Know Your Model

27 May 2014

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 consider Draw Realistic Animals, with workshop-like instruction that guides you through the drawing process with plenty of tips and sound drawing advice along the way. I hope it is the right resource for you! Enjoy!

 


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