Cartoon Sketching: How to develop your imagination by finding eyeballs

If you have trouble stimulating your imagination, I recommend that you take online classes from Carla Sonheim and her select group of instructors.

While new classes are regularly announced on her website, Carla Sonheim Presents, if you are short of time (or money), just invest in her book, Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals.

Book cover of "Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals" by Carla SonheimWhile she teaches multi-media drawing and painting, your main takeaway from this book is learning how to see (and therefore “draw”) imaginary animals that you see almost everywhere you look. The trick is to identify a pair of eyes, then let your imagination see the critter who owns them.

Look anywhere – on walls, floors, tree trunks, stone ledges, and more – to find eyeballs. Start sketching on the spot, or take photos and sketch when you get home.

The examples that follow show you how to proceed. For immediate practice, find eyeballs and even related noses and eyebrows on cliff faces in the Hudson River Palisades.

Hudson River Palisades cliffs, photos by Karen Little

Here are a few examples of what I saw during a January 2018 stroll. Rough sketches can fill notebooks as well as inspire characters for books and illustrations.

painting of rock spirits by Karen Little 2018

A leaf spirit by Karen Little 2018

A bush spirit by Karen Little 2018Ever wonder how tribes across the globe came up with their symbolism? Just look into ponds of swirling water and imaginary critters emerge. It is up to you to give them life.

water spirits by Karen Little 2018



This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Cartoon Sketching. Published on March 8, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free with permission and attributes to and the article’s author.

All material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

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The cartoon on this cup is based on “eyeballs” Karen spotted looking out from a Hudson River Palisades cliff.