Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Animals

"Pan," digital, 2018
The ability to draw a variety of different subjects is indispensable for a realist. It isn't enough to capture a human likeness or figure. If you're going to be placing your human subject in a believable milieu you might need to draw furniture, or interiors, or buildings or cars. Or animals.

Drawing animals is a challenge for me. Some artists avoid drawing animals at all, or have no need to draw them given their particular subject matter. You don't usually see a giraffe in floral painting. On the other hand, learning the structure of animals and their movements could contribute mightily to history paintings, genre works, animal portraits, and so on. And at its most basic, learning to draw animals of any kind is a way to stretch my mental and artistic muscles. So I draw various animals, trying to understand structure and movement. Sometimes, as with the digital drawing here titled "Pan,"there is a spark of expression or a particular characteristic of interest, too. Of course, sometimes these are simply studies, done for information and practice.

This drawing was completed in graphite on a toned sheet. This dog was one of the Army's canine partners but has been retired and lives with it's previous master. I was taken by the dignity--real or only perceived--in the animal. It's about 5x6. As it is in drawing humans, understanding the skeletal underpinning of an animal, from skull to tail, is critical, so studies of all sorts of animals is useful. Happily, many animals share similar limb structures and so on. Dogs, horses, tigers, and even elephants share very similar bony arrangements. The same goes for the axial skeleton--the spinal column and skull. So studying one animal is in effect a way to study almost all.

In this drawing there's a narrative (as indicated by the title--"Moving Day"). For whatever reason, the mother cat is moving one of her kittens. The size of the kitten suggest it may only be a few days old. I did this from a reference photo but placed the cat descending a staircase. The actual reference was different. Again this was done in graphite on a toned sketchbook sheet, about 5.5x8.5 Here it's critical to draw the limb and axial anatomy solidly, so knowledge of the limbs is indispensable.

The final drawing in this group is a digital sketch of an imagined cat, based on a photo of a truly annoyed feline waiting to be let indoors. I added the rain and wet fur plus dripping and so on. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat knows this expression.



For a book that provides a tremendous amount of information about drawing animals in an inexpensive volume, try "How To Draw Animals," by Jack Hamm. Originally published almost 50 years ago, it remains an important reference in my studio library.
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