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.

Little Pig #3 circa 2005

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.

Error the robot from "Made To Malfunction"

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.

Little Pig #3 with BIG dead-looking dot eyes in 2009

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.

Little Pig #3 as he looks in 2012