Project 13 - Drawing animals

Grabbing the chance

I made lots of quick sketches of my Mum's cats and our rabbit Nibbles. I cheated a bit and studied their movements then took lots of photographs - as they wouldn't stay still long enough. I then sketched from both the photo's and real life.



My final sketch was of my rabbit, in pencils. As all my previous sketches had been purely about the shape of the animals I did some research and practised how to get the fur looking right. I'm really pleased with this drawing, and feel it captures both the pose of a rabbit cleaning, as well as capturing the movement of it's fur, reflected in the light. 

Research point

As I was mainly sketching our rabbit, I looked at the skeletal structure of a rabbit. I found this really interesting and useful - as it really helps in understanding how they move, and how their poses work.

George Stubbs studied horses and created anatomical drawings of them to help him make his finished pieces as accurate as possible, by understanding the structure of the horse. He found that his in-depth knowledge of the skeletal and muscle placing, meant he knew exactly what shape the horse was, allowing him to accuracy draw the muscle and bones through the short horse's coat.

As well as being an artist, he was a scientist and spent 18 months dissecting horses, making detailed drawings as he went. He had difficulty finding anyone to interpret his drawings into engravings, so taught himself - making the linear engravings how each textured layer of vein, muscle and bone. The time spent engraving each line of muscle must of really re-enforced this knowledge into his memory.

Fish on a plate

I can't touch fish, so cheated with this and drew this from an image I found on the internet. I know this doesn't beat the real thing - but it was the best I could do. I drew the image using pastels, and added a pink background - to compliment the fishes cheeks (not sure if fish have cheeks?). I'm really happy with the overall image, and think I have really improved with the way I can use pastels (especially if I look back at the awful purple flower I attempted!).

I think the shape of the fish are good and they really look curved. The textures of the pastels (with the white paper showing through) is perfect for fish, as it adds to the scale-like texture. The colours work well, with the black and grey merging to form a light highlight. The plate doesn't work so well and appears flat, which I think is a combination of the shape of the flat (it doesn't appear smaller towards the back and the lack of shade. Had I set up the fish myself, I think it would of been more useful to use a coloured plate, as it would be easier to add light and shade.


I found the most challenging part about drawing animals was the fact they don't stay still long enough. Even when they have been laying for an hour, the moment you pick up a pencil, they move. I overcome this with the help of a camera, to capture interesting poses. I enjoyed using charcoal and ink for drawing quick sketches, as it was very fluid and fast - like the animals - and I felt it added the sense of movement to the drawings. However for the large scale rabbit, I felt I had to use something a bit more solid, to capture the detail needed for a larger drawing, so I used pencils.

Since sketching cats, I have noticed how different each of my Mum's cats are, so I think it would be interesting to try and capture different types of the same animal, e.g. different breeds of dog, so that you can study the bone structure and learn about the basics of the animal, but then apply those basics to different "looking" dogs. I feel this would be easier and more rewarding, than say going to the zoo and trying to sketch lots of different animals.

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