March is Sketchbook Month


Well, not officially. But it will be on this here blog. At least for this year.

Care to join me?

Life has been crazy busy lately with no signs of anything slowing down. As a result it’s been a real struggle to keep anything resembling a regular sketchbook. I still draw quite a bit but its always to please a client and meet a deadline. Rarely am I able to draw something I *choose* to draw for practice, to push myself, or just give myself a creative breather. As I’ve said before, I feel kind of a like a professional athlete who plays hard at every game but then never has time to come to practice.

Character designer Stephen Silver does absolutely brilliant work and one reason is that he’s a ferocious sketcher. He’s fond of saying, “A page a day keeps the competition away.” So that’s my goal for March. Do a page a day for an entire month. (To make it more manageable I’m going to limit myself to weekdays only, otherwise I might get discouraged and fall off the wagon.)

As an extra motivation I’m pledging to post at least one drawing from each day’s work here on the blog. Not because I think my work is so wonderful—quite the contrary, I can be very hard on myself. No, I’m primarily doing it because frankly I need the accountability.

Of course knowing that whatever I draw will wind up here in full public view leaves me tempted to play it safe and only sketch things I’m already good at drawing. But that would defeat the whole purpose. If I’m going to continue to grow and improve I’ve got to push myself to try new things and master new skills, whatever the results may be.

If you’d care to join me in this unofficial “Sketchbook Month”, leave a link to your blog/website in the comments section you can do so by visiting the official Sketchbook Month blog.

March is a month of new beginnings when the snow melts away, the grass turns green, and the birds start to sing. What better time to shake the dust off my sketchbook and start turning over new pages?

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.

Sketchbook Update

I’m a strong believer in keeping a daily sketchbook.

I’m also a hypocrite. I often go days or weeks without cracking mine open.

Don’t get me wrong. I do a lot of drawing but the overwhelming bulk of my artwork is created for clients with strict guidelines and objectives that have to be met. Between commissioned work and the never ending slog of running a freelance business (emails, phone calls, bookkeeping, self-promotion, writing proposals, running errands, keeping a blog, etc.) its getting harder and harder for me to curl up with a blank page and sketch for my own study and enjoyment. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like a professional athlete who plays hard during the actual games but then never has time to exercise or come to practice.

As a result I’ve started to feel a bit stale in my artistic development. I’m catching myself falling back on reliable tricks and habits rather than pushing myself to learn and grow. That’s a slippery slope towards creative death. So lately I’ve been forcing myself to get back into it and crack open the ol’ sketchbook more regularly. My goal is to do a page a day. Some days I make it, many I still don’t, but I’m determined to keep pushing ahead.

Most of my sketchbook drawings are not very cartoony. In order to be a good cartoonists I believe you first have to understand how to draw realistically. You have to have a solid grasp the real thing before you can convincingly simplify and caricature it. So when I sketch I usually study real people, real poses, real clothing, etc.

I also do a lot of very bad drawings (though I don’t have the courage to show them here). You can’t grow and improve without making mistakes and my sketchbook is the one place where I give myself total permission to mess up royally. If all my sketchbook drawings were perfect it would only mean that I was drawing things I’ve already mastered. That’s a great way to get stale fast.

Here’s a few recent sketches. Nothing in this particular batch is from life—all are from photos or video stills.

Sketchbook Update

Today I actually had time to do a few warm-up sketches:

warmups7-23-09(Artwork is copyright © Cedric Hohnstadt 2009. All rights reserved.)

Sketchbook Update (part 1)

It’s been a while so I thought I’d post some noodles and doodles from my sketchbook. I don’t have a scanner with me at the moment so I thought I’d try snapping pics of the sketches with my spanky new iPhone 3GS. The results aren’t as good as a scanner would have done but after adjusting the levels in Photoshop they didn’t turn out all that bad.

More sketches coming tomorrow.

All artwork copyright © Cedric Hohnstadt. All rights reserved.