Most people who draw domestic animals start with the head. In terms of realism, skill in the drawing of eyes and fur is what separates out the serious animal artist from the amateur.
Lenny by Gayle Mason (Coloured pencil)
This illustrates the pattern of fur growth and the importance of capturing the guard hairs. Gayle uses this sketch as a teaching tool to demonstrate how to build up black using a variety of blues and also how to indent ‘status’ hairs.
Pick of the Litter by Katherine Tyrrell (Coloured pencil) When providing a background, make sure it adds value.
A Fur Map by Gayle Mason (Pencil)
The arrows indicate the direction of fur growth and therefore the direction that any drawn hairs need to follow.
Poppy by Gayle Mason (Coloured pencil)
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How to draw eyes:
It’s best to complete each stage for both eyes at the same time:
Study the shape and colour of the eye.
Outline the eye and indicate the shape of the pupil.
Reserve the highlight on the pupils, which will add life to the drawing of any animal.
Colour both iris and pupil – note these are not flat areas of colour.
Colour the iris with thin glazing washes of more than one colour, indicating any streaks of colouration.
Reinforce the outer edge of the iris; the stronger colour helps give form to the spherical eyeball.
Darken the outer edge of the eye.
Finish with the shadow on the eye created by the eyelid.
Courtesy of Gayle Mason
How to draw whiskers
Use an indenting tool to capture whiskers or fine hairs. Very smooth paper is the best surface for precision drawing of fur, feathers or whiskers.
Dogs vary in shape as much as people. Observation and understanding of a breed of dog is the only way to draw with truth. Gun dogs, working dogs and agility dogs all provide many opportunities to practise sketching dogs on the move or at work.
From domestic to big cats:
Many aspects of domestic cats are very similar to the big cats. The latter are just on a much larger scale. So if you want to draw big cats, the best approach is to develop and practice your skills drawing domestic cats first.
Draw animals with symmetrical faces
Start with the eyes and get the shape and position of these right first. Complete the eyes. Next work outwards from the eyes and make sure the planes of the eyes, nose and base of ears all line up, no matter what angle the dog has its head. Mistakes in symmetry tend to be very obvious.
How to draw fur:
‘How do you draw fur?’ is one of the most frequent questions asked of animal artists.
Learn about the character of the fur you will be drawing (fur has a lot of different textures – fine, soft, stiff, thick, harsh and so on). Try feeling the fur before you start.
Focus on the overall shape and form of the animal. It’s no good being precise on the fur if the form is wrong.
Don’t start on detail until you’ve worked out the big shapes and tones.
Simplify and map the tonal pattern into no more than five tones to help develop form and provide a base for the later drawing and shading of the fur.
The fur pattern on the face is complex. Create a fur map from observation to aid your mark-making. Look at how the fur follows the underlying form and make sure strokes follow the direction in which the hairs grow.
Fur is rarely one colour. Demonstrating variation in fur is essential for both colour and monochrome drawings. Look at individual hairs to understand how colour varies.
Hairs in fur are indicated by drawing the positive (i.e., hair) and the negative (i.e., space around the hair).
Use a pointed eraser to lift out hair from a dark tone.
Courtesy of Gayle Mason