Sneezing Lady (or Maybe Crying? Yawning?)

As I was browsing around a few days ago, I came across this article about how to approach handshakes at work when someone (client, business associate, etc.) is sick. Sometimes when I come across random articles like this, I’ll just read a couple lines and skip to something else. But this is something most people come across occasionally, myself included, so I gave the entire thing a read.

The advice is pretty decent I think, and overlaps mostly (but not completely) with what I’d do. If it’s me who is sick, I will immediately nullify the obligation from others by telling them I’m sick, and I don’t want to shake hands and spread anything. If it’s the client/colleague who’s sick, and I know them already, I’ll broach the subject. The trickiest situation is if we’re talking about someone who is important and I don’t know them; this could be a big shot boss who I’m meeting for the first time, or something along those lines. In a situation like that, I might just bite the bullet and shake their hand. I’d like to think most people would have the self-awareness to not put others in that situation, but I know from experience that’s not always the case.

Anyway, in the article there was a photo of a lady sneezing. As usual, I’m on the lookout for stuff to draw, so on a whim I decided to try this one. I don’t think I’ve ever drawn someone sneezing, so that seemed like good practice. Here’s how this one turned out:

Not too bad overall, in terms of shading, proportion, and “does-it-look-like-a-realistic-person.” There is a glaring issue though…you really can’t tell if she’s sneezing, crying, or yawning. Since I’ve never drawn someone sneezing, I really don’t know what the keys to portraying that action effectively are. Maybe I should have tried to get some hair in motion or something? I did a decent job getting the furrow in her eyebrows and the right creases around the eyes and nose…but again, those could be from crying rather than a sneeze.

I made a point to get a few progression shots this time. I wanted to make sure this time, because a few recent posts I’ve done haven’t really had them. So, here you can see how it progressed:

Sneezing Lady Amdall Sketch Progression



  • “… you really can’t tell if she’s sneezing, crying, or yawning.” That is what is so intriguing about this drawing. Very well done.

  • That definitely looks like a sneeze- the expression is spot on! I think having both hands covering the mouth makes it look more like a sneeze than a yawn, and the furrow makes it look less like crying. I love the progressive photos too- it makes it very easy to see how outlines became a finished, colored drawing!

    • Much appreciated Kathy!

      I’m glad you liked the progression photos – if people are interested, I like providing a view on how I approach things. I’ve gotten ideas to improve my own work from other artists’ sites, so my hope is that maybe someone else could pick something up here. You never know! Someone could pick up even some small notion, and that would be good.

      The progressions are also helpful for me though, because I can more easily see where a sketch changed (for better or worse). That is sometimes hard to figure out after the fact. A good example is the Guardians of the Galaxy drawing; I knew something went wrong, but I couldn’t tell immediately how. The layers of the progression animation showed me where I messed up on the final version (the green guy’s head shape).

  • Great portrait, Jon – the posture, expression, everything!

    • Thank you, I appreciate that!

      Sometimes I really like how these random ones turn out – they don’t always work, but I’m glad I gave “the sneeze” a try

  • Her eyes do seem sad, but I suppose sneezes are violent bursts of something that can look like grief for a moment. I think it looks great. The hands and arms are spot on alongside the expression and proportions. I glasses off to the side gave me more of a “I just learned something that made me cry” feel, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

    Then again I draw more sad and ambivalent poses than I should 😛

    Anyway, keep it up!

    • Thanks Blu – you know, I’d never thought much about how similar those grimace/facial contortions can be prior to this sketch. They sure are hard to differentiate.

      That’s a good point about the glasses too. Maybe she checked her Bitcoin portfolio on that laptop, and took her glasses off for a good cry? Her CPA told her not to move her 401K into imaginary internet money, but she just wouldn’t listen

  • HI there, I definitely thought, A sneeze is going on here, when i saw your sketch…Well before I read any words of self-doubt. It may be subtle, but I believe you have caught this involuntary behavior quite accurately. It does not look like she is crying, not with those above nose lines, and while yawn is, after the fact looking at the portrait, possible, I still immediately reacted to this as a sneezing woman. Them’s my two cents at any rate. Thank you for being my very first like at

    Best wishes,

    Pamela Spiro Wagner

    • Hey there Pamela, that’s great! You never know how people are going to react and interpret things, so I’m glad this struck you as a sneeze. Subtle lines and impressions can be really challenging for me sometimes.

  • I love the progressive pictures. So hard to portray whether she is sneezing, yawning or crying. The only way I can see is to draw her in her pose a few seconds before this when she would have her hands further from her face and her mouth open – possibly not the most flattering though!

    • Thanks Claire – that’s a pretty good idea, and I think it would have been hilarious to capture that.

      Maybe a series of pre-sneeze sketches? I’m not quite sure if I’d have the skill to do it, but just imagine the funny faces. I guess there’s another reason beyond germs we all cover up during a sneeze!

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