Sparkbook Snippet: Acting With The Entire Body

(This excerpt is from the Pose Drawing Sparkbook, a super-charged sketchbook designed to help you put more life and personality into your drawings. Think of it as acting exercises for your sketchbook.Read other snippets here and here.)

Don’t limit your acting to just the face and hands. The head makes up less than ten percent of a person’s body. You’ve got another ninety percent of your character to work with. Don’t let it go to waste! Is your character crying? Don’t just add a tear; hunch the back, droop the shoulders and bend the knees. Is your character feeling joyful? Don’t just smile; arch the back, raise the arms, and get those toes a-dancin’.

As an example, let’s travel back in time to the year 1800. Two southern gentlemen are having an argument. Insults fly and tempers flare until finally one of them shouts in a furious rage, “I challenge you to a duel!” How might you draw that pose?


This first attempt is generic and boring. There’s nothing special about it. Other than the facial expression, it tells us almost nothing about what the character is feeling. To illustrate, look at what happens when I simply change the eyebrows:


Suddenly it turns from an active, angry pose to a passive, worried pose. One subtle difference has completely changed the pose’s meaning. Why? Because the pose was weak and generic to begin with.

Here’s the same emotion with poses that use the entire body. Notice how much more clearly the attitude reads:


Here’s another example of the power of body language. I’ve purposely left the faces blank to show how much you can say with just a pose.


Before you get caught up in a detailed drawing, start by simply roughing in the pose. Use stick figures if necessary. If the pose doesn’t read clearly at the beginning, no amount of detail will fix it later.

Read two more Sparkbook Snippets: “Action Reveals Character” and “Personality and Emotions”The Pose Drawing Sparkbook is now available for pre-orderAlso, don’t forget to download your free list of 100 Sketchbook Ideas as my gift to you.