One thing that I’ve always found the most difficult to draw in cartoons are “dot eyes.”
Before I attempted drawing dot eyes for the first time, I would always draw a character’s eyes as a circle with a dot in the middle to show their pupil. In my style of cartooning, that method looks like a mix between Garfield’s eyes and big Japanese manga-style eyes. When I started Suburban Fairy Tales in 2005, Little Pig #3’s character design screamed out to me that dot eyes would suit him best, so I thought I would go ahead and try something different.
At first, I drew Little Pig #3’s dot eyes perfectly round with a little shine in the corner – they looked almost like little black buttons on his face. I found this way of drawing eyes much more challenging than in my past cartoons. Sure, I’ve used dot eyes occasionally, but never on a main character. Using this method introduced some new challenges. How do I use dot eyes to show varying degrees of emotion? How do I show dot eyes looking up, down, left or right? It was always so simple with my usual way of drawing eyes, but now I was struggling.
As long-time fans know, Suburban Fairy Tales took a two-year hiatus starting in 2006 so I could concentrate on Made To Malfunction. The star of this new series was a robot named Error, who also happened to have dot eyes. The way I drew Error’s dot eyes differed from the way I drew Little Pig’s. Error’s eyes were drawn more oval instead of circular, and gone was the little shine that was present in Little Pig #3’s eyes. Being that Error was now the star character, he was featured in almost every strip. So I really had to push the way I drew dot eyes the next two years. By the time Made To Malfunction ended in 2008, I felt I had come a long way with conveying emotion using dot eyes.
When Suburban Fairy Tales re-started in 2008, I took what I learned from drawing the robot Error and applied it to Little Pig #3. Gone were the little circular button eyes with the shine that I had previously drawn him with. Instead I took the same eyes what I had used for Error – big, black oval dot eyes – and put them on Little Pig #3. Humpty Dumpty and Goldilocks (a new character) also used these types of eyes as well.
The problem with the big black oval dot eyes on Little Pig #3 (and on Goldilocks and Humpty) was that Error was a robot. Big black oval dot eyes worked well on something made of metal and circuits. But Little Pig #3 was organic, a living thing. Taking a machine’s eyes and applying them to Little Pig didn’t turn out to be the best idea. Error’s dot eyes were just too big for Little Pig’s face – he looked like he was dead! So as time went on, I shrunk Little Pig #3’s dot eyes (along with Goldilock’s and Humpty’s) to a more acceptable size. Now the size I draw dot eyes are just a tad above what Charles Schultz used for his characters in Peanuts.
The way I draw dot eyes has been a bit of a roller coaster ride from when I first started, but I’m very happy with the way they have evolved. As they say with anything you do — you only get better with practice.