Breaking the Mold

Breaking the Mold

As an artist, I tend to be pretty idiosyncratic in the way I draw. I don’t think that I’m alone in that. In fact, isn’t idiosyncrasy the essence of style? While having a recognizable style is certainly helpful from a marketing perspective, those idiosyncrasies can become stifling.

While attending the NEWCBWI conference in April, I attended a wonderful course by the incomparable Kelly Light. She shared a wonderful strategy to shed the shackles of those idiosyncrasies, loosen, and create some characters that maybe you never would. It’s a simple technique, but it is so valuable that I’m sure I will continue to use it for a long time. All you do is grid off a piece of paper, and in each box, quickly sketch a shape. No thinking about it first. That would be cheating and counterproductive. Next comes the fun part. Once by one, examine each shape until it reveals something to you.

I have never seen a whole character at once. More often I see a piece. The outer contour of a skull. A protruding nose. Etc. But that is the point. Kelly’s strategy forces you to break your own molds. Step outside of you automatic hand and mind. Look at things differently.

Below are the sketches I created at the conference. I added paint later on a whim (totally unnecessary).


Here are a few more examples I drew on my iPad while flying to Las Vegas. Boy, do I hate flying, but this really killed the time. I’m rather fond of a few of these. A few of these have a flavor dramatically different from how I naturally draw. Very exciting (for me, anyway).




Special thanks to Kelly Light. Do check out her work. It is wonderful!

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