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Gestures, Character Art, and Failed Portraits ~ drawings from the sketchbook

Well, my friends, after four long years… after many breakthroughs, and lots of discovery and exploration… after a trip to the zoo, and all the times it’s been stuffed into my backpack with a couple of pencils and erasers…

I’ve finally filled up my old hardcover sketchbook!

Almost. There’s still one or two pages there at the end, and a few half-finished sketches along the way.


It’s definitely been a journey. I received this sketchbook as a gift for my sixteenth birthday, and it’s crazy to look back to that time and see all the things that have happened in my life since then. But anyway, today I thought it’d be fun to share with you an exclusive, insider look at that journey. Yes, today I will be sharing some never seen before sketches and drawings.

Prepare yourself. You may be… shocked by what you see.

(How’s that for a dramatic intro?)

This was my very first page. I thought it would be a good reminder for the rest of my journey.

The friend who gave me this sketchbook had been showing me some of the Bible verses that she lettered everyday, so that was an inspiration for this sketch.

Got some faux calligraphy in action here. And oh dear, that silhouette needs help, but I’m going to try not to be too nit-picky about my old art.

*tries not to be too nit-picky*


As you can see, the misplaced eyes have been haunting me since 2018. This was supposed to be a portrait of one of my best friends… but yeah, I drew her eyes way too far apart.

This is a picture I actually drew from my own photography. *proud moment* I was a bridesmaid at a wedding and my friend was a photographer, and we were goofing off in the dressing room and took this picture.

If she looks like a seven year old, it’s because I accidentally somehow gave her a baby face… with a pen. *not so proud moment* But hey, at least she got a good laugh out of it when I showed her.

Ah, back in the days when I was somewhat active on the Story Embers forum. There was a pretty good sized community of artists there, so we had fun drawing each other’s characters, and giving each other feedback and encouragement.

These are a couple character sketches I did for some of the lovely ladies on the forum.

Another portrait of a friend done in ink. This one is just a bit underwhelming. It needs a bit of color or shading or something.

I think I had been reading about the Hitler Youth when I drew this portrait. I was very inspired by Sophie Scholl’s story, so I decided to do a drawing of her. And I finally had a pretty successful ballpoint pen portrait!

(Probably because one of her eyes is covered up, you know. 😜)

Photo credit to my older sister. πŸ™‚

I was really enjoying drawing with the ballpoint pens there for a while. I was never quite brave enough to try a full color pen drawing (yet πŸ˜‰), but I did have fun with this monochromatic purple drawing.

This was going to be a portrait of my dear Daddy. However, I realized almost right away that I had made the features a little too big on the face. And I wasn’t sure if there was any way to fix it, so I left this one unfinished.

Some gesture sketches that aren’t very gesture-y. I’m really noticing how clean my style was. Not that that’s a particularly good thing. I mean look at these gestures. Where’s the movement? Where’s the messy lines that convey energy?

*mumbles incoherently about form and style and movement*

I think I’m going to take my gesture sketching back to the drawing board.

Welcome to the era of toned paper!

My deepest apologies to those who are squeamish about spiders.

*distant evil laughter*

And since I had drawn the Black Widow spider for my brother, I thought, why not draw the other Black Widow too?

So that is what I did.

I don’t know if you all remember my realization that there wasn’t enough fan art of authors, but that was a thing. And after I had drawn Nadine Brandes, I asked my brother who else I should draw. He suggested Ted Dekker.

Now, something deeply bothers me about this drawing, because from a distance it looks pretty good. And bokeh backgrounds always make me way more happy than they should. But if you look closely at the eyes… There’s something very wrong there.

I might go back to the drawing board with this one too, now that I’ve been away from it for a good while. It might be easier to see what’s wrong with it and fix it. And it’s so close to being good…


Another suggestion from another brother. He had been reading a lot of Sean Kenney’s Lego books at the time, and even though I’m not huge on Legos, I have to admit Sean Kenney’s art is pretty cool.

Back when I had an account on the ‘Gram, I put out a post asking people for drawing suggestions. Some suggestions that came in: someone in a little boat, a weeping willow tree, a tortoise, for KING & COUNTRY, a dolphin or shark (I opted for the dolphin and drew Winter), and a 3D drawing of the Eiffel Tower.

Yeah, I still haven’t done that 3D drawing. *hides from the crazy person who suggested it* Someday, okay?

October 2019 rolled around. And with it came Inktober.

I lasted for two glorious days.

I feel like I probably had a good reason for quitting after only two days, but I don’t remember… Knowing me, it was most likely laziness.

Some sketches from a family trip to the zoo. I don’t usually particularly enjoy going to the zoo, but let me tell you, taking a sketchbook (even if you’re not very good at gesture drawing) definitely enhances the experience. 100% recommend.

And now we enter the era of character art. I think these were my first drawings that I did from a written description, rather than just redrawing someone else’s character art.

I was hooked. There’s nothing quite like the process of trying to pull a face out of thin air and infuse it with all the character and personality and backstory…

…And I might have accidentally made that kid’s head too big. Poor Cillian.

Behind the scenes of a digital portrait, I’m furiously scribbling away in my sketchbook. Because drawing with a pencil is a whole lot easier than drawing with a mouse.

Case in point: my digital signature.

Some more traditional character portraits I did for another friend on Story Embers. I might have been having too much fun with those lost edges.

This character… this character was just gold. That’s all.

I feel like this one doesn’t need an explanation. But I’ll try to give one.

It’s a green jellybean man…

…getting ready to fight a dragon.

This is the one and only DTIYS (draw this in your style) that I ever participated in. I did the lineart in my sketchbook first, and then scanned it into GIMP where I added the color. My favorite part was probably that flower crown and the excuse to use ALL THE BRIGHT AND HAPPY COLORS!!

Every now and then I get struck by the cartoon bug, and I just need to draw a cartoon. What follows is usually chaos.

Here we see a kid who looks severely sleep deprived, Dean from The Iron Giant (I think??), Holly from The Berry Dragon (in my style… kind of a fail, though), and RUFIOOOO!!!

A study I did from someone else’s artwork. Unfortunately I don’t know who’s artwork it was, otherwise I would credit them. But I like it. This was drawn directly after my groundbreaking rediscovery of finger blending, and I was still kind of going crazy with it.

Jenna Terese’s character, Scarlet, from Ignite… which I still need to read. *hides face*

I really like how the lighting turned out, with the backlighting and everything. *star eyes* It probably would have looked better in color, but oh well. It makes me happy the way it is.

More chaos, featuring Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys with some sparkles in her hair, and um… Spot Conlon. Don’t ask me how he got into the mix.

I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what this is. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a tunic outfit thing, but I can’t remember why on earth I sketched it, or what was going on with the pose. I suppose this one will just have to remain a mystery.

Have you ever wondered what elves would look like if they lived in the 70s-80s….

Kirk Cameron? Is that you??

Well, you don’t need to wonder no more.

I kind of want to develop this idea further. (Like, how would the crazy 70s-80s fashion mesh with the ethereal elven clothing? What would their culture look like? etc.) But this is what I got so far.

On this morning’s episode of What Should I Sketch?? one of my siblings jovially shouts, “Hey, you should draw that guy from McLintock!!”

Yes, that guy.

Well, I was art blocked enough that I had no objection. So there you have it.

Tune into next week’s episode of What Should I Sketch?? to see me draw that guy from True Grit.

The scribbles are back.

As I did these scribble sketches they just kept getting more and more messy, as I kind of pushed the boundaries of how messy I could draw. This one was where I drew the line. It was just a little too messy.

Although… I could probably use the messiness to create some cool shading and maybe lift out some highlights from the scribble lines. Hmm… *makes mental note for next time*

Well, this was supposed to be a drawing of my younger brother, but I think I messed up some of the proportions and didn’t get the facial structure right.

It rather bothers me, because I like everything else.

But anyway… y’all know my moto: Sometimes you just gotta wail on it a while. But sometimes you gotta let it go.

Hands be hard. So I issued myself some homework in order to improve a little bit. I should do that more often.

Here’s some character art that I did for a friend I connected with through Crazy Writing Week last year.

The best part of doing character art is when your friend allows you to read snippets of their stories as well. (*hint hint to all the people I’ve done character art for* πŸ˜‰) And this character’s story was just an absolute blast. I’m keeping an eye out for when it hits the shelves.

Another good friend of mine was recently suffering from a bout of writer’s block, and asked me to create a character for her as a sort of writing prompt.

So you mean I get to make up a character and then read a story about them that I don’t have to write?? *twirls pencil* Say no more!

I actually went through a couple tries before I came up with something I liked. I really wanted to do something that kind of tells a story on its own.

And, well, what tells a story better than scars?

This was my second attempt. (I’m too embarrassed to show you guys the first one, which suffered a bit from Baby-Face Syndrome.) I didn’t like this one at all. He just looks way too depressed… And a little emo.

And just no.

But I was not to be discouraged. Onward to the third attempt!

After a quick brainstorm, and assessment of what was working and what was not in my first attempts, I decided to flip my original ideas of a very serious character with scars, and try a more happy character with scars. I feel like that’s more unexpected, and tells a better story.

And I really liked how it turned out!



My friend, my dear friend whom I drew this for really loved the character. So much so, that she decided that writing him as a loveable, endearing character would be too clichΓ© and expected. So she decided to do something unexpected too.

She turned him into a villain.


She used my whole method of unexpectedness against me! My poor, happy character!

Anyway, after I forgave her for that, I decided I’m taking the character back. He deserves better than to be a creepy villain who dies miserably. I mean, at least give him a shot at redemption before you kill him. That’s all I ask.

And last but not least, a bit of character design. I think her name is Bennie…

This was an early design for the moon boot girl I did in my character turn-around a while back. I ended up changing up her costume a little in the final sketch, since the oversized sweater made her torso look a little too long. I also tamed down her hair style a bit (although she probably rocks that ’90s hair style when she’s home alone). But overall, her design stayed pretty much the same.

And thus the journey comes to an end!

It was chaotic, yes. And I was probably more nit-picky than I should have been, haha. πŸ˜‰ But I think I learned some things. Like, I should totally draw more bokeh backgrounds. And loosen up with my gesture sketches a bit. And try not to get as emotionally involved with the lives of characters that don’t belong to me… (Please learn from my mistakes here, people.)

Have you ever filled up a sketchbook? What’s your favorite thing to sketch? Favorite sketching technique? Something you’ve learned along your own journey? I shall look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

Stay lionhearted, my friends.



8 Replies to “Gestures, Character Art, and Failed Portraits ~ drawings from the sketchbook”

  1. This was so much fun to see your art progress! I think your very first sketch already looked amazing, but I definitely see how your skills have gotten better. Great work, Chalice! Your sketchbook is a testimony to how hard work and perseverance yields rewards.

    While I don’t draw, I do write and knit, and one thing I’ve learned is that we shouldn’t despise our old/first work. Rather, we should look at it as the first thing that got us interested in our craft. Anyway, just wanted to share that encouragement with you. πŸ™‚

    Also, I’m totally here for little green jellybeans who fight dragons. And elves in the 70s and 80s? Now we know. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was perfect! I love seeing the progress of individual pictures, but this was so fun to read! getting the story behind the art… such a good idea, I’m so glad you shared it all! I enjoy reading all your posts even though I’m not an artist, at least by paper-pencil standards, quilting, maybe, but despite that your writing style is so captivating, fun loving, I cant stay away! And I really appreciate it sometimes it just makes my day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Abigale!! You comment was very encouraging, and just made my day! (And I would definitely saw quilting is an art, especially what I’ve seen of your work. πŸ’›) Thank you so much for your kind and uplifting words!


    2. Aw, thank you so much, Morgan!!

      Ah, yes! I definitely agree. And besides that, without our old work we wouldn’t be where we are today. πŸ™‚ That’s a good thing to remember.

      (Hehe, I’ve actually thought about writing a children’s story about the little green jellybean man… we shall see… πŸ˜‰)


  2. Aaaghh!!! I love all of them! Even the “unfinished” and “underwhelming” ones. ❀ They all embody different parts of your art and it is so cool to see. Thank you for sharing, Chalice. You've inspired me to continue to fill up my sketchbooks, even though I may just wail on it a while or just let it go. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kyndal!! You’re so kind!
      I’m glad you’ve found this inspiring! That’s what it’s all about for me. πŸ˜‰ Go fill up them sketchbooks, and don’t be afraid to wail on it a while! πŸ˜‚πŸ’›


  3. I always get such a dopamine rush when I see your art posts and asdhjklfjhg this was amazing!! πŸ˜€ Hehehe I promise to let you read snippets of my stories if I ask you to do character art for me…no happy endings guaranteed though. πŸ˜›


    but honestly HOW DARE YOU POST THE DRAWING OF THAT SPIDER. *shrieks in arachnophobe* You devious artist 😑


    1. Aww, you’re too kind! πŸ₯° Thank you!! Ahhh, you would let me read snippets!!! *happy artist noises* I love your stories, Elisha, so I will definitely hold to that (even with no happy endings guaranteed). πŸ˜‰

      YESSS. I’m glad someone else appreciates that. πŸ˜‚

      Ahhh, I’M SORRY!!! At least a little bit…

      Liked by 1 person

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