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Drawing Animals from Life

April 5, 2012

100827HBlackRooster

Above: Sketch of a black rooster at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. Staedtler Pigment Liner in a book I made using Gutenberg paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

On April 5, 2012 I’m giving a “drawing animals from life” demonstration and talk at the Bell Museum’s Sketch Night.

Because I am often distracted by questions that take me off on tangents (all fun but often not to any point that any listener can remember) I wanted to be sure to capture my main thoughts about drawing from life in one spot on my blog so that attendees can refresh their memories but more importantly see my complete thoughts on a subject without interuption. (Blog readers who live too far away to attend may also find this list helpful.)

Since drawing animals from life is a topic I return to frequently because it is a passion of mine, there are many blog posts where my ideas on the subject are discussed, even if that isn’t the main subject of that particular post.

In brief I have the following advice for people who want to draw animals from life:

1. Practice whenever you can, even if it is the brief sighting of a dog sitting next to his owner at a cafe.

2. Practice at natural history museums where the taxidermy remains motionless for as long as you require it to do so.

3. Draw road kill whenever the opportunity arises. (Don’t touch it or move it, and by all means stay well out of the road. But use those chance opportunities to gather more visual information about a subject you would not otherwise get to see closely.)

4. Draw your household animals every chance you get. Take dogs on long, long walks, and then sketch them when they nap it off.

5. When drawing from life watch first, for 5 minutes or more. Note patterns of behavior and movement. Then draw.

6. Approach the exercise with the attitude that you are in learning mode and want more information.

7. Don’t expect to create a finished sketch.

8. Accept happy accidents and non-compliance on the part of your model. Focus on aspects from which you can learn—how does the pad on the foot fold, in which direction does the hair on the muzzle grow, where is the ear located in relationship to the eye, what it the pattern on the feathers (which feathers)?

9. Remember to breathe.

For posts that deal with the subject of drawing animals (and people) from life, please see the following:

Start with “Direct Sketching with Pen and Ink: Drawing Birds and Animals from Life.

Use this blog’s search engine to find “Minnesota State Fair” or go to the category cloud and click on that topic. You’ll find many detailed articles on this topic.

Start with Minnesota State Fair Prep—#7:Sketching Animals or People at the Fair.

Then jump to When Things Don’t Go Your Way: Sketching Animals at the Fair.

For encouragement to sketch directly with pen (instead of pencil) please read “Direct Sketching with Pen and Ink: Just Jump into the Deep End of the Swimming Pool.

For tips on sketching people in public please read Direct Sketching with Pen and Ink: Drawing People From Life.

Additional tips may be found in the following post, More Direct Sketching with Pen and Ink.

If you would like to know more about my travel palettes you can click on this link.

If you want to know the best way to dress when you go out to sketch (animals or people, it doesn’t matter) you can read Minnesota State Fair Prep—#6: Dress for Success. I always dress this way and every piece of clothing I own pretty much is stained with paint (or glue on it); but I’m very productive sketching. That’s what matters to me.

I hope these posts help you make the leap to get out into the world and start sketching. There’s a lot to see out there.

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