Pre-Order Joe Bluhm’s “Sketch Infectus”


(Artwork copyright © Joe Bluhm. All rights reserved.)

Joe Bluhm is a terrific illustrator and caricaturist. I recently discovered his work and have been following him with interest.

Joe is self-publishing a sketchbook called Sketch Infectus. It’s jam-packed with great eye candy. Joe claims that “you probably won’t find a sketchbook with more drawings packed per-page between the covers”. The book will be available in March but if you pre-order by Feb. 5 you get a really cool bonus: Joe will cut out an original sketch from one of his sketchbooks and mail it to you with the book. Awesome!

I just pre-ordered my copy and can’t wait to see it. Get yours here.

Sketchbook Update

I never know when I might have a few spare moments and be inspired to sketch, so I carry a small hardcover sketchbook in the pocket of my winter coat. For the next few months wherever I go I’ll be ready when the sketching bug bites.

Here’s a few of the newest faces from its pages:


Indiana Jones and the Sketchbook of Doom

Lately I’ve been blessed with gobs of freelance work, but one of the downsides is that I’m so busy cranking out work for clients that my sketchbook has been gathering dust.

Not a good thing.

A sketchbook is an important part of any artist’s development, no matter how busy or successful he/she gets. The sketchbook is the one place where you can really let loose, try new things, experiment, and (most importantly) make lots and lots of bad drawings.

When I say “bad drawings” I don’t mean getting lazy or not caring about your work. I mean bad in a good way. For most artists the temptation is to try and fill your sketchbook with beautiful artwork, but that can be a mistake. If your drawings are all wonderful, it means you are only drawing things you’ve already mastered. And that means you aren’t improving, growing, and pushing yourself to get better. It just means you are going back and forth along a well-worn rut. The day you stop doing bad drawings is the day you stop challenging yourself, and as a result you stop growing and improving.

And if you aren’t growing, you start sliding backwards. There is no middle ground.

Most of the work I do for clients is very cartoony, which is loose and fun and has no rules. Some people think that cartooning is really just sophisticated doodling, and I suppose for some artists it is. The way my brain works, I have to first study something and understand how it works in the real world before I can effectively simplify it into an appealing cartoon design. So I don’t use my sketchbook much to practice cartooning. I try to fill the pages with realistic and semi-realistic subject matter (portraits, caricatures, life drawing, clothing studies, etc.) The better I get at drawing realistically, the better I get at cartooning. As the old saying goes, you have to understand the rules before you can break them.

Recently I took my sketchbook with me on a vacation to a lake cabin in Wisconsin. I also brought along a fun book called The Complete Making of Indiana Jones ( link). It’s a thick paperback full of behind-the-scenes photos and stories from all four Indiana Jones films. These sketches were done from that book. These are clearly not my best sketches, but I learned a lot doing them so they have value. I experimented a bit with different mediums, brushed up on some anatomy and cloth, and was once again reminded that Harrison Ford has a really hard face to draw (especially the young Harrison). There’s a reason there aren’t too many caricatures of him floating around out there.

Someday, if I get the courage, I’ll post some of my really bad sketchbook drawings. But you get the idea.

Now get out there and fill up that sketchbook!

Thoughts on Life Drawing

The human form is one of the hardest things for an artist to master. It is incredibly complex—the hundreds of bones and muscles in the body can twist and pull into an infinite combination of expressive poses. In addition, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It’s important for an artist to study different body types so he can convincingly illustrate characters with variety and personality

The best way to master the human form is simply to draw it…again and again and again. To keep my skills from getting dull I regularly attend drawing co-ops in my city (a co-op is simply a group of artists getting together to draw real live models). Although I’m a cartoonist, I consider life drawing to be one of the most important and helpful exercises I can do. The more I understand the human form, the easier it is for me to simplify and exaggerate it with cartooning.

It’s hard to understate the value of drawing from life. Photographs can be helpful, and there are some good reference books out there for artists. But because photos are 2D they tend to flatten the form. Also, because a photograph is permanently frozen it can suck some of the life out of a pose. For the serious artist, nothing beats the freshness and energy of drawing from a live model. Drawing from a photo is like eating reheated leftovers rather than fresh food hot off the stove.

However, as much as I believe in it there’s one part of the life drawing tradition I’ve never understood. Read More

Sketchbook Update

Here’s a few recent doodles from my sketchbook, including an attempt at caricaturing Norm Peterson from Cheers. (Caricature is not my strong suit.)

Sketchbook Update


I’ve just come off of a long, crazy stretch of freelance projects, so today was the first time in a long time I was able to kick back and enjoy noodling around in the ol’ sketchbook. The top sketches are warm-up doodles and the bottom three are sketches from magazine photos.

Ideally I’d like to spend at least a half hour every day doing warm-up drawings. It feels good to do some relaxed drawings just for fun, without thinking about a client’s requirements. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy working on client projects and I like the challenge of finding a solution to a visual problem—but every once in a while it’s nice to be able to loosen up and do something for myself, with no structure or agenda.

Here’s hoping I can keep this up every day. Although if I suddenly get a full load of client projects again, that would be nice too (hint to art directors). As a freelancer the lull’s are always a bit nerve wracking, but I’ve been at this long enough to know something will be coming down the pipe soon. Better enjoy the light load while I can.