Something that's very common to read in any sort of book about drawing (at least books about drawing comics/cartoons), is about the importance of identifying your shapes, i.e. breaking everything down to simple spheres, cubes, cylinders and cones. When I was younger, I used to disregard that. I mean, it sounds so boring, doesn't it? Who wants to draw shapes; I wanna draw characters and COOL stuff. Not geometrical shapes.
However, the more I've practiced to draw, the more I've realized what a huge favor you do yourself by breaking down everything into shapes. I now feel that identifying your shapes is one of the most important things you do while drawing, so I'm gonna go over and show how I do it.
1. I start as usual with a circle for the head, so I can measure up the head to body ratio. As I've said before, I usually do a 1/5 ratio, which in real life is the aspect ratio of a child, more or less. I like too keep the head big though, even for adult characters. Anyway, I then do a simple stick figure to get all the parts out quick.
2. I then flesh out all the lines and work on the silhouette. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to get this far, and approaching the drawing this way, makes the silhouette very defined (or, at least easy TO define), and it gives you a very good base for the finished drawing. You can basically see if anything is out of proportion all ready and fix it, so you don't have to deal with it later.
3. This is where the shape identification begins, and thanks to the well defined silhouette, this is also the FUN part! I basically just go over it and get all the lines out, joints makes for circles, legs and arms becomes cylinders (or just lines connecting the joints). Be careful not to ruin the silhouette or create tangents. When doing things like the legs, I find it easier to do the joints first, and then connect them by drawing in the legs.
4. And that's basically it. I filled in the lines one more time, cause I like to have a well defined sketch to go by when inking, but I guess there wasn't to much reason too. Though, I had to add clothes and a face to the sketch before inking it too, obviously. So, a few details later: