Bears, Bears & Bears! Oh My!

Bears. Certainly ever since the days of Teddy Roosevelt when he refused to shoot a captive bear cub while on a hunting trip, (stuffed toy bears have since been called “teddy bears”), bears have held a fascination for cartoonists. Clifford K. Berryman famously represented that Roosevelt incident in one of his cartoons. I have my own fascination with them as an art subject, even to the point of once developing a newspaper comic strip about a bear – but that’s for another article at another time.

Cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman's 1902 cartoon that famously ribbed Teddy Roosevelt's bear incident.
Cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman’s 1902 cartoon that famously ribbed Teddy Roosevelt’s bear incident.

When fictionalized, bears are often big, fluffy, huggable, loveable, silly old bears. There’s a certain warmth and comfort that can be achieved with a bear. They look like gentle giants in real life, so when drawing them, many artists tend to give them a sympathetic and friendly look. Yogi Bear was constantly working it to get the pic-a-nic basket. The Jim Henson Co. creation Bear in the Big Blue House was a big, soft, friendly bear that the pre-school set really fell in love with. Even the kung fu wielding Kung Fu Panda was big, soft and loveable despite the fact that he could reign down some mighty painful kung fu awesomeness.

This past week I set about to do a series of bear character studies. I took about eighteen pages of my sketchbook to draw bears of various shapes, sizes, and styles. The goal was to explore multiple ways of creating a bear and still retain it’s friendly loveable beariness. I was pleased with the results, and plan to try it some more in the future. It was clear that there is an inexhaustible amount of ways to imagining this creature as an appealing cartoon character design.

When you are through taking a look at these studies, feel free to check out my bear-themed watercolor painting on my website:


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