Last Chance To Back The Pose Drawing Sparkbook On Kickstarter

MAINIMAGE16-forwebsite-FINAL48This is it! The home stretch! As I write this there are only 30 hours left to back the Pose Drawing Sparkbook on Kickstarter. I’m excited to say the project has been a success – 100% funded with over 450 backers and counting – and we’ve been pushing forward through some fun stretch goals.

I really the Sparkbook will be a big help to a lot of artists who want to learn to put more life and personality into their drawings. The more backers we get, the more stretch goals we reach, the better we can make this thing! Jump on board!

If you’d rather not be a backer, would you consider helping spread the word? Just paste this into your favorite social media:

Last chance to back the Pose Drawing Sparkbook on Kickstarter:

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support. It means a lot!


Sparkbook Snippet: Personality and Emotions

(This excerpt is from a rough draft of  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.)

As human beings we all experience the same basic emotions, but everyone has their own unique personality through which those emotions are filtered. This can make for interesting results.

Sometimes emotions and personality can overlap. For instance, everyone has situations in which they feel confident but there are some people for whom confidence seems to be a defining characteristic. They are up for any challenge and not easily discouraged.

Likewise, when a naturally confident person begins to feel nervous they may demonstrate it differently than a timid person who is nervous all the time. The confident person may try to hide their nervousness whereas a timid person may wear it on their sleeve for all to see. Both are experiencing the same feeling but it comes out in very different ways.


Here are two boys waiting for the bus. Let’s call the Tommy and Timmy. From their poses we can tell that Timmy is shy and insecure. His back is hunched over, his chin is down, and his knees and elbows are pulled in. He is taking a clear posture of submission. Tommy, on the other hand, stands strong and confident. His feet are apart and his back is arched. He is the more powerful of the two and he knows it.


Now lets take that simple set-up and turn it on it’s head. A snake slithers by and the usually-confident Tommy is suddenly gripped with fear. Drawing Tommy climbing onto Timmy’s back not only creates a comical visual, but it is also consistent with their personalities. Tommy is still pushing Timmy around. He’s forcing himself on Timmy and using Timmy as a sort of shield. Timmy, on the other hand, is clearly not afraid. He is curious and even excited, yet he is still accepting a submissive role. Either that, or he is so excited about this wonder of creation that he is oblivious to Tommy’s bullying.

In this short little scene we see each character expressing both confidence and fear – but those same emotions are revealing themselves in different ways, consistent with their overall personalities.

Read two more Sparkbook Snippets: “Action Reveals Character” and “Acting With The Entire Body”. 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. 

Attack of the Killer Word Balloons! (Why Artists Should Study Silent Storytelling)

Attack of the Killer Word Balloons - Illustration by Cedric Hohnstadt

News about my Kickstarter the Pose Drawing Sparkbook continues to spread! More sites are featuring it including On AnimationAnimator Island, ShowMeTheAnimation, ComicRelated, and even a concept art blog from BrazilBut the biggest news is that the Sparkbook is now on the pop culture blog I wrote a short article for them called Attack of the Killer Word Balloons (Why Artists Should Study Silent Storytelling) and whipped up the above image to go with it.

BleedingCool has a pretty big audience which is great exposure! I had hoped the article would run on Saturday, which is what prompted me to try the Special Weekend Stretch Goal. Since the article didn’t go live until Sunday evening that momentum didn’t get a chance to build like I had hoped, but a lot of backers still stepped up to the plate which is great! Thank you so much! You are helping us get to 100% faster, which means we’ll have more time to add some awesome stretch goals.

We are almost there! As I write this we are 92% funded with almost 300 backers, so we could cross the line as soon as tomorrow. Once that happens I’ll be announce some great stretch goals so stay tuned! In the mean time it’s not too late to back the project and get your own copy of the Pose Drawing Sparkbook, plus other goodies like a webinar, sketch club membership, and original art.

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.

Sparkbook Snippet: Action Reveals Character

(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.)

Action Reveals Character (Excerpt)

Once you decide who each character is, you need to find ways to introduce them to the audience. Here are three common shortcuts you can use to help people get to know your characters quickly:

1. Appearance (e.g. muscular or skinny; casual dress or formal; etc.)
2. Dialogue (Are they talkative or quiet? Do they use short sentences or big, fancy words? Is his voice strong and low or high and weak? etc.)
3. Behavior (how do they respond to a given situation.)

This book is about poses so I’m going to skip the first two and focus on behavior. There are two ways you can use behavior to show a character’s personality: by what they do and how they do it.

1. What They Do. When your character faces a problem, how do they respond? Suppose your character is a tiny grandmother.  While walking down the street, a thug pulls a gun and demands that she give him her purse. Does she obey? Does she refuse? Does she go on the offensive and start swatting him with her purse? Does she panic? Does she try to outsmart him? (“Hey, what’s that over there?”) Does she scream for help? Her choice tells us something about her personality.


2. How They Do It. Suppose this tiny grandmother has some moxie and decides to simply refuse. The next question is, how does she refuse? Does she cross her arms and put her nose in the air? Does she wag a finger in his face and say, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” Does she brush him aside and keep walking? Does she put her hand on his arm and say, “What you need is some warm milk and cookies”? Each response will tell us something about her personality and her outlook on life. The more you can say with a character’s actions the better.

Something as simple as entering a room can tell us a great deal about a person. On Seinfeld Kramer would always explode into Jerry’s apartment.  The door would fly open and he’d come skidding across the floor. That energetic burst, combined with his wild hair and crazy clothes, instantly told you what kind of person he was: Confident, free-spirited and eccentric. Before he even says a word you get a sense of who he is. That’s good visual storytelling.


Read two more Sparkbook Snippets: “Acting With The Entire Body” 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.

Sketchbook Update: Pose Studies

As I wrote in my last post I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of keeping a daily sketchbook in addition to my client work. Some days are better than others but overall I’m making good progress. Even after fourteen years working as a freelance illustrator I still enjoying finding new ways to push myself to grow and improve as an artist.

Case in point: Last year I attended the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank, California. While there I shopped my character design portfolio around a bit. Several animation professionals graciously gave me some very helpful feedback. One thing I kept hearing was that although my character designs were strong overall there was not much expressive acting in my characters. Most of the people and animals I drew just stood around, usually with one hand on the hip and the other in what Kyle Baker refers to in his book How To Draw Stupid ( link) as the “hand of death” pose. They encouraged me to say more about a character’s personality and breathe life into the drawings through expressive posing.

The Expo is coming up again and I want to be ready with a new and improved portfolio. So tonight I took some time to experiment with posing. I quickly whipped up a very generic looking character and then tried to make him act, express, and emote. These few rough sketches are the result:

Pose Studies

It’s a challenging exercise. The more I started to draw the more I realized how weak and cliched my mental acting library really is. While these poses are a vast improvement over the work I was doing last year I still have a lot of room to grow. It all goes back to a basic but very solid principle of drawing: Don’t just look, see. In order to draw well you really need to study and analyze the world around you. I need to be studying live people as well as other actors and especially animators. It will be an ongoing process but one I’m looking forward to.