Friday, May 9, 2014

Sketching Animals from Life


Coming up in the next issue of International Artist magazine is the first of two articles on sketching animals from life.

In the first installment, I discuss getting started by drawing sleeping dogs, taxidermy animals in museums and live animals in zoos.

For the second installment, I want to talk about dealing with farm animals and even wild animals from direct observation in a variety of media.

Here's where you come in. I would like to approach the topic in a Q and A format, with questions that you provide.

So in the comments, please ask me anything about sketching animals from life. I'll pick my favorite ten questions or so.


Here's a baby miniature horse that I painted --while she was napping-- on a farm near where I live.

International Artist magazine

27 comments:

Robert J. Simone said...

Animals move around and don't always hold the pose I want for long. What advice would you give for training one's memory for use in drawing and painting animals from life?

Carole Pivarnik said...

I would be interested in seeing how you approach sketching grazing animals that are generally moving all the time. Do you catch the gesture first, then observe various individuals as they move into the pose you are drawing for the details or what?

Also, how difficult is it for you to actually draw from observation rather than resorting to memory by habit when sketching animals from life? I personally find this difficult when I am sketching equines, whose anatomy I am very familiar with.

Tim Botta said...

How do you make a drawing of an animal that rather than being a generic drawing is a portrait, distilling the individual essence and personality of a particular animal?

Gavin said...

Quick gestures studies aside, what are the benefits to sketching moving animals from life as opposed to drawing from taxidermy for example?

Gabriel Sorondo said...

What do you do if you are drawing an animal and he/she decides to get up and walk away? Do you make up the rest with your knowledge of form, light and color or do you put it aside and start a new sketch? What about birds? Those are fidgety little things.

Jacob A Stevens said...

What is your minimum kit that allows for working in a full hue and value range, but is versatile enough for physically limited situations like having to stand up or work against the railing of an animal enclosure?

Liz Gorman said...

What size sketchbooks do you recommend, and how long does a sketch take to complete?

Tim Fehr said...

Are there some types of animals you would recommend beginners start sketching first? Family pets, for instance?

I would welcome suggestions so students have a better chance of a positive first experience drawing or painting in the field.

Daroo said...

Do you approach sketching animals differently if you are using the sketchbook as a fact gathering tool for a future illustration as opposed to sketching for sketching's sake?

When looking to capture a pose that is distinctive of a specific animal, do you think first in terms of a 2 dimensional gesture (silhouette ?) and build the anatomy within that shape or do you work from the inside out, building anatomy and measuring proportion first? Or some combination of both?

Karen Robinson said...

Why? As in, why do it? I understand about capturing light, doing a little colour study, nailing something of atmosphere etc on location, but why the animal when you could concentrate on getting a few decent photos of it to work up later?

colleen caubin said...

how do you get the perspective right, ie horses feet on the ground plane, foreshortening, angle of flight to the landscape for birds...How do you think through the process ie, gesture first then some form and then adding values? And doing watercolor do you do pale washes and work up? What do you do if you get half way along and find a major mistake? How do you keep proportions correct, I start out right and fall off later...More about how you think and the logical process and not so much the how to formula thing

pascoe said...

For me drawing animals is generally about seeing the patterns and poses they return to and drawing from that. How would i catch the pose of an animal or group of animals who are running past. For example s a horse racing event.

Janet Oliver said...

What do you need to know, if anything, about the skeletal structure of the animal you are sketching?

Tyler J said...

Is it more important to capture the spirit of the pose or focus on being faithful to reality? If this more of a sliding scale issue, what guides your decision?

Leif said...

How about taking a video of an animal as it paces and leaps around in its cage so you can later sketch it in different positions and develop a 3D "model" of its shapes in your head by scrubbing the video back and forth?

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody, for all these great questions. I'll try to get as many as I can into the final article.

Laura G. Young said...

How do you sketch birds or animals that perceive staring as a threat? Also, how do you keep your models from nibbling at your sketchbook or drawing tools?

Gayle Bell said...

How do you portray the defining characteristics of the animal or bird--such as fur or feathers--without getting too fussy and labored?

Karen Thumm said...

How do you sketch animals which are constantly in motion? Do you choose a pose and then wait for the animal to take that pose again?

Do you approach sketching animals the same way you would if you were doing very short poses in a life drawing session?

Do you try to draw the whole animal or mostly parts?

SusanT said...

How do you capture movement such as a galloping horse, a running dog, animals fighting / wrestling with one another? Great series BTW! Thanks

Warren JB said...

How would you approach animals in the wild to within 'sketching distance', without spooking or scaring the animal or, in some situations, endangering yourself? Are binoculars or telescopes recommended for some of these situations, and would they adversely affect perception in any way?

A. L. Ryder said...

Like many others, my main question revolves around how quickly most animals seem to change position. Do you ever snap a quick photo before starting a study so that after you have the main points blocked in, you can go back and look at some details in case the animal has changed position? Or do you just get painting as fast as you can to capture the moment before the whiskers twitch and the creature is off and away??

Mike Porter said...

Do you approach the animal initially with a contour line drawing approach, or visualize shapes and rough those out; I'm thinking of the simplistic beginner's approach of using cones, cubes, rectangles, etc. for the body parts then filling in with the contours, finally shading.

Ryan Teo said...

Do you immediately start on a new pose if the animal moves? Or do you wait for it to get back to a somewhat identical original pose and continue from there?

Jim Maddox said...

What technique is best if you do a detailed rendering of the animal so that is blends in with the surrounding area & doesn't look as if it has been cut out and pasted on the background?

Jacob A Stevens said...

I hope it's not too late to ask another question, but I think this one is important:

Do you take any special measures to prevent contamination by toxic painting tools such as cadmium pigments and mineral spirits? This question applies to studio work too, but I think it would be a particularly important consideration in sensitive areas like zoos, and where proper disposal options might be limited.

Thanks!
-Jacob

Warren JB said...

"...in some situations, endangering yourself? Are binoculars or telescopes recommended for some of these situations..."

Sorry, but this has been bugging me for weeks! Too many situations. Rather to say: "Are binoculars or telescopes recommended under these circumstances..."