|Anting by George Boorujy, 2011, ink on paper, 55 1/2 x 108.
That's always the statement that rings in my head when I
focus on how to draw animals because in my mind, drawing animals is all about
physical appearance and movement. A bear, an owl, and a lizard all have very
different appearances and for an artist to depict the likeness of any one of
those creatures he or she has to be able to draw texture and capture the
gesture of the subject.
So when I've come upon the occasion to draw an animal, I always
try to think of its visual characteristics in tactile terms, trying to
articulate an animal's weightiness or lightness, or how the texture of its
scales, skin, or fur would feel underhand.
Thunder, Perfect Mind by George Boorujy,2011,
ink on paper, 38 x 50.
For example, accurate depictions of fur will require your
pencil strokes to follow the growth pattern of the fur, and remember that no
two are necessarily alike. Strokes can be short, thin, and wispy for a sleek
short-haired cat's fur. But for the shaggy, coarse mane of a lion, you may want
to pull out the charcoal or Conte crayon. No matter the tactile appearance of
the fur, drawing it in relation to how it grows allows not only for visual
interest in a drawing, but it can help give an artist a sense of how the
anatomy of the animal subject is built under all that puffy fur.
When it comes to scales, from what I've observed, it is
better to focus on the scales closest to you and allow them to recede in detail
as you go back or around the animal in the drawing. Hatching and crosshatching
can allow an artist to get the layered look of bird feathers, and remember that
feathers tend to get smaller and shorter toward a bird's breast and fan out
longer on the wings and tail.
I'm no expert on how to draw animals. I received most of my
instruction from experienced artists who have done this for decades, including
Patricia Traub. Her DVD, Drawing
Realistic Animals, gave me a real appreciation for the high level
observation and focus you want when depicting an animal's bearing and
appearance, and how to get the gesture and poise of an animal,