Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Top 10 Books on Animal Drawing and Painting

It's rare to find "Animal Painting" or "Animal Anatomy" listed in any art school curriculum, because the models are notoriously difficult to bring into the classroom and very few art schools have taxidermy mounts.


Painting a goat and sheep in the barn as a draft horse looks on.

So if you want to draw and paint animals, you almost have to be a non-traditional learner. Here are some resources that can help you on your way, especially if you combine them with sketching at the natural history museum, zoo, or farm. 

We discussed these books a little in the Draftsmen podcast interview yesterday, but here's some more info on the topic.

    Animals, plants, insects are all covered by this uniquely knowledgeable artist.
2. How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm
    Useful simplifications and mental models.
3. Animal Painting and Anatomy by Frank Calderon
    Calderon ran an art academy in England. Detailed anatomical analysis. 
4. Wildlife Artists at Work by Patricia van Gelder
    Studio visits with major 20th century wildlife artists, including Meltzoff,         Peterson, Carlson, and Bateman. Not useful for anatomy, but rather artistic approaches.
5. How to Draw Animals (Famous Artists School)
    Focused excerpts of a reliable mid-20th century teaching source.
6. Drawing and Painting Animals by Fritz Henning 
    Similar to the Famous Artists book above.
7. The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren
    Disney animator shares examples of slight caricature of animal types.
8. Drawing Animals by Gary Geraths
    Instructor at Otis who draws from life.
    Artist who painted dinosaurs also knew his living mammals.
    Shows a variety of familiar animals in various levels of simplification, with lots of diagrams that are worth copying.

Marshall Vandruff has a good seminar on animal anatomy. 
Aaron Blaise is a former Disney animator with YouTube demos and courses

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Mitch M. said...

Another good book is "The Artist's Guide to Animal Anatomy "by Gottfried Bammes.

Knits and Weaves said...

I suggest "The Unfeathered Bird" and "Unnatural Selection" by Katrina van Grouw. She explores the skeletons and other features of animals with accuracy and beauty.

James Gurney said...

Mitch, thanks for mentioning Bammes' book. I have it in a Russian edition, and you're right, it's great.

Knits and Weaves, I love that book too—what an amazing achievement. Not sure how useful it would be to students, though. Here's a blog post:

nuum said...


By the 90's I've found out some jpg pages of 2 wonderful Japanese animal drawing books but I didn't know how to find them.
I remember that I asked you about the books and the drawings but you didn't know them as well.
Last December, after searching for years on the web I tried to translate the fuzzy words in the jpg images using an OCR software, and finally, I found out the names of the artists and a link to the books on amazon-co-jp

There are two books and the first edition is from 1986.

Here are the names of the books:

動物スケッチ〈1〉小動物編 (みみずくアートシリーズ)
動物スケッチ〈2〉大動物編 (みみずくアートシリーズ)

Animal Sketch <1> Small Animal Edition (Mimizuku Art Series)
Animal Sketch <2> Large Animal Edition (Mimizuku Art Series)

The drawings are by Japanese artists
Kimura Shuji (木村 し ゅ う じ)
Toyomi Tanaka(田中 豊美)

In my opinion, these Japanese artists are two of the most gifted animal artists I've ever seen.

Of all Animal Drawings Books I have (32 in total) these two Japanese books are my favorites.



Heather Kinch said...

Heather Kinch. Joe Weatherly, The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

nuum said...

Besides his books, Joe Weatherly has wonderful videos, as well.
And he was the teacher of Jonathan Kuo, another wonderful animal artist.
Take a look at Kuo's page and you will find lots of beautiful drawings using the same approach Weatherly uses.

Unknown said...

Thank you for great recommendations!
These couldn't have come at a better time.

I am currently in Japan and some of the books you mention are a bit difficult to get hold of here. May I ask if you are familiar with Tim Pond's Field Guide to Drawing and Sketching Animals?

Absolutely adore your work and really appreciate your helpful content.
Thanks a lot and happy weekend!

RotM_81 said...

Instagram: @labideasart.

I’m late to commenting, but I don’t think it can be overstated what a great resource and fountain of knowledge John Muir Laws and his books are. His website has hundreds of free videos demonstrating things from his books and beyond. He’s also recently modified how he teaches drawing birds, improving and simplifying his process. I can’t recommend him enough.