Attitudes and Expressions


As my regular blog readers know, I’m taking a character design class online from Stephen Silver over at I’ve been posting my work from each week’s lesson here on the ol’ blog-o-rama.

So far I’ve designed a character (Dr. Jeckyll) for a pretend “Jeckyll and Hyde” movie, starting with thumbnail silhouettes, then concept sketches, final clean-up, and then turnarounds. This week’s lesson was all about model sheets, specifically attitudes and expressions.

A “model sheet” is a page of drawings that animators and storyboard artists will use as a guide when animating a character. A good model sheet will give a sense of both the personality of the character (i.e. how does he react to certain situations?) and the physicality of the character (i.e. how does he walk, move, etc.).

Our assignment was to create a model sheet for our character, consisting of two parts:

1. Six standard expressions (anger, surprise, sadness, happiness, fear, and disgust);

2. Two full-body attitude drawings, which could be whatever we wanted. The only rule was that they give a sense of the character’s personality and/or response to a given situation. I chose to depict Dr. Jeckyll before and after drinking the potion that transforms him into a big, ugly, hulking monster.

I’m fairly pleased with how my expressions turned out. The attitudes not so much. The first one turned out ok but the second sketch was done late at night, so I was tired and rushed through it. The face isn’t a dead-on likeness, the pose should have been more unstable (dizzy, almost drunken), and the feet are a mushy mess. But, since this is a class and not a paying project, I only have so much free time to invest in the assignments. All things considered, I did ok.

Next week’s assignment is all about memory sketching. I’ve heard a lot about it but have never tried it. Can’t wait!


Coming Soon: Ben Stein Documentary

I generally try to keep this blog about art-related topics, but every once in a while something completely unrelated grabs my attention. Please indulge me.


Do you ever look up at the stars and wonder, “How did we humans ever get here in the first place? Were we created by God, or did we evolve on our own from a puddle of goo zillions of years ago?”

It’s an important question, worthy of discussion and debate. However, the scientific and educational establishments don’t always see it that way. In many intellectual circles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the only legitimate explanation for the origins of life, period.

stein.jpgActor, businessman, and columnist Ben Stein (pictured), best known for his comedic role in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, has produced a very serious documentary about the debate between Intellgent Design and Evolution. In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Stein claims that scientists and educators put their careers at risk if they publicly subscribe to the idea that the universe may have been designed by an intellgent Creator. For many scientists and scholars, to dare to question Darwin’s theories can be nothing short of career suicide. I think Stein is on to something.

Here’s the trailer:

(EDIT: Lest you think Stein is just one of those “crazy” conservative right-wingers, it’s doubtful. He gave $2,000 to the Senate campaign of the ultra-liberal Al Frankin.)

This looks extremely interesting to me. As I’ve written before (here and here), I am one of those crazy Christian kooks who believes there are gaping holes in the theory of evolution, and that Creationism and science are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, it’s not only risky for some to question Darwinism publicly but it’s even illegal to teach anything but evolution in some public schools. (If you think I am overstating the case, read this news story).

Stein’s message is one that I think needs to be heard. Of course Michael Moore, Al Gore, and James Cameron have all proven that documentaries don’t always present the pure and unvarnished truth. I hope Stein will do better, but I will be watching Expelled with a critical eye just in case. At the very least, Expelled should create lots of discussion and inject some new energy into a very important debate.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (official site) will hit theaters in February.

Series: The Business of Freelancing

As much as I enjoy making my living drawing pictures, it’s important for me to remember that freelancing is still a business. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a business person first and an artist second. If I don’t, I know I’ll be headed for a train wreck.

Artists are creative and free-wheeling by nature. The discipline and planning required to maintain a business can seem boring, confusing, and/or intimidating. Fortunately, the magical and powerful Internet is there to help!

One of the sites I visit regularly is It’s a blog that specializes in tips, tricks, and advice for freelancers. The articles are well-written and often extremely helpful. All this week they are doing a series called “The Business of Freelancing”, with a new article posted every day. The author is Shane Pearlman, who seems to have a pretty good blog of his own.

Yesterday they posted Part 1, “The Business of Freelancing–Saving For Taxes”. For the rest of the series, visit every day this week.

Also, I have a category of posts on this blog called (coincidentally) “The Business of Freelancing”. Click the link over to the right to view all of my previous posts under that heading.

Podcast Interview With Bob Staake


Images copyright © Bob Staake. All rights reserved.

Freelancing can be a lonely existence, and listening to background music or DVDs in the studio all day can get tiresome. So I’m always looking for good documentaries, interviews, and instructional material that relate to being a commercial artists. When I can actually hear the voice of another artist “talking shop” in the background, I eat it up.

I recently stumbled across a real gem on iTunes. It’s a podcast called the Illustrative Designer Podcast (hosted by Von Glitschka), and the artist being interviewed is Bob Staake. Staake is a very prolific illustrator/designer/cartoonist. Over the decades he’s built up an enormous body of work ranging from advertising to children’s books to animation design.

This is one of the better interviews I’ve heard in a while. Very informative and inspiring. If you work as a freelance illustrator, this is must-listen material.

Listen on iTunes
Listen online

Also, check out Bob’s blog. (I’ve added it to my blogroll.)

John K on Character Design


“John K” (short for Kricfalusi) is the creator of Ren and Stimpy, and a prolific blogger. I’m not a big fan of Ren and Stimpy, and John’s abstract drawing style (shown above) doesn’t really appeal to me. But his blog is terrific! His posts about art, animation, and cartooning are very thoughtful and filled with great images and clips that support his point of view. He has a lot of opinions and is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers. I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think. I recently added John’s link to my list of Art Blogs over to the right. (The abundance of images makes his blog slow to load, so be patient.)

Last month John did a great little post about what (in his view) makes for good character design. Well worth reading:

Character Design Primer

I decided to do a search of the rest of his blog looking for other posts about character design. After typing in the keywords, here’s some of the results that came back:

Ed Benedict Article From Animation Blast

Stock Disney Charactes – The Bland Lead

What Makes a Character a Character? (Part 1)

Stock Disney Characters – The Gay Arabic Villain

When Generic Is A Good Thing

Constructing Bugs Bunny

Ramjet Construction

(EDIT: Here’s more John K on Character Design.)