Know Your Model

4 Nov 2012

It always makes me smile when I see an artist who loves a pet so much that the drawing or painting they do of their four-legged companion comes out a little like a tall tale, where Snowball the pet cat is drawn like a wild lion prowling the grasslands. It makes me giggle, but it also reinforces what I know. Namely, that you have to know your model--and its environment--when it comes to drawing animals if you want the final drawing or painting to be taken seriously.

A cat painting by UK artist Celia Pike.
A cat painting by UK artist Celia Pike.

A pet portrait is one thing. If you are thinking through how to draw a dog, choosing the setting that the animal actually lives in makes good sense. Most dogs are domestic, so having him on the couch or lying in a dog bed is going to reinforce the narrative you are setting up. If the dog is more outdoorsy, giving a sense of the yard where the animal plays is a good idea.

If you are drawing animals that are a little wilder, you may be working from photos, which is fine, but keep in mind that most of those photos were likely taken outdoors, so maybe do a few natural-light studies to get the atmosphere just right around your wildlife model. Also, the pose you settle on should probably be less "sit, stay" and more natural for a wild animal.

Daniel in the Lions' Den by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1614/1616, oil on canvas.
Daniel in the Lions' Den by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1614/1616, oil on canvas.

If you want to delve more into how to draw animals like a pro, then clear your schedule! ArtistsNetwork.tv has so many workshop videos, tip tutorials, and art-instruction clips to explore! There are several videos on how to draw animals, and more resources are added all the time. Search for the online art workshop that's right for you! Enjoy!

 


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