I’M THINKING about setting the scene in my latest comic strip course exercise, putting figures, in this case a mountaineering version of my Jack and Jill characters, into a panel which has a foreground, middle ground and background.

There’s also a section in this chapter in Drawing Words & Writing Pictures which offers advice on devising figures. I’ve long used what the authors Abel and Madden refer to as figurettes to set a scene, drawing rough figures, similar to a wooden lay figure, consisting of ovals and sausage-shapes to work out action poses.

They ask you to try the technique on figures standing, walking . . .

. . . running and kneeling.

Then to trace figures from a book or magazine using the same ovals and sausage-shapes (the light pencil lines in my sketches, left) then, using these ‘figurettes’ as a basis, to draw a different character in the same pose (dark lines).

As I was saying the other day, this way of a constructing a drawing is the opposite of the process that I’m familiar with in my sketchbook work where careful observation of a figure, animal or building should result in the underlying structure looking convincing.

Join the Conversation


  1. Well, you’ve talked me into buying a copy of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures! Well, another reason was that my students’ penpal class (Year 5/6) in Cawood, Yorkshire, have challenged us to do a comic strip of Chapter 4 in The Hobbit (where Bilbo and the dwarves and their ponies take shelter from a storm in a cave and end up being captured by Goblins. It’s also where Bilbo meets Gollum and finds the Ring.) It’s funny–you see comics every day, but it was hard to know how to start. Definitely not as easy as I thought, to capture the flow of a story. I also wanted to pass this along: a useful sheet on drawing facial expressions: It looked like something that might interest you.

    1. My apologies Judy, I started a reply to you then got side-tracked looking at the Facial Expressions – a useful summary. Hope your version of Middle Earth is taking shape. I’m continuing to enjoy ‘Drawing Words’. I think that it’s one of those books where it’s not enough just to read through it, useful as that would be. It’s another angle to approach storytelling.
      By the way, as you probably know, there’s an interesting essay by Tolkien on the illustration of fairy tales in his book ‘Tree and Leaf’.

        1. I like the story in ‘Tree & Leaf’; ‘Leaf by Niggle’, it’s about an artist who can paint a leaf better than he can a tree. I can identify with him!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.