When a rough idea has been ok’d by an editor for publication, the first thing I do is find models for important elements of the drawing, and do ‘studies’.

For example, a recent drawing for The New Yorker magazine involved penguins. I google-imaged (a new verb I just created) ‘penguin’, then familiarized myself with the Penguin’s anatomy and physical attributes by sketching off the photo images. Once familiar with the flightless bird’s basic shape and anatomy, I was able to design a cartoon version of a penguin:

Penguin Study

Having worked out the penguin’s design and practiced building it from different angles, I was ready to compose the finished drawing:


Which went smoothly, since I’d already worked out how I would draw the penguins.

I also use models for furniture and interiors. Having specific architectural details and interior design elements in the drawing creates emotion in the viewing experience. Those details create the illusion of reality on the page. It is as if the people in the drawing are alive and moving around their space and the viewer is standing nearby off to the side. The viewer can relate to the drawing emotionally.

New Yorker cartoonists Charles Saxon and Robert Weber were both masters of this approach. Here are two examples:


Note how specific the furniture and interior elements are.

And Robert Weber:


Clearly, the fruit stand, gazebo and apartment building are drawn from life, rather than simply the imagination.

For a recent finished drawing for Barron’s involving a shrink’s office, I used these photo references:



To produce this result:

1729 89-10


It’s no Charles Saxon, but to me, the realism of the couch, the rug pattern, the window detailing and the basic architecture of the building outside add to the emotional content of the drawing.

Of course, the use of live models in art is not new:



And in our present day, has been taken to new levels:




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