you for your time,

Sijbren Schenkels