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How to Draw a Cartoon of Yourself with a Felt Tip Pen

0:49  Drawing without an eraser
2:33  Silhouette, symmetry, repetition

5:30  Warming up
8:11  Creative accidents

9:47  Posture, abstract shapes
11:10  Importance of life drawing

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Create a series of character designs based on yourself.


Core Ideas

Character design, line, imagination

Recommended Tutorials


Art Supplies: Strathmore Softcover Sketchbook
Art Supplies: Papermate Flair Felt-Tip Pen


Christina Wu

“This was a very risky project for me as I used to always sketch things out in pencil first before going in with ink, so tossing away the eraser and going straight in with pen made the blank page all the more intimidating.

The first character I drew was very shaky and rigid, but as I continued sketching I found myself going faster with the pen until in the end I wasn’t even trying to formulate a plan, which is amazing because the designs ended up being so much more bizarre than I expected, to the point that I would never look at it and think ‘Oh, that’s me.’

This was definitely a challenging and new experience for me, and the fact that I recently got a haircut didn’t help too in terms of hair design. I also think this helped boost my self-image as well since the more I drew the less I worried about how I ended up looking on the page, whether I ended up too skinny, too round, or too ugly—the more exotic the better!”

Iris Yip

Iris Yip

“I had a lot of fun working on the project! On one hand, working in pen from the very start definitely highlighted some of my more prominent mistakes. I admit, it is pretty frustrating not being able to just go back and erase them, but this project is really one of those things that gets easier as you gradually get with the flow of things.

Overall, I liked how things turned out in the end, though if I were to re-do this, I would strive to be more relaxed. By the end, my hand was somewhat aching since I was holding onto the pen tightly in a vain attempt to keep the lines smooth, which I felt didn’t really fit the nature of this project.

Drawing in this particular way is something I really want to improve on, since whenever I sketch things as a first draft they tend to get too loose and messy, which in my opinion, doesn’t fit the overall aesthetic of these ink and pen sketches. I almost wish I had gone for more variation and hesitated less when it came to playing around with shapes and lines, but alas, I think I ended up being way too caught up over how the lines ended up looking to pay that much attention to overall design.

Still, it was really fun just letting the lines dictate what went where. Most of them ended up looking pretty funky, but I still enjoy them nonetheless. It was definitely a very fun project, and I felt a lot more comfortable breaking out of my usual style to try something new.”

Partial Video Transcript

Prof Lieu: “You’ve been doing these drawings for a while, where you just sit down with a sketchbook, you’ve got a pen, and you just draw all of these character designs totally out of your head. Now for me, that is such a foreign concept, because I cannot draw from my head. How did this come about?”

Casey: “A side-effect of working with my friend Mike drawing comics direct. That was sort of an exercise we used to do. Mike’s a guy that I’ve known for a really really long time, since we were in elementary school.

Initially it was a social thing for us and our first Halloween back home, and we decided to have a ghoul off where we both tried to draw the best and weirdest looking ghosts that we could think out of our heads. It was back and forth, trying to come up with funny visual puns. I worked much better when I didn’t have the option to erase a pencil mark.”

Prof Lieu: “In your sketchbooks now, you really have to commit because there’s no option to go back.”

Casey: “And I just love what that brings out of my drawing.”

Prof Lieu: “Your confidence increases the more you do it.”

Casey: “Oh yeah, it’s all about just laying down a line and really thinking aboutbefore you put the line downyour intention with it; trying to picture where you want to go with it. Lay that line down, but then also have the confidence to be like, ‘Well regardless of whether this line turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, I’m now going to adapt my intention for this character design.’ I think I do kind of hesitate in between lines, I kind of lay one down, then think, then lay down the next line. So it is a very fast process, but it’s very methodical.”

Prof Lieu: “You have to constantly react to what’s happening in the piece, you can’t go back and fix it. A lot of it has to do with you being confident or not confident, because I feel like for a lot of people this would be a very stressful exercise because they don’t have the option to fix it. So are you just saying, ‘you know I don’t care whatever happens, happens,’ or are you just so confident that you feel cool with whatever happens?”

Casey: “If I just put, say, a line right here, and that’s not what I wanted, then just start it over, that drives me crazy. Because then this line is just floating and it’s meaningless. No matter how badly it turns out I have to finish.”

Prof Lieu: “So it’s almost a compulsion…”

Casey: “Oh yeah.”

Prof Lieu: “…to complete the cycle of the drawing…”

Casey: “Yeah.”

Prof Lieu: “But you don’t care how it comes out at all?”

Casey: “No, because I’m gonna fill the page with more.”

Prof Lieu: “So it’s really a quantity thing, because you’re going to do so many of these, you’re not so precious. How do you start drawing from imagination? Because to me, I can’t do that at all. I have to have some sort of reference.”

Casey: “The silhouette is sort of the overall shape of the figure that you would see if you were to, say, backlight it so that the entire figure was just blacked out. So if I were to draw a Clara silhouette right now, it would look like purely the outline.

Prof Lieu: “Do you start the drawing that way though, or is this what you’re visualizing in your head?”

Casey: “This is sort of what I’m picturing in my headwhat kind of silhouette I want to start withif I’m going to draw the figure tall or short, sort of wide or thin. One thing that’s kind of a fun cartooning exercise is to put down a shape arbitrarily and think of how to turn it into a figure.”

Prof Lieu: “So that’s just some random shape you made, and now you’re thinking, ‘How do I turn that into a character?’”

Casey: “Yeah. I drew that by first doing this kind of q-tip shape, actually because…”

Prof Lieu: “Hahaha why a Q-tip?”

Casey: “The Q-tip specifically is because in college when I first met Lauren, she used to talk about me to the other like kids on our floor, and refer to me as the q-tip because my head is so big and my neck’s so skinny and I don’t have any shoulders.”

Prof Lieu: “So this Q-tip is embedded in your identity…”

Casey: “Yes.”

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