Sunday Mailbag

July 8th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How long does it take you to make your warm up sketches? When do you consider yourself to be ‘warm’? How important is it to do warm up sketches?

A: I have a confession to make. I know this will sound like heresy to some, but I’m not a big believer in doing warm up sketches every day. I never go into the studio and consciously sit down to “warm up” prior to getting to work. I just start working. Even when I am inking, the most I will do is test out my pen nib or brush on a scrap piece of paper for a minute or so, just to get the feel of the tools. That’s why my “Sketch o’the Week” is sometimes a chore for me, because I don’t have a dozen warm up sketches in my sketchbook from the previous week, and actually have to sit down and do one for that feature. All artists are different, and for some warm up sketches are an important part of their routine. It’s neither right, wrong or in between, and it certainly is no reflection on an artist’s skills one way or the other. Whatever works for the individual. For me, I don’t mind struggling a bit my first 1/2 hour or so at the drawing board in the morning. . . it isn’t a matter of getting my hand and head into sync, it’s more about getting my creative juices flowing and getting my “head into the job”, which is quite possible to accomplish working on the actual job than in some sketchbook.

That said, I usually spend about 15-30 minutes on my typical “Sketch o’the Week” drawings. If I really get “into” one, I might spend another 15-20 minutes doing shading, crosshatching, or whatever, but that would be it. As and example, here’s a few sample sketches and the times it took me to do them:

5 minutes


10-15 minutes

15-20 minutes

25-30 Minutes

35-40 Minutes

45-50 minutes

< 1 hour… (!!)

Thanks to¬¨‚ĆDavid de Rooij for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Incidentally, this is my 300th mailbag post! Many thanks to all the people who have, and continue to, send in questions to keep this thing going.


  1. David says:

    That is great! Thanks!

  2. Leo says:

    Tom always enjoy your posts. Your tutorial on coloring in Photoshop was a huge help to me. re:time—coloring a scene in photoshop can take longer than the drawing side. More time intensive than folks would think.


Sketch o’the Week- Julie Newmar! #batman #batman66 #catwoman #julienewmar

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