Sketchbook Update: Character Design Shuffle

Vulture Pharmacist Pogo Jumping

Yesterday I took a break from my busy work load to just play around in my sketchbook. I decided to use Stephen Silver’s excellent Character Design Shuffle app (available for iOS and Android). Each time you use the app it picks from several random character traits (gender, occupation, type of animal, emotion, etc.) to build a character assignment for you to draw. I spun the virtual wheel and was given the following words:

Pogo Jumping

So yes, this drawing was totally random…and totally fun!

Character Design Shuffle App


A popular exercise for cartoonists and character designers is to randomly pick from a list of characteristics (occupations, personality types, animal types, emotions, etc.) and then sketch a cartoon character based on them. Some artists, such as Chris Ayers, actually keep a Ziploc bag full of little slips of paper with such traits written on them. They pull out a few and then sketch a character that matches whatever combo they get. After reading one of Chris Ayers’ books I created my own ziploc bag, which I blogged about here.

Stephen Silver recently released a terrific iOS app called “Character Design Shuffle” (iTunes link), which takes this concept into the digital age. Simply select from a group of categories, hit the “Shuffle” button, and then draw the results that pop up. It’s a terrific tool and in hindsight its amazing someone didn’t come up with this idea sooner.


I’ve had the app on my phone for a few weeks but have been so slammed with work that I didn’t get a chance to try it out until this morning. The app gave me this description: “Female, Weasel, Doctor, Scurrying, Devastated”. The above warm-up sketch is the result.

My Artistic “Influence Map”

There’s a new meme for artists floating around the internet called an “Influence Map”. It was started by Boston artist Matt Laskowski over on Here’s how it works: you download a template that contains a grid of white squares. Then you paste in samples of artwork from other artists who have inspired and influenced you over the years. The bigger the influence the more squares his or her sample takes up on the grid.

Here’s my Influence Map (click to view larger):

It was really difficult to decide who to include, or more accurately who to leave out. There are *so* many great artists out there whose work I have studied and learned from over the years, and the list continues to grow.

To make things a little easier on myself I left out some mind-blowing artists whom I have only recently been exposed to (Nico Marlet pops immediately to mind). Though their work inspires and challenges me, I haven’t really followed them long enough to say that I’ve really absorbed what I can from studying them.

The artists I did include are (from left to right, starting in the upper left): Glen Keane, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Norman Rockwell, John Nevarez, Stephen Silver, Milt Kahl (he represents all of Disney’s Nine Old Men), Dennis Jones, John Byrne, Heinrich Kley, E.C. Segar, Carter Goodrich, and Rik Maki.

Like any artist my style is still evolving and (I hope) improving. As I continue to learn and grow I’m sure my list of artistic influences will ebb and flow as well. This is just a snapshot of where I’m at today.

What are you waiting for? Zip on over to Matt Laskowski’s DeviantArt page and make your own Influence Map. [EDIT: Feel free to post a link to your Influence Map in the comments section below, as well as over on Matt’s Deviant Art page.]

Mort Drucker Clip From “The Master Series”

Artist Stephen Silver has put together an amazing new video that cartoonists are going to love. “The Masters Series, Vol. 1” includes lengthy interviews with three living legends: Mort Drucker (MAD Magazine), Stan Goldberg (Archie Comics), and John Reiner (The Lockhorns). Over the course of 2 hours and 15 minutes we get to see each artist hard at work in their studio and listen as Silver interviews them on their process, technique, inspirations, and a host of other topics. An extended preview of the Drucker segment is shown above.

This video is the first volume in what will hopefully be a long line of videos. You can watch “The Masters Series” on starting January 20, 2010. The cost is $39.95. Pay once and you’ll be able to watch the video online over and over again to your heart’s content. Unfortunately you won’t be able to download a copy due to pirating concerns. That’s disappointing but I can’t blame Silver for his decision. In art and animation circles inspirational nuggets like this often get traded and shared like candy, regardless of copyright concerns, so I don’t blame him for being overly protective. He put a lot of hard work into the video and deserves to earn a bit of coin for his efforts.

See you at on the 20th!

Artists On YouTube

Here’s a few YouTube videos I’ve stumbled upon recently from some artists whose work I admire:

Dennis Jones is a phenominal illustrator. He draws very fun, entertaining cartoon characters and then paints them with a master’s eye for color and shading. Here’s a quick demo of him painting in Photoshop. View Dennis’ YouTube channel for more videos:

Here the very talented Denis Goulet posted a link he found to a quick tip about how to get more out of your Faber-Castell PITT brush pens:

Caricaturist Joe Bluhm discusses his process while painting Bill Murray:

Finally, Stephen Silver demonstrates a “memory sketch”. Memory sketching is a challenging exercise where the artist stares at a subject for a few moments (no drawing, just observing) and then later sketches the pereson from memory:

Stephen teaches a terrific class on character design over at I took the class myself and I learned a great deal. Highly recommended!

Do you have any favorite YouTube artist videos that you’ve found educational or inspiring? If so, please post a link in the comments section.

Memory Sketch Video by Stephen Silver

Last year I took a character design class online from Stephen Silver at One of the lessons dealt with memory sketching, which I’ve written about here.

Here’s a video of Stephen Silver doing a memory sketch and discussing it as he draws. Fun stuff. If you have an interest in character design I’d highly recommend taking Stephen’s class. You’ll learn a ton!