Category Archives: techniques

From My Sketchbook – Forensic Art?

I was away from home these past two weeks playing with the New York City Ballet up in Saratoga, NY.  With 3 rehearsals and seven shows per week, there was not a whole lot of time for sketching or cartooning.  Being in a hotel and having maid service and the chance to watch late night TV in bed was a nice perk, though.  In addition to lots of Food Network shows, my husband and I watched quite a few episodes of Forensic Files.  The latter got me thinking about what it takes to be a forensic artist, and if it is something I would ever be interested in doing (or could do.)  After digging a little online, I was surprised to learn that there are only about 30 full-time forensic artists working in the US.  The field is obviously tiny and highly specialized.  According to this article, becoming a forensic artist is usually somewhat of a round-about process which almost always involves working for law enforcement in a different capacity.  I was also intrigued to read about Lois Gibson, one of the most famous and successful forensic artists in the business today.  The importance of having people skills – forensic artists need to be highly empathetic listeners – combined with having artistic know-how would certainly be an interesting challenge.

For fun (and since I only did ONE cartoon sketch last week, tsk tsk), I asked my husband if he would participate in an experiment with me.  I asked him to think of someone, take a quick look at a picture of them, and then describe their face to me from memory.  I did all of the questioning and tried not to ask leading questions (i.e. instead of “Were their eyes brown?”, I asked “Do you recall the color of their eyes?”)

My first sketch (done in pen since that’s what I usually use for my quick sketches) resulted in this image:

My husband then told me that the nose was too high, the jaw-line should be thinner, the hairline lower and the hair “more wild.”  The second “blind” sketch resulted in this:

After he told me that he had been thinking of Leonard Berstein, we checked my sketch against photos of Berstein.  I think there is a bit of a likeness.  For sure, the exercise was thought-provoking and fun all around!



Filed under Art, Drawing, drawing faces, sketchbook, techniques, weekly sketch project

My Favorite Things – Coming Up With a Cartoon: A Step By Step Guide

Single panel gag cartooning is a challenging yet rewarding process on many levels.  For those of my fans who are curious how I work, here’s my step-by-step guide for creating cartoons:

  • Start with a strong emotion (anger, exasperation, love, surprise, jealousy, oblivion, etc.)  The more personal to your own experience, the better.
  • Google the emotion and read multiple articles taking note of any interesting phrases, words, or descriptions you come across. (I find that Googling “Huffington post + a phrase that includes my emotion word” is often a good place to start.)

  • *Search for synonyms, antonyms or words that rhyme with your key words.
  • *Look for “play on word” possibilities.
  • *Be open to letting your mind wander.  You may be surprised where you end up!
  •  *Research any potential cartoon themes using the Google IMAGE search to make sure your cartoon idea hasn’t already been done.

*These steps sometimes take me days and LOTS of note taking.  I keep my notes on my computer in a “Cartoon Gag” word document.  It’s important to have a record of your process since you never know when a discarded idea might jog your funny bone…

  • Sketch out your cartoon idea lightly in pencil.
  • Revise.  Scan your sketch into a photo-editing program (or hold it up to a light) so that you can see the reverse image of the sketch.  You’ll be amazed how many flaws you see when you reverse the sketch.
  • Ink over your final pencil sketch.
  • Choose a color palette.  For cartoons for publication, I stick with either black and white line drawings, or shades of gray.  For my shop at Etsy I have more leeway to introduce pops of color.
  • Pat yourself on the back.  Not only have you stretched your brain and your creative eye, but you’ll probably find that the strong emotion you started out with is now transformed…therapy doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

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Filed under Art, Cartoon Illustration, Drawing, education, funny art, Humorous Illustration, illustration, inspiration, Joana Miranda Studio, Joana Miranda Studio at Etsy, My Favorite Things, New work, pen and ink, techniques, Tool Box

From My Sketchbook – Rhymes and Doodles

When sketching those advanced in years,

You’ll find the need to switch gears.

Placing a wrinkle here and there,

Gives your sketch the needed flair.


Filed under Drawing, drawing faces, From My Sketchbook, funny art, Humorous Illustration, ink sketches, New work, practicing drawing, quick sketch, sketchbook, techniques, weekly sketch project

My Favorite Things – Potato People, or, How to Draw Cartoon Figures

These days I’m very much a fan of the Potato People school of drawing.   Face it, it’s a lot easier to draw a potato than to draw the human figure.

Before I turned this potato into soup yesterday, I photographed it…


Then traced it.


After studying the outline, I added a circle for the head, and sticks for the legs and arms.  And since the potato looked like it was sitting, I gave it a support.

(I think you’ll agree he’s beginning to look like quite the spud.)

At this point, he was still just (potato) skin and bones, so I had to imagine what he would be wearing…and reading.  Voila!

Happy drawing!


Filed under Art, Cartoon Illustration, Drawing, education, funny art, Humorous Illustration, illustration, inspiration, Joana Miranda Studio, marker and ink illustration, My Favorite Things, New work, practicing drawing, techniques, Tool Box

From My Sketchbook – It’s Fall in the Big Apple!

As you can see from my sketches, it turned colder in the Big Apple this week.  My fellow commuters were sporting rain jackets and hats, and yes, I even saw one fur head wrap, although I didn’t get a chance to sketch it!  These sketches are a little less “cartoon-y” than the illustrations in my recent posts, but the clean lines and relative lack of clothing wrinkles are still in keeping with the cartoon style I’m after.







Filed under Cartoon Illustration, Drawing, drawing faces, ink sketches, New York, sketchbook, subway sketches, techniques, weekly sketch project

From My Sketchbook – The World Through Squinty Eyes

As I’ve been transitioning to creating my cartoon figures, I’ve discovered that it’s a challenge to know how much detail to include – or, even more importantly, how much to leave out!  While some cartoonist stick to stock figures with very little variation between even male and female figures, I’m interested in capturing more character and variety in my cartoon illustrations.  Of course, practice makes perfect, which is why I’m always taking out my sketchbook whenever I have a free moment.  But I’ve also discovered a new tool, too…the Squinty Eye Technique.

Here’s what’s involved.

  1. Spot your subject
  2.  Squint your eyes until you see mostly blurry shapes and forms (Viola!  Clothing wrinkles will disappear!)
  3. Sketch what you “see”

Here’s what I saw through my squinty eyes this week…




P.S.  When practicing the Squinty Eye Technique you may find yourself the object of some questioning stares.  My advice?  Ignore the stares and smile – after all, no one gets out of this life alive, so you might as well have fun!


Filed under Art, Drawing, drawing faces, education, From My Sketchbook, ink sketches, New work, practicing drawing, quick sketch, sketchbook, subway sketches, techniques

From My Sketchbook – The President Makes an Appearance!

This week as I was watching President Obama’s interview on climate change, it occurred to me that I should do a cartoon sketch of  him.  Fortunately, since he tends to talk thoughtfully and calmly, capturing his expression was a lot easier that I expected.   And to my delight, when I showed my husband the sketch later and asked him who he thought it was, he got it right away!

President Obama talking about climate change –


I also decided to work on cartooning some less noble faces, too.

Believe it or not, these two characters share the same face.  Separated at birth?  Maybe.  In any case, I think you’ll agree that they ended up with VERY different personalities!


And, keeping with the challenge of drawing different characters using the same face, the following gentleman all started from the same square-shaped, 3/4 view head.

The Crooked Politician –


The Wizard – 


Touchdown – 


Someone’s Gotta Do It –


(As you can see, I can’t stop monkeying around!)



Filed under Art, Drawing, drawing faces, From My Sketchbook, illustration, ink sketches, inspiration, New work, practicing drawing, quick sketch, sketchbook, techniques, weekly sketch project