The rapid growth of motion capture data increases the importance of motion retrieval. The majority of the existing motion retrieval approaches are based on a labor-intensive step in which the user browses and selects a desired query motion clip from the large motion clip database. In this work, a novel sketching interface for defining the query is presented. This simple approach allows users to define the required motion by sketching several motion strokes over a drawn character, which requires less effort and extends the users' expressiveness. To support the real-time interface, a specialized encoding of the motions and the hand-drawn query is required. Here, we introduce a novel hierarchical encoding scheme based on a set of orthonormal spherical harmonic (SH) basis functions, which provides a compact representation, and avoids the CPU/processing intensive stage of temporal alignment used by previous solutions. Experimental results show that the proposed approach can well retrieve the motions, and is capable of retrieve logically and numerically similar motions, which is superior to previous approaches. The user study shows that the proposed system can be a useful tool to input motion query if the users are familiar with it. Finally, an application of generating a 3D animation from a hand-drawn comics strip is demonstrated.