It’s been a very long time since the last post with much and varied creative practice in the interim, so best to skip to the most recent practice of drawing heads and faces.

My practice is rooted in looking for the funny, so that I can build this in cartoons. The easiest way to find this funny is by listening and enjoying the people around you. If these people are funny, it is even easier as humour spills into their language, and you just need to remember their words to cartoon up later. However, it is tricky to remember any words after a day filled with communication, so I recommend noting funny things into your phone as the day progresses.

Talking Heads:

This year, I started to keep a ‘Talking Heads’ book of the funny things that people say, as there was not enough room in my daily ‘Comics Diary’ to include all of these. The Talking Heads started as quick doodles in a cheap sketchbook on top of other creative work, but I regret not using better quality paper. Particularly as it is lovely to look back, remember and enjoy the various people in my life. They deserve better paper…

Here are a few examples:

To sum up, this practice of creating ‘Talking Heads’ is a nice easy way to start noticing and doodling up the funny things that people say. I recommend buying a good sketchbook – both the people and the doodles deserve decent quality paper!

Drawing Funny Faces:

Recently, I developed a process for creating funny or ‘cartoony’ faces – by this I mean a face of minimal lines that somehow captures the essence of a person.  This should be easy to replicate the faces for future creative work.

The process is this:

  1. Take a sketchbook with two pages,
  2. On the left page, draw a face with realistic (ish) proportions. I usually draw an egg shape and break it into the art school proportions (i.e. draw a line half way down the eye for the eyes, then break the bottom half of the face into half again for the mouth line). Alternatively, if you are short of time, or can’t be bothered with ‘real, then do a quick ‘no-looking-down-at-the page’ portrait – noticing the uniqueness of the person’s face as you look closely.
  3. Notice 2 or 3 distinctive things about this face and note them down or keep them in your mind.
  4. Create your minimal face with cartoony proportions using these 2-3 elements as exaggerated. Often cartoony faces have the eyes higher up the face than real faces, so feel free to ignore the art school proportions.

Here are some examples:

In these two, I particularly enjoyed looking for the geometry in the faces and loved all discovering all the triangles in Rich’s face. For the most part, this process seems to work well, and my catalogue of funny faces is becoming a useful reference for creating other cartoons on the same people. Rich’s ‘cartoony’ face is reworked in the single panel below, which captures a moment in my improv group where he was playing a scene of ‘goths playing golf’,


There are two cases where this process did not work. The first remains the unresolved case of trying to ‘cartoon’ my partner to my satisfaction, and I will keep working on this. The second was drawing Betty who is only 8 years old and has the problems of youth and beauty (problems for the cartoonist anyway!). For Betty’s ‘Talking Head,’ I resolved this by adding contextual cues of her pig-tails and her school uniform to indicate ‘child’. She has become a schoolgirl stereotype really (and I should check that she is okay with this),

To some extent, character is in these essential cartoony combinations of facial features. It is also in adding expression to these faces to provide their mood and/or disposition, and in adding movement and body language to capture their energy.