Recently I stumbled across an artist ( http://omgdragonfly.deviantart.com/gallery/ check out her sketchbook work rather than finished pieces) whilst browsing DeviantArt.com, where I host some of my own work, and decided to get in touch with her to ask a couple of questions about how she goes about creating her characters and their influences. The age old response of drawing from life was her reply but followed by two names I should've already known....Bruce Timm, famous for the Batman Animated tv series and Stephen Silver of Kim Possible and Danny Phantom fame as well as many others.
Silver's work uses more organic shapes and curves rather than a traditional box format for drawing a figure. I've always wanted to be able to draw "the figure" and searched for tutorials on how to draw it properly but as I found with contour drawing... there is no right way, and Silver's work empahsises this and in turn gives his creations more character and personality... whether its the old stereotypes of broad shouldered hero's, or large ox-like hench men with no necks. Even when looking at his sketchwork and life drawings (which by the way, he has published in a book called 'Passion for Life' and sounds quite promising) you get a sense and feel for the characters drawn. Absolute accuracy doesnt always mean it is correct and the exaggeration of fat folds, muscle build and the fluidity of their bodies makes them interesting and unique. Silver also creates caricatures which I feel are sometimes seen as the laughing stock of the art/illustration world.. ( similar to Mime artists apparently being beneath actors ;D ) but show how moods/feelings and personalities can be expressed in a few simple lines and shapes.
His website features video tutorials and podcasts in which he discusses his own art, answers questions from fans and peers and about his own influences (e.g. Norman Rockwell)... if you get chance it's worth a look as this particular one talks of how to avoid losing that passion for drawing and creating artwork... http://silvertoons.com/silvertoons/podcasts/Artcast012.mp3 . I find that I don't lack inspiration to create work, but often get distracted by over thinking an idea or trying to decide which technique to use in order to make it and in turn I then lose interest and want to move onto something new.