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Sketching animals can be one of the most fulfilling ways to express your artistic tendencies, and I have collected together some ideas to help and inspire you along the way.
I love animals, and I love drawing, so the 2 things were always going to come together in some way. Trying to capture the joyous expression of that loving dog, or the scowl of a disapproving cat, can make you smile long before any sketches are finished. And from rough single line sketches to photo realistic portrayals, you will never find a shortage of people who want to see your sketches of animals.
It can seem daunting, but as I have said about other things, don’t be intimidated, break everything down to simple components, then you can put those components together in time, to create any animal in any pose you want.
Helpful Drawing Tips
- Take It Slow
As always I recommend collecting as much reference material as possible. Try and find as many pictures as you can of the animal in the position you want. You don’t have to do the complete drawing all at once. Maybe start with a leg, draw it as you see it, gradually arranging the shapes of the sections of the limb. Then, do several other sketches with the joints moved slightly further each way. Try to imagine the effect the movement of one section has on the next to capture that dynamic movement so often missing in some drawings.
2. Understanding The Image
As you can see from the sketches, breaking the image down into small, manageable and simple sections, means the sketch will start to come to life really quickly. Remember with many animals, most of the initial lines will be lost behind the fur you will add later, so don’t worry too much about adjusting lines. When you are happy with the basic shapes, you can begin to add the more subtle shapes, and beginning to add the fur will allow you to start creating depth and 3-dimensinality into your drawings much easier. The eyes and the stance of the animals give you the chance to convey the emotion of the drawing too, remember to keep them in unison, tired eyes on the face of a playing kitten will never look right, so match the emotion to the drawing. On hairless or short haired animals, folds in the skin will give you the chance to create that same 3-dimensionality, but you are also much more reliant on shadow and tone to help create the effect. Rubbing, smudging and partial erasure of lines and shadow can help to make the drawing feel more ‘organic’ and dark 3B pencils will help you to make the most of the darker areas of any sketch. Final shading can also be done in many ways, crosshatching the darker areas helps to push them back in the image, whereas shading in a single direction can help you graduate the darkened areas more easily at times, as well as emphasising the direction of hair flow. Final details can be added with a very sharp pencil if needed, this can be used to draw attention to certain areas, emphasising what may be very physically small but important parts of the drawing. Using different sizes of pencil tip can also help create the texture you will need. Using a rounded worn down pencil tip and then adding small very fine lines on top of it, sometimes with several different pencil grades, can help in many areas, but is especially effective with fur. It is one of the tools I use when trying to create more realistic drawings, and the different grades of pencil and line size makes creating shape and depth much easier.
3. Don’t Stress
Above all, always remember to enjoy it, if you are having trouble stop, take a break, switch off for a while, when you return you will often find it easier. Sometimes the fastest way to finish a drawing can be to stop and walk away. You may have that idea or realisation needed to complete your drawing, you may just approach it with a fresh set of eyes. Either way, it is often better than struggling on when you are finding something difficult. Nothing shows up easier in a drawing than the frustration of the artist.
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