The Art of Animal Drawing – Part 1

Lioness Profile

Firstly, I would like to thank my kind readers for their flattering comments about my first blog. I was enormously encouraged.

Secondly, I am not being paid to review any products or books.

Thirdly, when I began blogging I decided that I would only review products/materials and books that I like. I have felt for a long time that making negative reviews about products often stems from experiencing unsatisfactory results when using them. I understand this. But I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we use materials in ways which they are not designed to be used, or simply that our personal taste colours our judgement regarding the product.

I use student grade watercolours (Reeves, Pebeo and Koh-i-Noor) when creating the course material for teaching my students. I do not think it is fair to use professional grade watercolours when my kids will be using cheaper paints. I accept that the results may not be what I would achieve if I used my professional colours. I love the transparent watercolours, so I am not thrilled if I buy a new pan or tube and the consistency is more like gouache. There is nothing wrong with the paint, I just prefer less opaque products. Ten chances to one, the very next person to buy that paint will love it.

By the way, the lioness illustration at the top of the blog was completed on 300 gsm TAD watercolour with Reeves watercolour. Considering the price of the paint, I think the artwork is acceptable.

This is the reason why my reviews will be an explanation of why I liked the product.

So, to get to this month’s blog discussion:

Animals are fascinating, I enjoy illustrating them, and have since I was a teenager. However, I became very dissatisfied with my work when I was not able to animate them. I was able to replicate from reference photos, but I was frustrated because, obviously one cannot obtain reference photos for every animal pose one wishes to draw. For example, a friend wrote a charming tale about a camel. At one point in the story, he does a roly-poly somersault. I defy anyone to find a reference photo of a camel doing that form of gymnastics!

I am a self-confessed bibliophile and acknowledge that my learning style includes ‘book-learning’. As my art crisis grew, I desperately sought for answers on the internet and in books. I browsed through the vast number of art titles on Book Depository (since my favourite local book store, Scorpio Books, did not have anything suitable). I discovered the following title:

The Art of Animal Drawing: Construction, Action Analysis, Caricature by Ken Hultgren, and published by Dover Publications.

The Art of Animal Drawing.

This book was first published in 1951. It is not a step-by-step guide to animating animal illustrations. There are a few pointers; but it appears to be primarily a published sketch book, and that, in itself, is extremely inspiring! The volume is filled with dynamic sketches of many different animals, both realistic and cartoon, drawn without reference!

In short, these are the tips I did discern from the text:

  • Understand the main anatomy areas, e.g. head, thorax, abdomen.
  • Using terminology from my dressmaking days, mark the centre front (of the animal’s head) and centre back (dorsal line).
  • Understand the location of the animal’s ears and eyes.
  • Have a simple understanding of the skeletal structure and stance of the animal (i.e. Is the animal knock-kneed or pigeon-toed?).
  • Know the joints/pivot points.
  • Use a ‘body box’ to ensure perspective is right.
  • Create a mannequin form (or a wire frame).
  • Draw the mood – picture book illustrator, Nina Rycroft, instructs her students to draw from the inside out – draw the emotion of the character.
  • Use gesture lines to indicate movement, direction, posture, etc.
  • Ken mentioned Eadweard Muybridge in his foreword. I did a very quick Google search, and discovered the incredible work of a very interesting man. There are books available that contain his fantastic photography: multiple frames of action shots. If you are interested in studying both human and animal movement, these books will be invaluable for you. I plan on adding these to my art book collection in the future. Please see the following links for further information:

These books are also available from Amazon.

While this book is light on instruction (the above points are very briefly noted), I have been INSPIRED by the possibility of producing illustrations like Ken Hultgren. My aim is to develop a similar sketch book, and hopefully, in time, better understand animal anatomy enough to produce pictures of animals that appear to burst off the page!

For further detailed information, look out for this awesome book!

Please watch out for next month’s blog. I will be reviewing another book. I suppose it will be a part 2 of the subject of animal animation, since it deals with the same theme, but gives more information on implementation of these steps.

If any of my readers have come across excellent books on animal anatomy and drawing animals, please comment. I would love to hear from you.

Until next time…