How to Draw a Zombie in 7 Easy Steps

It’s not every day that an established and supremely talented artist offers his skills up to the masses. David Heatley has been in some small publications that you may have heard of, like The New Yorker and Marvel Comics…..


But we have an exclusive David Heatley Q and A and slideshow….so, without further ado:

  • STEP 1: THE HEAD 1 of 9

    You know what they say... "Go for the head." I usually make heads kind of circular with two ears sticking out in the classic Charlie Brown shape.

  • STEP 2: HANDS 2 of 9

    Try to make the hands look like they're reaching out to grab you. You can also have them look kind of floppy and hanging down. That's the classic zombie pose. Note that one finger is a bone sticking out and the fingernails are all overgrown. Maybe try making his hands skeleton hands instead and see if that looks creepier.

  • STEP 3: THE BODY 3 of 9

    When I draw the body, I like to start indicating where the clothes are. Notice the left foot is up and coming at you (this time with a pinky bone sticking out). The right foot has a shoe. I guess some people are buried in their shoes and then lose one when they become zombies.

  • STEP 4: THE FACE! 4 of 9

    Zombie faces are where most of the action is when it comes to scaring your audience. My zombie has two holes where his nose used to be. His mouth is kind of raggedy looking with missing lips so you can see his teeth. One eye is falling out and the other is sunken into the skull a bit. He has straggly hair and other dirty crusty spots on the rest of his face. This guy won't be winning any beauty contests, that's for sure!

  • STEP 5: CLOTHES 5 of 9

    Like they say, "Clothes make the zombie." This guy was probably pretty dapper looking once upon a time with his tie and all. We can see some ribs sticking through a hole in his shirt and rips throughout the pants and top. Even his shoe has some air conditioning and his toes are saying hello.

  • STEP 6: DIRT 6 of 9

    He did crawl out of his grave, so it makes sense to go in and add a bunch of little specks here and there. Don't go crazy though. A little goes a long way. Let your viewer's imagination fill in the rest.

  • STEP 7: BACKGROUND 7 of 9

    You can draw your zombie in any location... (Paris? Rome? Ypsilanti, Michigan?)... but since this is a subway zombie I'm drawing, I decided to draw some subway tracks and a tunnel shape around his head. Throw in an open flame and you got yourself a happening scene. I chose to do this background in red because it makes the black lines pop out more. Experiment with some other colors and see what you like.

  • STEP 8: WORD BUBBLE 8 of 9

    Nothing brings a character to life like having him shout something at you! In this case, the subway zombie is shouting for his favorite food. No, not brains... ANKLES!!! What does your zombie like to eat?

  • Check it out!!! 9 of 9

    Does it get ANY cooler? NOPE.

David Heatley’s newest work is rad, rad, rad. Otis Dooda is a book written by Ellen Potter. When David started illustrating it, the words literally came to life. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but watch this and be amazed:

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The coolest part? You can grab yourself a soundtrack right HERE and then listen and follow along with your book. It’s like those old school read along tape cassettes of our youth, only way, way, way cooler.

eva: Did you start hearing Otis’s soundtrack in your head as you were illustrating? Or did that come later?

David: The music definitely came later. I had finished illustrating Otis and I loved it so much and the world Ellen created that I just couldn’t let him go. Ellen and I talked about doing an animated book trailer and that’s when the idea of an Otis theme song came into my head since we’d need some kind of soundtrack to go with the illustrations. Before I knew it, I had a catchy tune haunting me: “Doo-doo-doo-d-doo-doo-da!” The song practically wrote itself. And then before I knew it, I realized I could write 15 more almost as easily, just scanning down the titles of the table of contents. It was kind of crazy how quickly the whole thing came together. My band The Bischoffs wrote and recorded our album over a 2 year period, but this album was written and recorded in the space of 2 months! Thanks to Sanford Livingston for the amazing mixing job.

eva: Your trailer was so SPOT ON, are you considering a full length movie version of the soundtrack

David: Thanks so much. We’re talking about how Otis might translate over to TV-land. Nothing firm yet, but we’ve got some ideas. Potted Plant Guy’s curses are kind of endless and could be fodder for many, many fun episodes. Add to that Subway Zombies, the force of nature that is Cat, Perry’s ninja skills and you got a recipe for a pretty awesome show, I think!

eva: Do you draw to music? If yes, what’s your main inspiration musically?

David: I draw to music all the time. But if I’m trying to figure out something tricky, I can’t listen to lyrics. So I often put on jazz or classical or ambient looping music. The musicians who put me on my musical path are probably John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Frank Black of the Pixies, David Byrne of Talking Heads and Dogbowl of the band King Missile (Dog Fly Religion). Dogbowl isn’t very well known, but in high school I discovered that in addition to writing amazing, catchy, bizarre songs, he also painted and wrote novels. I was pretty blown away and kind of idolized him for most of high school. I’m lucky to be friends with him these days. In fact, last year he was my daughter’s art teacher! Amazing what can happen in your life. One other source of inspiration is the music I heard as a kid… church hymns and Sesame Street songs—particularly the classic songs written by Joe Raposo, as much a genius as Jim Henson in my book.

eva: My kid doodles on EVERYTHING, including his schoolwork. I encourage it, but I know that his teachers don’t appreciate it quite as much. Thoughts? Were you a doodler? Is it possible to control?

 David: I drew on every piece of paper I could find and made my own illustrated books before I was in kindergarten. I think having sketchbooks and notebooks that were specifically dedicated to my stories made it easier to not draw all over my math sheets. I still remember my “Horror Stories” book and how proud I was of all the stories and art and the secret pockets in the back of the book containing the identity of my best friends and ex-best friends. I wish I still had that thing. It’s pretty funny watching my son create almost the exact same looking notebook (without me telling him about mine) now that he’s going into second grade. Some things are just universal I guess!

eva: Where did your zombie inspiration come from?

David: My first exposure to zombies was Michael Jackson’s Thriller video which I think is still the gold standard! Zombies are cool. But zombies doing Michael Jackson dance moves are ridiculously cool!

I just started drawing the subway zombies. I didn’t think too hard about how they should look, but I bet those Thriller zombies were in the back of my mind somewhere.

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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