I get a lot of e-mail asking me if I can give people pointers on how I construct characters and put together poses and things like that, and I never really know how to do those things with text alone. A few people have suggested I should put together one of those very common step by step drawing guides to kind of spell out the way I put things together. I finally got around to doing it. I'm not making it soley a sketch blog feature, because I'd feel bad about making a single blog entry for a week encompass essentially a single sketch that I scanned eight times during various stages of completion.
Ahead, the sketch.
The first thing I do is get an idea for a picture in my head. For this, I decided on a picture of an adult Lucy standing up in a casual, happy pose. The first thing I do is draw a very loose line-guide to get the general gist of how the pose will look, starting with a circle for the head, and a mid-line representing the curve of the body, and circles for major joints like shoulders and hips, as well as lateral midline for the hip width.This is actually less of an anatomy guide (which is why the lines are so loose and light) and more just to get a feel for the pose and make sure I know that where I want to put the hands, or arms, or whatever, doesn't look entirely retarded. It's a good way to make sure the pose looks natural and not "forced". The circle for the head becomes a "sphere" shape when you add cross to the front to indicate here the character's nose will be pointed.
The next thing I do is add the basic component body shapes. Again, I use very light lines because these things can change slightly as the sketch progresses. The torso is an inverted triangular shape, while the hips are kind of the opposite. I usually draw arm segments and leg segments as brisk, very light ovals before fleshing out a more natural elongated arm or thigh shape. By using these basic body shapes, you can literally make any pose from any angle seem natural and real once you get the hang of it. Learning to build bodies with these component shapes is what allows you to draw poses purely from your imagination without always using visual references. Once you've seen enough references to know how joints move, connect, and how the body works in motion, it just gets easier and easier. Don't ever throw away your anatomy and reference books. Sometimes I draw the same cross on the chest and abdomen that I use on the head. If the body will have a particular twist or is from a particularly sharp angle, it helps me keep track of exactly where the front and center of the chest and abdoment are. These shapes will also vary based on the physical characteristics and sex of the character being drawn. Males will generally have more square hip shapes. Some women will have wider or slimmer hips, while some men will have broader chests and shoulders.
Now, I tend to focus on the head and facial features. I usually stick to my original circular construction pretty religiously. Human heads are a little different and I usually add another sloping oval shape to represent the face protrusion from the eyes down. You can see that the eyes are actually in the middle of the head, instead of very high up. They're both "seated" on the median line of that cross I drew that indicated where her nose was pointing. Since she's a cat, she has a blunt muzzle and there's no need to draw another oblong protrusion to represent a very jutting snout (at least for how I draw cats like Lucy). At sharper angles from the side, I'll often draw a smaller circle to give her muzzle shape against her head, but since the view is pretty head-on, I skipped that step. I stick to the underlying sketch structure pretty religiously when it comes to placing her face-fluffs and her ears. Of course, the way you design your own characters will vary. Drawing the eyes to look right from any angle is a very difficult skill that I sometimes even have trouble with. Practice and reference is all I can recommend.
Sticking with the head, I add Lucy's smile, her fur's color pattern, hair, eyelashes, and the outline of her pupils. It's important to get the pupils to look natural and lined-up. Sometimes it's difficult from different angles, but practice is really the only way to make it work out most of the time. Use lots of references. If the eyes are crooked, it'll look like she has down syndrome and the entire drawing will be ruined.
Revisiting the body, I start to darken the outline of all those shapes I made earlier, in order to start to solidify her pose. You'll note that my lines are still very fuzzy and light, drawn with feathery strokes instead of a hard, paper-creasing lines. Things to note when adding this step are: Making sure the neck looks natural in connection to the head and body, re-checking your original sketch lines and median-lines to make sure they represent the front-centers of the body. If they don't, feel free to move them slightly.This is important when drawing things like breasts, pectorals, bellybuttons, and naughty parts, which are generally aligned to the body's centerline. Always check your proportions. Sometimes the addition of hair and face detail can make a character's head seem to swell in size and look odd. Drop your arms straight down to your sides and see where your hands reach. Your character's hands should reach the same distance on their bodies. If the character can touch their knees without stooping, the arms are too long. If your characters can't abuse themselves without stooping, the arms are too short. Make sure one arm isn't grossly longer than the other, and check the legs too. You can space your fingers between joins (hip and knee for example of thigh length) and move your fingers to the twin body part on the other side to do a quick-check to make sure one part isn't bigger than the other. Some people use rulers. If you have them on hand, by all means. Detail the shape of the groin. Don't make it too low, or too high. There needs to be room for intestines and baby-growing parts in the abdomen on a woman, so there should be some distance between her bellybutton and her poonaner. In a male, outline the pecs, and in a female (or a fat dude) outline the swells of the breasts so get a good idea of the extent of their shape and sag, bearing in mind the clothes they'll be wearing (along with supporting bra and etc...). You should end up with a manequin-body that's suitable for hanging clothing on.
Now she's ready for some clothes. I tend to draw the clothes on top of the bodyshapes and leave the construction visible through the clothing at this stage. Clothes that are lose should hang off their bodies appropriately. Her shirt hangs straight down from the edge of the "shelf" created by her breasts, and the sleeves are a little loose around the arms. It's a tight shirt, but not too tight. I went ahead and added the tail in a high, happy position. At this point, the presence of a tail won't confuse any of my sketchy construction guidelines, which is why I avoided drawing it at all in earlier steps. The shorts are fairly tight, so drawing them was easy. They would have lose flaring portions at the waist, unless she had love-handles (or muffin-tops as they're often called on girls). The lines that outline her groin's shape are going to change as well, indicating the wrinkles and folds of her denim shorts responding to the shape of her body and stance of her legs. I added some more fur pattern details on her tummy and hands, and drew sneakers on her feet. Feet and shoes are very difficult. I still fuck them up regularly, so don't get frustrated. Just use lots of references (you own shoes, I know you do) and keep practicing. Adding a "shadow" shape around the base of the feet helps to make the character seem more grounded and not just floating in space.
The "sketch" is basically done, now. All we need to do is flesh it out and add details. I regularly go back and erase the construction lines, simply because the sketch looks more understandable when you do. I don't want to have to decipher which is a construction line and which is a tangible line when inking the picture later. This means erasing a lot of your median lines, joint circles, and it definitely means erasing things that would otherwise be covered up by clothing. The semi-circles that represent Lucy's breasts have almost completely disappeared, because the shirt is hanging almost straight down off of the "shelf" formed by their shape. On a particularly loose, natural t-shirt, you wouldn't see the underside of her breasts indicated at all. Since this shirt is somewhat tighter, I left the inward curve of the underside of her breasts just slightly indicated with very light lateral lines to represent stretched cloth, instead of semi-circular curves that would make her shirt look like it's "painted" on her boobs. I added a gym bag to sort of give the picture a little more detail and add to the naturalness of the hand behind her thigh. It also adds a little bit of ballance to the picture, and makes the pose seem more like a spontaneous "snapshot" of a moment in her life, instead of a rehearsed pose. I expanded the shadow-shape at her feet to include the bag.
Technically, the sketch is done and ready for inking at step 7. Step 8 is something I often do when I have more time or I want to nail down a particular set of details that will help in the inking or coloring process, if I plan to take the image that far. I added shading marks in a lot of retreated and curved areas to represent some level of depth in the clothes and the bag. I scribbled in the dark tone of her black fur, which I usually only do when I have a new character that I'm designing and I want to get a feel for how the darker tones will look once I ink or color the fur pattern. I also darkened the scan, which is what I usually do before displaying a sketch.
I may do a finishing step-by-step later, though it'd be a lot more difficult to put together. I don't like taking snapshots of photoshop windows and tools and other things but I may find a way to work it out later on. My coloring isn't stellar, but some people might be curious. Anyway, I hope this helps all the people who were requesting this sort of thing.