Sketchbook Update


Lately I’ve been trying to discipline myself to fill a page a day in my sketchbook, usually first thing in the morning as a warm-up. I’m not a morning person so this is a good way for me to clear the morning fog out of my brain. So far I’ve managed it about once every 2-3 days. This page combines some of my better warm-up sketches as of late.

I wish I could say these were all done from life (that is, after all, the best way to draw). However, my crazy schedule hasn’t allowed for me to leave the studio just to sketch. Most of these were done from photos. I keep a file of interesting faces and poses that I find in books and magazines, solely so that I can sketch them later. I also get a lot of good images by typing crazy terms into Google image search. Memory Sketching


Yesterday I covered part 1 of my latest assignment (my instructor is Stephen Silver). Part 2 was to do a memory sketch. “Memory sketching” is an exercise designed to strengthen your observation muscles. It works like this:

Go to a place where there are a lot of people (i.e. a mall, airport, coffee shop, etc.). Choose someone in the crowd to draw. Before you pick up your pencil, spend a few moments studying everything about them (their clothing, their posture, their face, the way they do their hair, their height….everything). Don’t look at them for longer than one or two minutes. If they haven’t walked away by then, turn and face the other direction.

Now, close your eyes and continue to study them in your mind. Analyze as much as you can remember. What was that hairstyle again? How far apart were the eyes? What color were the shoes? What was with that funny walk? (Don’t peek. It will completely destroy the purpose of the exercise.)

Finally, when you’ve got your target burned into your brain and you’ve thought everything through, THEN pick up your pencil to draw. And again, no peeking.

This was my first attempt at memory sketching. This guy was helping to take down a small stage in the Mall of America east court. Once I started to draw, I suddenly realized how little I had actually noticed about him. I had to improvise a lot of the details. Memory sketching is HARD.

But that’s why it’s such a great exercise. It forces you to really work your observational muscles for faster and more accurate drawing. It will also help fill your memory bank with facial features, hairstyles, body types, etc. so that you have more to draw on when you have to design a character from scratch. Personally, I’ve noticed that I have a clearer memory of this guy than I do of most other people I’ve drawn.

To see sample memory sketches from other artists, check out these two blogs: SketchClub and Sketchcub East.

Two Reminders…

This weekend is FallCon, Minnesota’s largest comic book convention. Here’s a recent post about it, and here’s the official site. I’ll have a table to display some of my work and sell a few sketches. If you are in the Twin Cities area, stop by and say hi!

Also, don’t forget to watch the season premiere of 3-2-1 Penguins! tomorrow morning on NBC! (I’m a character designer on the show). It airs at 10:30am central time. Check your local listings. The Importance Of Sketchbooks


For eight weeks now I’ve been posting my assignments from a character design class I’m taking at (taught by Stephen Silver). Only one more week to go!

This week’s assignement was another two-parter. For Part 1 we had to go to a busy public place and fill a page with observational sketches. The Mall of America is near my house, so I went there to sketch the above page. Part 2 (which I’ll post tomorrow) was about memory sketching.

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of keeping a daily sketchbook. The only way to get better at drawing is to draw. As Stephen likes to say, “A page a day keeps the competition away”.

A sketchbook isn’t for polished drawings. Rather, it’s a private place where you can stay loose, experiment, stretch yourself, and make mistakes. Lots of them! (Mistakes are the best teachers). If you want to keep growing as an artist, the worst thing you can do is fill your sketchbook with things you already know how to draw.

Going to a busy place to draw real live people is something you should do regularly. (Stephen fills a page every day over his lunch hour). Most people don’t sit still for very long, so it forces you to stay loose, think fast and make bold decisions, which over time will increase your confidence. Don’t sweat the details; focus on the essence of a pose (which can usually be captured in just a few lines). Try to capture the overall physical attitude of the person, which is the foundation that breathes life into a drawing. You can always go back and flesh out the details later.

In his lecture, Stephen talked about what a character designer should focus on as he sketches the people around him (i.e. balance, gesture, line of action, negative space, rhythm, attitude, etc.) He also talked about not just seeing, but studying what you draw. Observe the different ways people walk, talk, and gesture. Notice body types, hairstyles, and clothing choices. Study how fabric clings and hangs around the body, how people position their legs when they sit, how they lean when they carry things, how their posture changes with their attitude (i.e. excited, bored, annoyed, etc.) These are the things that give your drawings personality and character.

Stephen also talked about “frankensteining”, that is, assembling parts of several people into one character. You might start to draw a man reading the paper, but as soon as you rough in his body pose he gets up to leave. Don’t abandon your drawing. Add the profile from another person, maybe the hair from a third person, etc. Frankensteining keeps you from getting frustrted when your models keep moving (or leaving) in mid-drawing, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the new character you’ve created.

The point is that you keep drawing, keep experimenting, keep learning.

Now get out there and draw!