November 07, 2013

Cedric Hohnstadt's Pose Drawing SparkBook

Here is my review of this new art instruction book, being released on November 15.

My point of view is strictly from an animator/storyboard artist's perspective. As I was reading it, all I could think of is transferring this sort of knowledge to the animation students I teach, the animator's I supervise, and the story artists I direct. Pose Drawing Sparkbook is a terrific new resource for artists who work in storytelling mediums (animation, storyboards, character design, comic books, cartooning, illustration, etc.).

At its most fundamental level, this book inspires anyone who likes to sketch and draw, either casually or professionally, to approach their thought process on character posing a bit differently and it literally MAKES you want to draw, try new things, and think of how to posture and shape that character as you put those lines down and figure out what the character is doing and thinking.

It's a "super-charged" sketchbook, custom designed to help artists add more life and personality to their drawings. Think of it as acting exercises for your sketchbook. The book is designed to be a tool to help artists add more life and personality to their drawings. Falling in the same category as Tom Bancroft's books Character Mentor and Creating Characters With Personality, Cedric's Sparkbook goes a step further by really making it super easy. His writings, suggestions, instructions are simplified for any experience level artist or student, and offers solid and efficient advice that is easy to understand.

His approach is straight-to-the-point, no non-sense, providing you with principles of character posing that is absolutely essential to all story artists and animators.

I applaud Cedric's writing style and how eloquently he describes these often ambiguous concepts into comprehensible examples and descriptions. His advice simply inspires ANY artist to absorb this knowledge and apply it to their own work. As I was looking through the book, I found myself repeatedly saying "yes.... YES.... YES!!!!" - thinking how often I would teach these ideas to my students, and felt gratified that a professional illustrator like him was backing up my teachings. He is able to articulate and reinforce these principles so well, making it easier for any instructor to express these strong fundamental ideas to illustration, graphic artists, and animation students.

All artists need to practice, they will never improve unless they keep training themselves ceaselessly, but often they run out of ideas, get deflated, and uninspired, or are not quite sure what they could work on to increase their overall skill level. This book does exactly that! It injects ideas into your brain, helping you to imagine scenarios and situations for you to grab that pencil or stylus pen and just start doodling. Some art book are intimidating and make you feel like "Wow, I just want to crawl in a hole, I can never draw that good". Instead, this book makes you say "Oh... OK, I can do that... that's easy."

As a professional illustrator Cedric Hohnstadt has created characters for VeggieTales, designed toys for Hasbro and Disney, and supervised the animation of Mr. Potato Head for the Hasbro website. He’s watched many artists struggle and seen others succeed.
“It's hard to create characters that are entertaining and engaging,” says Hohnstadt, “It's even harder when artists make a very common mistake: They focus so much on the external aspects of a character (things like anatomy, facial features, and clothing) that they lose sight of the internal aspects like personality, thoughts and emotions. Yet those are the qualities that connect with an audience and cause them to care. That's where the real entertainment happens.”

Hohnstadt designed the Pose Drawing Sparkbook to help artists practice putting that personality and life into their characters, and it does just that. It's fast and easy to read, and overall a very handy reference for all character artists. It’s like acting exercises for your sketchbook. One line he has in his book is: Draw Ever Day; There are no shortcuts to becoming a good artist. A harsh reality many illustration/animation students might have difficulty accepting.

Everyone is looking for the quick-fix, the shortcut, the easy path, but what this book does, is that it delivers its information to your brain so smoothly. You can't stop yourself from putting his wisdom into practice.  Quickest way to improvement? Practice. It's a simple bit of advice that rings with absolute truth. Articles, tips, mentors, and study will never get you as far as rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work, this book is like drawing push-ups, it gives you the tools you need to know what to DRAW, DRAW, DRAW.

If you still need be to convinced of how important the "Art of Doing" is? Look no further than the early days of animation. At the Disney studios were a group of animators (before being an animator was even a thing) who HAD no books to read, or websites to visit, or even experienced animators to ask. They learned via the age old art of hands-on training, observation, experimenting and discovering as they went. And some would argue they created some of the greatest animation to ever be seen.

The book contains 100 drawing exercises printed on real sketchbook paper, plus 32 pages of instructional content and hundreds of bonus drawing ideas in the back of the book.

Book Specs:
250 pages, 7in. x 10in. (18cm x 25.5cm) with tan chip board cover and metal wire-o double loop binding. Includes:
• 100 drawing exercises (one printed on each blank 2-page spread)
• 32 pages of instructional content
• Hundreds of bonus sketchbook ideas in the back of the book to challenge your acting and drawing skills (100 Props, 100 Phrases, 100 Emotions, and 100 Daily Situations).

It even comes as an ebook version for artists who prefer to draw on the computer.
You can pre-order the book online here:

I highly recommend this book, whether you are a life drawing teacher, 2D/3D animation instructor, or a professional animator/storyboard artist - you need this book for your collection. More importantly, this book is a fantastic idea-generating tool for any character artist, made to expand your training exercises that will sharpen your skills and forge you into a better artist.