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!

Some Character Design Sketches

Here’s another project I can finally let out of the bag. A large regional company is in the process of rebranding itself and expanding its market base. I was hired by an ad agency to help develop an updated version of this company’s current mascot. After a couple of rounds of sketches the company decided to go in another direction with the project, so this is as far as my involvement went.

The agency has given me permission to post some of the development sketches under the condition that I don’t reveal the name of the company. As part of the deal, I’ve been asked to change the colors of the character’s clothes (he was wearing the colors of the company’s logo) and also erase the logo from an article of his clothing. So, here are some of the modified concept sketches.

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.

New! eSketchbook and Bonus Screen Saver


If you’ve attended a comic book convention in the last few years, you may have noticed the “sketchbook craze” spreading through the art world. Comic book and animation artists will assemble dozens of personal sketches, have them made into booklets at Kinko’s, and sell them at conventions and other events. I’ve been to Comic-Con twice in the last five years and each time I’ve come back with an armload of inspiring sketchbooks to drool over.

I’ve also experimented with printing sketchbooks myself. In 2004 I put together a book of mostly cartoony portraits and called it “Head Hunting”. I never rented a table or booth, but I made up a small print run and managed to eventually sell or trade all of them. In 2006 I printed a second volume, “Head Hunting Volume 2”. Again, it was a small print run and I sold out of them as well.


Instead of doing a third volume, I’m going to try something different. I’ve chosen the best sketches from both volumes, plus about twenty new sketches, and assembled them into what I’m calling an “eSketchbook”. It’s a PDF file containing over 100 of my personal sketches and doodles which can be downloaded and, if you’d like, printed out on your home computer. A sample two-page spread is shown above.

As a bonus I’ve also saved each spread as a JPEG and included instructions on how to turn the JPEGs into a screen saver.

I’m selling the entire package—100+ sketches and a bonus screen saver—for $9.95.

To purchase the eSketchbook, , visit the store on my website. Once you buy the sketchbook, an email will be sent to you with a link to download the file. My website store is brand new, so if you run into any bugs or problems please email me and let me know.