Sketching animals - Some tips to get you started
1. Safety in numbers - Rather than choosing subjects that move quickly (playful dogs) or creatures that are elusive (big cats), seek out an enclosure with several of the same animals inside, like giraffes or large, slow-moving creatures such as elephants or cattle. Often, the group of subjects will repeat each other’s positions and movement. Then you can put together a single image out of the pieces of many different subjects. Believe me; no one will know the difference. It is our secret!
2. Slow moving simplicity - Step back and choose to observe larger, slower creatures such as giraffes or cows. Looking at an animal of a greater size allows you to mentally compare the size and shape of the larger masses with the small sections of the legs and head. The impressional qualities of movement and rhythm are easier to grasp as you sketch and edit.
3. Easy silhouettes - It is easy to lose your visual organisation of the animal in multiple confusing parts and troublesome foreshortening. Find a profile view to start with and get rid of all those pesky details. Construct the animal as simple shapes and proportions. Make sure you understand it as graphically clear without visual clutter. Where is the subject widest? Thinnest? What shape is the head, the angle of the back and so on? This method takes a lot of the worry out of the process.
4. Substance before style - Let your style drop into the background. As you step back and combine thinking and drawing together, there is a creative tide, an ebb and flow between your method and the structural matters in a dynamic drawing. Wrap your brain around the simple constructive framework and the animal’s movements. When you can mentally shift gears between all of these approaches, your style will become more informed.
5. Assigning visual qualities - As you begin sketching and combining various concepts and methods, assign names and descriptions to your subject(s). This can help shape and guide your image smoothly and simply. These impressional qualities – such as strength, power, subtleness, speed, slimness, balance, grace and even beauty and ugliness – can accentuate your fast sketches.
Giraffe Couple, 2015
When you are drawing several creatures simultaneously, try to spread the details throughout the animals to tie the group together visually. Here I made sure the foreground giraffe was clearly drawn.
Read more tips and advice on sketching animals from Gary in the January 2018 issue of Leisure Painter