Seeing and Drawing Happy Characters Like the Happiest Kitty In the Universe | Rob Stenzinger | Skillshare

Seeing and Drawing Happy Characters Like the Happiest Kitty In the Universe

Rob Stenzinger, Interactive Storyteller, UX, Game Design

Seeing and Drawing Happy Characters Like the Happiest Kitty In the Universe

Rob Stenzinger, Interactive Storyteller, UX, Game Design

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7 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Introduction to Seeing and Drawing the Happiest Kitty

    • 2. Examples of Happy Characters

    • 3. Happy Shapes

    • 4. Happy Faces

    • 5. Happy Postures

    • 6. Happy Kitties

    • 7. Happiest Kitty

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About This Class


We’ve all seen happy characters in comics and cartoons:

  • What design choices make those characters look happy?
  • How can you draw happy shapes, faces, and postures to then draw our happiest kitty?

Throughout this class I’ll teach you to:

  • See the happy character design choices
  • Play with and use shapes, faces, and posture for your characters

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Rob Stenzinger

Interactive Storyteller, UX, Game Design



Hello everyone! I'm Rob Stenzinger, professional coach, UX designer, researcher, and I also make games, comics, and podcasts. One of my favorite things is to make something then share how I did it.


User Experience, Research, and Collaboration

I've been working as a UX designer, researcher, strategist, and facilitator for over 10 years in companies and communities of all sizes. I have a passion both for focusing on the user and for sharing, teaching, and building collaborative teams.


Game Design, Code, and Art

Making video games brings together so many of my interests. These are the games I've published so far:

Guitar Fretter: is a puzzle-action game for iOS and Android, Windows, a... See full profile

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1. Introduction to Seeing and Drawing the Happiest Kitty: So whether you sketch for fun or you put some sketching elements and documents, things you create, maybe you drawn on a dry erase board regularly or you are adding a little flourish toe, any sort of card or greeting. In any case, drawing happy character is a very handy thing to learn how to do. Hi, I'm Rob Sten Zinger. I am a user experience designer, but I use things like drawing and comics and storytelling to help inform my documentation and my process and how I communicate visually. And so I love to think about making characters intentionally. One of my favorite things to do is to communicate through drawing and to think about what makes a drawing successful when you have, Ah, certain goal. And today our goal is to sketch the happiest kitty in the universe, where we're going to explore what makes the cartoon characters we see and enjoy so happy. And how can we take those elements and put him into our own characters? And what I'll need you to do first is make sure you download the workbook. You don't have to work from it. We can sort of work along on a blank page. That's fantastic. And in any case, you will need your your drawing supplies. You could use pen and paper that works fantastic. You could use and electronic drawing tablet of your choice Either way works great. 2. Examples of Happy Characters: happy cartoon characters. A lot of our experience seeing these, these different stories and what not animated. We get a chance to experience design choices that help us like understand the joy and the experience of these different characters. So what are some characters that come to mind who are happy cartoon characters that that that you think of either ones that pop to mind instantly or, um, those that, you know? If you really scratch your chin and dig in there, you can think of like, who who is really joyful? Um, there's what see one that I think is over. I had some of this, too. Is its overall pretty happy. They don't have to be always super intensely happy or what have you. But I remember good ole aapa from Avatar The Last Airbender, Um, who had big round features in the mouth under there. But then you know what was about that, like, Why did Oppa seem seem so happy? There's Jake the dog, Jake the dog from adventure time, right? And he's often has a has a good you know, a joke to crack or dance to, to jump around, too, and let's see who is another one that How about, let's see, How about the the, uh, good Ole SpongeBob, where SpongeBob. It's such big bigness and features that are so out there and right because I know like when I smile, I don't smile hard enough for my eyebrows to pop through the top of my head. But SpongeBob does happy characters. What makes them happy? What do we notice about them? Well, I noticed their face. We notice maybe body posture, because some characters have a subtle, expressive face they don't emote with as bigness to them. Um, whereas SpongeBob SpongeBob is honestly with SpongeBob's body is probably 80% face. I don't know that for sure, but like it's it's quite a high percent of face. Okay, happy cartoon characters that gets us thinking. We've seen some. We know what it looks like, and we can think of elements that are a part of what goes into happy characters. Next, let's talk about happy shapes 3. Happy Shapes: So let's think about happy shapes. One shapes can we think of. And what do we associate with that? Are they pleased or proud or scary or frustrated or, you know, positive or negative? What is it about these shapes? A triangle? A lot of times, folks talk about how a triangle has points the points right that if you appoint can out you know you can. You can get hurt by getting poked by a point right. Whereas this is soft, rounded nous of an oval or a circle approximation of a circle that is round that, I mean, it's it's inherently there. It's It's like a ball. You can catch a ball you don't get typically, um, poked or hurt by such a thing, right? The meatballs arm or friendly, whereas then there's this. Something more blocky. Something like a square or a rectangle has, ah, stability to it. So what do we What do we do with that? When we start thinking about characters? Can we make characters just out of shapes? And in the workbook, there are example characters to do just that to get you going. Um, here is a block based kitty and then how about this overall based dog? Or it's sort of a dog bear. It's a cartoon, though, so we can. We could make that be what we want it to be. So then you see the oval shapes or versus the black shapes. Well, what a while. Okay, so then we have this open space. We work as big as we want to make any kind of character. So how about a kitty that has lots and lots of triangles and every single part? It's exaggerating because we don't have to do this for every single part, right. But this is part of the exercise to explore. Explore the shapes, to say what happens when we're being so specific about these building elements of our character. Triangles are funny because they are more flexible than I would think. I can make that where it's it's equal lateral or or ah right triangle or any kind of triangle I want and use that as a building block. And so the kiddies paw could go with all the triangles pointing down. But here I worried I had the I have the base touching hand over here. I have the tip touching the hand and the base is sticking out. It's up to you. So is the tail made of one triangle or multiple? And I I can even add on from the tip if I want. It's all flexible, so this kitty seems probably not the happiest kitty in the universe. Why is that good to good? To consider happy shapes. Here's a workbook page example like we saw earlier in the video. We looked at what might be a friendlier shape than other shapes, and that can be something that you play with. It doesn't have to be a round shape to be friendly. You could find ways to construct out of different shapes and try to rip, maybe even rely on one particular to have a certain feel for your character. Finding your happy shapes is an important component of creating your happiest kitty. 4. Happy Faces: happy faces. Here's where we're going to explore what happens when we smile and extend and use that and consider shapes and put that into our exploring drawings in the workbook. So what happens when you smile or what do you notice when your friend or a relative someone you know, you look at their face? When they smile, something happens. We know they're smiling, so the mouth we you can hear on probably smiling Now on the audio, something changes in her face. When we smile, our mouth can expand. Maybe it's some, and it doesn't have to expand big. It could be really big. It could be huge, or it could be kind of smaller. Subtle. We're just a pleasant kind of smile. The mouth isn't the only thing that changes right? What happens to maybe your nose or your eyes or your cheeks below your eyes? Little things start to take shape. I really recommend looking in the mirror and seeing how your face transforms when you smile . We way we talked about the mouth getting big, and we talked about how those cheeks push up. And that's where this kind of elated sort of almost like there half quarter moons type eyes come from and the big smile. Or we could be talking about a more subtle smile or a sideways smile. That's a pretty big one. We put a roller teeth in there. Or what's that? What's that smile like when we put closed teeth, those air different, that one. We can almost hear a sound coming out of what sound you hear coming out of that versus what sounded here coming out of this, I hear something. Maybe like, hey, I Hey! And my mouth is open and smiling. Hey! And this one's like, Yeah! Oh, that is a different kind of smile. He versus hay and and so on. So we know our cheeks go up. We know maybe we put we can show the cheek happening in the mouth. We can show it below the eye. We can use different kinds of ice to represent different levels of intensity. Maybe we have a little bit a little bit of ah, subtle, sleepy smile could be open mouth, too. And what we have here on the worksheet of lots of places to practice with these with these faces and you can think of Well, well, gosh. Maybe maybe you don't have a style or where you have, Um, like, I'm not a opportunist or I'm just starting or I'm a little bit unsure. And that's okay. We all start. We all start at some point. And getting that practice and being willing to take that brave first few steps is how you get on your way to getting some new perspective. You know what it's like to look into this and hopefully this worksheet so you can see, like I would say, that face is a certain kind of smile and maybe is anxious where it's not. It is not a relaxed smile, and this isn't a smile at all, so I'll turn that one to do it smirk just by adding a cheek little corner of the mouth. And, gosh, we can do so many things with their happy faces. So, like we could, we could do just a side mouth. Um, and we could have eyes that air completed by the cheek below. We could do. Let's see. Ah, we could do dot eyes. Don't forget that it's all right to you. The simplest shapes possible to represent this. We see we see faces that that's a thing, that we're sort of pattern matching machines and humans find faces all over the place. So what? Um, see? So So if you are only comfortable drawing in certain lines and shapes, that is a pretty please face, and it was a dot dot and a little curved line. If you're looking to continue to practice the dots, you could start to explore really basic shapes and put another shape inside of it. And all of a sudden, this isn't away. It's a lot like the English letter D pointed down, and then with a line going across it. So lots of ways to go about this it's and weaken, weaken, do, um, purely closed eyes with that really tight angle smile. We could do smiles that with the closed eyes and maybe with an impish little tongue sticking out. And what else? There's just all sorts of possibilities. What about, um, we were talking about Kitty's right? So let's think about those kitty things that make us sure we're on the right track for our feline friends, right? So there's that. We could just use some simple lines. The happy curved I led smile and a little kitty mouth and nose. So the kitty mouth and nose is really interesting because you could go in different places with that, too. You could do little Kitty knows, because they have that that little angle it could be a closed shape, could be an open shape. And we're gonna make a huge mouth kitty and then throw some whiskers, throw some whiskers and little triangle ears. Triangle ears. Let's see what we'll do about big, open eyes that are very happy. And maybe this kitty has a couple of sharp teeth. Big open mouth. Probably see a tongue in there might see the other the bottom row of teeth, and it's not a regular shape. It's just a big open shape. But we can tell that there is happiness going on because of these other cues, and you can add add elements. Take away elements, the mawr elements you add. It's a bit of a balancing act, because then you see, like this face does compare this one to this one. Which one looks happier? And I would say we could turn this one into a kiddie pretty easily, and here we go that is a very simple kitty that what's funny is if you use this as the chin and it's got a little o of the mouth. No, I might I might turn that into a smirk. Smirking cat it was That was a totally different happy face. And we transformed it right there. Okay, so that's the happy face is part of of our happiest kitty. So here we have our workbook page for happy faces, where we tried different shapes four mouth and eyes and browse different parts of the face that can inform what we make and we can actually weaken, add noses, anything you want. Maybe I wrinkles. And, of course, the whiskers in the special kitty mouth, which is a little bit different than you know, our mounts as humans. So they'd have that little that special kitties. Lips smile there. So I hope you had some fund building up some or parts and elements of what you'll end up using for your happiest kitty exploring the shapes of different parts of the face 5. Happy Postures: happy postures. How we stand or sit has some hints in it. There's information in it, just like there's information in our face with our eyes in her mouth and the positions and expressions and what muscles are moving or not. And here we go with a posture so we can have a posture. If we think about up spine and a character and weaken, curve it different ways and then think about what affects that that curve has. So if if the posture is very, um, it's very up and down, this character is standing very rigidly, whereas maybe this character is looking up what is happening up above. And there's ways to continue to explore where where you have their spine and sort of the torso. Those are two very key parts of a posture, but then you've got where you're going to put those limbs. Uh, then what if this character is looking down literally down arm? Sagon legs not is not as bold and and and sure So then that character, totally different thing interesting is that you can combine these things well, so we'll know you could have this character looking down and have a totally different expression because what if they found that thing that they were missing? And it's right there? It's just sitting on the ground. It's that TV remote or that that you know their wallet. And it's like, Hey, look at what I found it so great And then this character who has that same sort of spine? These these lines in these shapes are similar to like. We're just going down in columns here and there is possibility of Let's see, oh, could be surprised. Eyebrows up high and then the arms doing different things pointed. Going back, Let's see that maybe this leg is way back over there, because now they're sort of leaping, leaping at that thing. This is a surprise. Looks pretty happy. Fairly happy surprise because we have a nice a little Oh ho, look at those cheeks smiling. All right, are hint of a smile even know where we have the big, big openness. So postures something to think about when we're doing our sketch for the happiest kitty Happy postures. We talked about how there's a spine that has a bit of a line through it, and that is an informative shape for building up. You're characters torso and where they might be looking. Are they looking up or down? Are they Are they elated and feeling big? Are the feeling small? Are they feeling quizzical? All that stuff you can embody so much in the posture, and that's a nice, helpful element to combine with the shapes and the faces as we move toward sketching your happiest kitty. 6. Happy Kitties: Ah, here we are ready to apply the happy shapes, happy faces, happy postures and exploring these happy kidneys. Let's let's sort of shop around and find You can use the worksheet that that is downloadable with this workshop or feel free to use a a blank piece of paper. It's all good, these kitties. I am going to try to play around with shape, so we're going to have Cem. I'm going to stick with the worksheet fairly well surrounded. Pause. Then let's go with around and tail and let's see. Pretty simple hint at the tuft of tuft of kitty hair there. But then, what kind of eyes? Let's go. Let's continue that round and round, plus subtle triangle use here. So we're going to do some nice around roundish eyes, then your classic kitty type of center of an eye, which is the people and Iris. Uh And then let's see. Let's go do the triangle on the mouth, and then let's do a nice kitty mouth smile, then, okay, that's a fairly happy kitty. Now what if we switch it up? Go even Rounder around around around her so I might switch up where the legs go see, you don't have to follow that way like that. Worksheet exactly that. It's, Ah, some nice hints and there's some places the start and then, Wow, it's interesting. Ho Cartoon characters can end up looking more like other animals because I'm seeing a mouse emerge here, So I'm going to try to move toward more kinkiness. So let's try. No, let's see it again in the spirit of rounded nous. Let's go with that Rhone big smile, open smile and the kid he knows but rounded and what's interesting. I could see that being I could see that not being a cat, but it it's it's kind of somewhere between cat and mouse. Pretty interesting. So then what if this one is more that blocking cat blocky cat is back? Gonna go with block shapes and see what we can do? So how do we get get to happy? Because those blocks yeah, we're gonna have to cheat on the blocks and go with some roundness in that mouth, I think. And what's interesting is now I'm seeing, you know, potentially kitty, potentially other creature of the forest, and that's all right. That's what that's the fun of exploring different shapes for characters. All right, get some arms going that way and then kind of a bigger tail. Very blocky. Wow. Okay, now let's try to make a bigger head. Can't. And Explorer Little years And let's say how about little dot eyes and that anybody knows. But then, huge mouth, I'm gonna put a little thing on one side. What should we do for whiskers? Let's keep the whiskers inside. And wow, what kind of little body is this kid you're gonna have? Let's have this kitty be walking around, but more traditional kitty style on on all force. Ah, there we go. Oh, right. So now we have some experiments with combining a little bit of posture, a little bit of shape and happy faces. And I'm thinking I'm getting ideas of what I might try to make. Four. My happiest Kitty, how about you? So now we had some practice on the workbook page or if you're working without the workbook , that's great, too. But we have some some shapes here that I was working with as sort of background overly that you can trace over and have fun adding, like like building blocks. These different things that we've talked about so far. The posture and the face and the shapes and all that adds up to difference. Different styles of characters like we explored and making more than one. And if you make more than one, that frees us up where we don't have to be stuck trying to guess like what's the best? Because it is baked in the title of the of this where we say the happiest kitty in the universe. But really finding your happiest kitty is about making lots of 7. Happiest Kitty: here we are about to draw the happiest kitty in the universe, and I think I know what I would like to do. And you should draw whatever you're feeling, whatever kind of kitty that that is meant to come out right now, I think you should go for it. And I would like, Let's see, I like this posture of the on the worksheet where it's the It's the kitty that is kind of leaping and open, armed and the big miles kind of looking up, and I think I will do something based on that. But I'm going to flip it around and have it be a different direction. So I'm going to have the the kitty jumping up on away this direction and really big. Here we go with some kitty years and I think even flop over that kid a year and put a little something there. Uh, what about this other kid here? I I think that one wouldn't be flapping over. That's just how I'm feeling. And then there's the I like That was big oval eyes very, very round and friendly, and then we're going to do kind of Kitty looking up and Let's do little couple eyebrows and also little cheeks, cheeks pushing them, pushing up those eyelids, right, pushing up the bottom lid. And I I am a fan of the big the big, big, happy happy grin. And I would suppose we're saying Happy est, Right? So what is the happiest smile you have? What is the happy smell you've seen and I 10 to think that the ones that can let out big ha ha laughs that are so joyful are in that range of happy, happy. So well, I'm gonna put that little tooth in there and then let's see where the body is going. Where's that K jump into or were they coming from? So I like the idea of the leap across and let's see, How about that arm out this way and this arm a little curve in it? And then we're gonna need a couple of kitty legs and this cartoon kitty. So it's kind of like a person like Kitty could be standing up, might walk on all fours, but depends on its mood. Its whatever that kitty is feline at the moment. All right, so little claws, little claw, claw, claw, claw And there we go. We have a very happy kitty, and then we can do things that are like we've seen in comics and cartoons. And there's there's action lines. And maybe this kid, he's in love. It's running to its its friend or its dish of food or anything, right? Perhaps it's markers and paper so I could get to drawing the happiest person in the universe. Here we are with our happiest kitty, and it's so awesome that you went through this and you put it all together and you made it happen. And now you've got this. This is this thing in your in your pocket. It's a tool that I guess it's It's in your mind pocket. You can always reach in and and start thinking about what? What makes that character so happy. What is what is it about how when I smile and I feel that in this character on screen, or the thing that I put together and put on screen or on paper anywhere you draw and anywhere you work that super awesome. And I really appreciate you exploring drawing the happiest kitty in the universe with me. Thanks so much and congratulations