Seeing a new Perspective


One of my favorite sketch projects over on Instagram is a series I call “Forced Perspective Comics” (@Joshings if you’re curious)

BartMonsterThese vary in complexity from simple multipart comic stories


Series dedicated to a single character


or one off images created in a moment of inspiration.

 This series was inspired by films like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Cool World” and specifically by the work of Marty Cooper aka Hombre_McSteez

Making these images takes a few relatively easy steps.


1  –  Location Location Location


find a spot that inspires you to draw. Is there something entertaining that could be happening here?

2  –  Give yourself a little guidance


Do a quick guide sketch of the space where you character will stand/sit etc. Try to be accurate, but don’t sweat it too much

3  –  Sketch the character


use your guide sketch to check proportions, and hold the drawing up to eyeball how its fitting into the shot

4  –  Put finishing touches on the drawing, and cut/rip it out


this is much easier when you have scissors. I try to hide my hand, so I tend to use artfully cropped characters or word balloons against a border edge as an extended tab to grab on to

5  –  Take some pictures, choose the best one



it can be tricky to get the perfect shot. Wind Blows, people walk into your frame, you misalign the elements. Try moving your body forward if your character is too large and your arm is extended as far as it will go. If the character is too small and everything feels too blurry try taking a step back.

6  –  Filter!


Instagram’s built in filters give your food paintings that je ne sais quoi of analog flaws. It doesn’t really help us improve our drawings at all, but we can piggy back on the results. These look filters have a unifying effect on the over all color scheme, so black and white cartoon characters start to feel like they’re in the same lighting space as the actual photographed world. Its a subtle effect sometimes, but can help a lot. I spend a lot of time choosing the filter that creates the most harmonious relationship between background and foreground.

7  –  Crop


Crop out your hand and try to get the feet to sit nicely on the ground. It is often at this step that I find I need to make small adjustments to my drawing and re-shoot the photo

8  –  Adjustments

7---Adjustments 8---Adjustments_2 9---Vignette

Add any adjustments that help cement the relationship. This could mean nothing or fiddling with every slider in the app. I do tend to use the vignette pretty consistently at this stage.

9  –  Tilt Shift <- very important


Tilt shift is a photographic technique that makes objects look tiny by simulating an extremely narrow depth of field. It does this by blurring large sections of the image. You can accomplish this in the analog with extremely expensive lenses, painstaking hours in the dark room, or digitally using 3 clicks in instagram. We don’t use the filter to make things look small, we are trying to fight one of the biggest give aways that our character is not in the real world. The iphone (or android) camera adjusts its aperture automatically responding to the amount of light in the area. This can make it extremely difficult to control the depth of field. Ideally you would use a very high f.stop, aka tiny aperture and a lot of light so your little piece of paper and background would both be in crisp focus. Since this doesn’t usually happen I push for more blurriness selectively applied to help glue the images together. If you use the radial tilt shift filter you can keep the face/focal point of your drawing in focus and blur the contact point in a way that matches the blur of the background photo.



How do you figure episode 3: Using Line of Action to identify Exaggeration Opportunities

Today we’re building off of the concepts in a previous How do You Figure episode (see here) and will talk about using line of action to exaggerate our poses.

I’m working off of a stock photo from Marcus J Ranum, a photographer who provides amazing resources for artists mostly for free, check out his deviantart for great stock photos.

This character is swinging his axe, moving from left to right, I’m going to attempt to enhance the feeling of power in the axe swing.

Line of action

I’ll start by identifying the primary line of action, a curved line that shows the tension of the spine and the direction of the force. In my study drawing we can exaggerate the feeling of these forces by leaning the line further to the right and bending the line in the torso further



I find it helpful to think of the other limbs as having their own lines of action, often providing counter motion to the primary line of action.


The exaggeration opportunity here is often in the squash and stretch, and their relationships with the primary line of action. Adjusting slightly to avoid right angles can make the pose feel more organic.

From there the study is finished off using a few layers of sketching


block in


clean line



each of these other steps have their own shortcuts to get to a finished state more efficiently, but that’s for another blog post.

How Do You Figure: Episode 2, building shortcuts

#timelapse #figure #drawing at the Jean Henry School of Art hosted by @mikeritch

A video posted by @joshings on

Figure drawing for illustration can be broken up into roughly 3 basic topics. Structure, Line and form. All three are intertwined, but each can be practiced independently. Today we’ll talk about the first two topics. In all of these things, generally you can start with a circle.


Professional artists can be deceptive in their work. When Eric Goldberg seems to wave his pencil like a magic wand and reveals perfectly placed lines almost every time, it can feel like that’s the way to start drawing characters. But the secret is that under the disturbingly perfect lines is a measured structural drawing he’s already worked out in his head. Goldberg has such a refined sense of proportion and motor control that he can jump straight to the lockdown line, especially on a character he’s spend multiple years drawing animation drawings of. But when he teaches you how to draw in his book Character Animation Crash Course! he starts with a circle

Seriously, just go buy the book, its amazing.



Andrew Loomis gives a solid formula for constructing a generic white guy human head in his series of illustration books including Figure Drawing for All its Worth, and Drawing the Head and Hands. It should come as no surprise that he starts with a circle. The next 2 lines unlock the secret though. The center line of the face, and the brow line. These two lines provide the structure that you can build the rest of the face and head on and the head is the best way to measure out the rest of the body easily.

The shortcut to drawing freehand is to be able to visualize the underlying structure before you put pen to paper. The downside is there is no shortcut to internalizing that structure, you have to practice. So draw people, but only draw the construction lines, circle, center, brow. Draw from life, draw from movies, draw from the mirror, get the proportions into your hands and head till it takes no effort.
movie credits: Her, Hunger Games, Django Unchained

And note, drawing final lines freehand shouldn’t even be your goal necessarily. Its a fun party trick, it can come in handy if you’re doing reportage, but many artists continue creating construction drawings before locking down the final line through their entire career. Case in point: Glen Keane, who seems to carve the shape from the paper, stroke by stroke, laying down construction lines whenever necessary before locking down.

How Do You Figure 1



Hey! Welcome to ‘How do you Figure’ a bimonthly feature exploring the use of figure drawing in Illustration. All images are copyrights are reserved to their respective holders and are presented here for editorial and educational purposes.

Series 1. I can see your model stand

In sci-fi and fantasy illustration the human figure is often the most important element in a piece, serving a number of different roles. Whether cementing a sense of scale in the minds of the audience, providing an empathetic entry point into the fantastical scene or carrying the entirety of the story on its shoulders. To accomplish this the illustrator must strive for the illusion of life, a term coined in the halls of the disney animation studio to describe the ultimate goal of any character animation. While character animation and figurative illustration are not exactly the same in practice, many of the same underlying principles can be applied. One of the most common weaknesses of fantasy illustrators is to mistake surface refinement for the illusion of life.

fig-1aCase in point, Boris Vallejo. Vallejo is an incredibly talented illustrator fig-1bwho has been working essentially non stop since he broke into the industry in the 1970’s, and rightfully so. He is truly a master of his medium, pushing paint into realms of the impossible in a way that challenges the imagination of the viewer. His images are most successful when the imaginary elements are primary (fig. 1a) or when the story telling is best served by a figure in repose (fig. 1b)


His work is weakest when he must convey story through the movement of a figure. As a point of comparison we’ll be looking at the work of Frank Frazetta, no stranger to the figure in repose (fig. 1c). The primary difference being that Frank got his start drawing Thunda comics (fig. 1d), a job that demands the figure be as dynamic as possible while still being easily reproduced in stark black and white.











For the first example we’ve got some muscles clashing with each other (Fig 2a). On the left is Frazetta’s piece and on the right is Vallejo. Both have strong silhouettes (fig 2b) that draw attention to the figure and emphasize the fight as the central focus. But lets look at the line of action (Fig 2c). In the Vallejo piece we have two nearly identical gestures offset only by size. The primary lines of action in the body and arms are nearly parallel with each other, this symmetry stiffens the composition and the figures within it. Imagine if the Giant figure had a contrasting line of action, similar to that of the frazetta piece (Fig 2d)


Further, there are anatomical clues to the model stand that disconnect the figures from the fantasy of the moment. In both pieces the muscle bound men are flexing, ostensible to swing a weapon at a no doubt deserving target. In Frazetta the muscles of the arms and torso are roughly equal in their engagement. The biceps engage but are elongated, the whole character feels like a spring pulled back about to be released. (fig 3a). Vallejo on the other hand is clearly a figure posing to show off his muscles. There is no twist in the spine and the weight is centered between the feet. This is good for maintaining balance when on a model stand for longer poses, but does not convey movement particularly well. The biceps are extremely flexed, in a way only seen in bodybuilders in competition. If one were to swing a warhammer one handed like this, the biceps wouldn’t even engage this way. Its a masterful handling of the figure, but it looks more like he’s trying to win Mr. Universe than that he’s trying to knock out Mr Giant over there.  (fig 3b)

Vallejo is one of the many spiritual successors to the style that Frazetta first established in his Conan illustrations in the 1960’s. As a result there are multitude of comparable pieces by Vallejo that clearly reference the Frazetta aesthetic, paint handling and subject matter. Take a look at these examples (frazetta on the left, Vallejo on the right) and try to see the model stand. Want to take it a step further? Try doing a paint over of the Vallejo half using the Frazetta gestures as guidance.




Character design is a necessity


As necessity is the mother of invention the first step to a character design is creating and identifying a need. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a while that melds my favorite parts of the zombie apocalypse, steam punk design and action manga. Taking place in the Montmartre district of paris circa 1880, it  stars 2 characters; a living doll street performer who is mysteriously blaise about the surrounding hordes and a panicked american photographer trapped in the city as the legion of rotting corpses crashed over the city. To get myself in the right mindset I knocked out a sketch that I thought spoke to the entire concept.

Needs. Young male, exhausted from days of bare bones survival, still desperately clinging to a modicum of normalcy in the form of upper middle class clothes. The lineup above are my attempts to figure out his face. He starts out too rakish, seemingly confident in the face of the destruction around him. The process for him involved small variations, particularly in facial features. Working with a particular jaw line/profile then within that adjusting the shape of the nose, proportions of the mouth, and alignment of the eyes.
There needed to be some final tweaks just to solidify the concept but from there I started developing rough character sheets. These will serve as guides during the creation of the rest of the comic.

the first Pitch!

Welcome to the Pitch! The first of a series of articles from the infinite cortex brain trust. This is going to be a weekly exploration of casual game design concentrating on mobile and web apps. I’ll be concentrating on mechanics and flavor at first, trying to pare down scope and eventually be producing small scale games bi-monthly based on the best pitches.

So here’s the Pitch! Cirque Mechanique! A steampunk flavored juggling game. Essentially a combo of Tetris and Breakout, the curved swipe motion takes advantage of the most interesting part of the touch interface, and a randomized element helps let players externalize blame for losses fueling interest in continued play.

First the mechanics. Juggling is the act of catching and throwing multiple objects into the air and not dropping them. It provides a fun reflex based challenge and the first place to create player rewards. Points are awarded for successfully catching an object, so as long as you’re playing you’re scoring points. Too many dropped objects lead to the end of the game. Further rewards are given for hitting specific targets (more on this when we talk flavor), and the challenge scales easily simply by adding more objects to juggle.

The player would tap->swipe, the tap tells the hand where to catch, the swipe swings the hand and releases the object. For practicality’s sake the objects would be confined to the space of the screen, bouncing off the sides if they contact. The juggler’s hands would automatically alternate, so the player can tap anywhere for the catch and not worry about how the catch is going to actually happen.

By varying the puzzle goal, and randomizing to some degree the objects a player is juggling, the player is given a psychological out, if the successes can be traced to their skill, but a certain percentage of the losses be blamed on bad luck, the player has a way to read continuous advancement into the process.

Mmmmm delicious flavor. The Cirque Mechanique! Needs to setup. The riggers are putting up the big top but they need you to toss them their tools. Juggle the tools until a worker calls for something then toss it to them. End game tool to be tossed? Flaming axes! What does a steampunk work crew need a flaming axe to build? I have no idea, but it must be awesome right?

So Ball or Strike? Fair or Foul? Do you wanna be juggling flaming axes on your ipad?

Gellini’s Shoe Sketch

Concept for Gellini’s clown Shoes. Joshua has been doing these off my basic line drawings and I’m especially fond of the subtle, glittery shine in the bow.