Drawing Animals: Check and Log

What were the main challenges of drawing animals?

I would say that the main challenges for me were unique to the subjects that I chose. For one ‘s very hard to capture movement with ravens as they don’t stand still for long. Unlike a dog or cat the only time you can catch a bird sleeping is at night in a tree basically, so I had to capture movement with sketches as well as photos. Texture was also a challenge, birds feathers are very complex and have a different texture in different parts of the body.

Which media did you enjoy using most and which did you feel were best for the subject matter and why?

Grabbing the Chance Finished Drawing
Grabbing the Chance Finished Drawing

As always I enjoyed using the ball point pen the most, for the sketches of the ravens in Grabbing the Chance. With the ball point pen and the colour of the raven’s I could almost do a continuous drawing of the birds. Coloured pencils were great for the finished drawing in grabbing the chance, they captured the details well and were great for layering all the different colours but they weren’t dark enough to capture the deep colours of the bird. hard pastels may have been better for the job.

Where can you go to draw more animals?

The only real place in Bangkok to draw animals unless you have a pet or live in a street where the stray dogs run freely is the zoo. I went to the zoo with the intention to draw different animals but came across the ravens while there.

Research Point: Dog Anatomy and George Stubbs

George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse

In this research point we were asked firstly to look at the skeletal structure of the cat, dog or horse and then secondly t research the anatomical drawings of George Stubbs.

The Skeletal Structure of a Dog

For the first part of the research point I decided to take a look at the skeletal structure of a dog, I’ve never been that interested in domestic cats, big cats on the other hand are a different story.

Firstly I found a great little video on YouTube showing the skeleton of a dog while trotting, getting familiar with the animal in motion I think is important when depicting movement in drawings.

Dogs have the same skeletal structure all though the length and shape of the bones changes from breed to breed with difference in height, width and length a Dachshund for example would have short leg bones compared to say a Great Dane and an English Mastiff would have a broad rib where as a Greyhound would have a deep rib cage. The biggest noticeable difference being the size and shape of the skull.

Skeletal Structure of the Domestic Dog
Skeletal Structure of the Domestic Dog

The canine skeleton is into two sections which are the Appendicular skeleton which includes the front and back legs and hips and the  Axial skeleton which includes the  includes the head, spine, tail and chest area.

Skeletal Sttructure of a Daschund
Skeletal Sttructure of a Dachschund

When looking at the dogs skeleton for the first time it’s amazing to see how much leg there is above the knee and even in the Dachshund skeleton the legs are suprisingly long.

Great Dane and Chihuahua Skeletons
Great Dane and Chihuahua Skeletons
Skeletal Structure of a Greyhound
Skeletal Structure of a Greyhound

The Anatomical Drawings of George Stubbs

Mares and Foals in a River Landscape 1763-68
‘Mares and Foals in a River Landscape’, 1763-68 (oil on canvas)

I can’t lie, I had never heard of George Stubbs before taking this course and to be honest paintings of horses in front of beautiful scenery have never really interested me, for some reason they remind me of sitting in gloomy houses on rainy days. Over my 40 years I have probably seen prints of George Stubbs’s paintings many times in families and friends homes and the surrounding environments have never really made them stand out. Not that I wouldn’t pay them the respect they deserve if I saw the actual paintings in a gallery environment.

Whistlejacket, is a name that I have heard before, but I’m not sure from where, looking at the painting it does look quite familiar and this unlike say ‘Mares and Foals in a River Landscape’, is not only a very likeable painting but the detail he has captured in this work is quite stunning not only has he managed to capture the muscle tone in every part of the horses body but he has depicted perfectly the texture of the horses hair in its body, main and tale. I love the way he has captured the defined muscle in the back legs to depict how the back legs are taking the weight of the rest of the horse as it rears up. It is a very beautiful piece and reminds me of the Study of a Horse by Leonardo da Vinci that I posted in my previous research point.

George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse
George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse

I absolutely love his anatomical drawings they’re quite dark and are more up my street than his finished pieces. Looking at the Dorsal View off the Muscle Structure of a Progressively Dissected Horse, Study No.7 from The Anatomy of the Horse, 1766 you can see how this study of the muscles in the hind legs of the horse has informed him of how the muscles should look in different positions, and how even after the completion of Whistlejacket, a painting that he was commissioned to paint by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham of her champion racehorse 4 years earlier he was still persistent to take his realistic paintings of horses to the point of perfection.

Stubbs was born in Liverpool in 1724. His father was a currier and as a child he would help his father in his job stretching and burnishing leather for the local tannery. He moved to a remote farmhouse in Lincolnshire in 1756 with his lifelong partner, there he began work on ‘the Anatomy of the Horse’ a book of engravings illustrating the many layers of the horse’s anatomy from its skin to its skeletal structure.

He had a ready supply of cadavers (horse corpses) from a nearby tannery which he strung up from the roof on hooks in different poses as required. He thoroughly recorded his dissections with drawings and notes at every level as he peeled the creatures through their skin, muscle and all the way down to the skeleton. The book took him 18 months to complete and was finally published in 1766.

George Stubbs Skeleton of a Horse
George Stubbs Skeleton of a Horse

In ‘The Skeleton of a Horse’ 1766 (engraving) he has captured the stance of the horse so well that it seems to be a live like an x-ray or CGI skeleton and you can definitely see how this has helped him capture the spirit of the horses in his finished paintings.





Drawing Animals: Fish On a Plate

Completed Exercise - Fish on a Plate

In this exercise I was to buy a fish and put it on a decorative plate, setting the plate in a neutral context. Ideally using water-soluble pencils to draw the fish, paying special attention to the , way the light catches the fish’s eye, mouth, gills, body and tail.

Well my first obstacle was to buy a fish as we have a totally different variety of fish here in Thailand than the UK so I chose a fish called a Pla Tha Pien which maybe a Java Barb or Gold Foil Barb. It wasn’t a very attractive fish but it did a really good job of catching light.

Completed Exercise - Fish on a Plate
Completed Exercise – Fish on a Plate

I didn’t have a really nice plate either in fact I am a bit of a minimalist and only had one plate until last week so I used the same plate as I had used in other exercises.

Photo of Subject - Barb on a Plate
Photo of Subject – Barb on a Plate

The next obstacle was the paper, I couldn’t find any Bockingford paper and the closest I could find to it was a Canson Cotton paper that was over 50 pounds for a pad and on my budget that just wasn’t happening, so I bought a cheaper Canson paper that stated ‘Wet and Wet Technique’ and ‘re-workable’ on the front, at only 420 Baht or 8 pounds for 20 I thought that was reasonable, slightly smaller than A3, A3 being the size of the really expensive next step up.

I wasn’t very clear on the ‘water-soluble pencils’ it said in the brief for the exercise, I have a small pack of Derwent water-soluble sketching pencils, water-soluble colour pencils by Masterart and a pack of Watercolour pencils by Faber-Castell, so I used the latter.

I tried wetting the paper first and it warped like hell and after an attempt at drawing on it I decided that it would be best to draw, go over it with the brush and then draw again while the paper was still wet, this technique worked.

With a limited pallet of colours but not too limited and the way I positioned the bendy light over both fish and plate it was easy to see what colours I should use on the different parts of the fish, the only problem I could see was how I would go about drawing the texture of the scales on the fish’s body.

Fish on a Plate - head

The head was easy enough and didn’t take long to complete, I used 5 colours in total on the head drawing dry then going over with a wet brush to blend and then re-working where necessary and I am pretty pleased with the results on the head which I think looks very like my subject.

Fish on a Plate - body
Fish on a Plate – body

From there I worked on the underneath of the gills and the belly and then up through the fins to its top side. On the side of the fish I used very similar colours as I did for the head but a very different drawing technique, I found that hatching in a light blue, light green and light pink over the top of each other created an almost scaly texture which I then went over with a wet brush and then filled in some of the diamonds with a dark grey.

Fish on a Plate - detail
Fish on a Plate – detail

The most difficult bit of the fish was the top and the front of the dorsal fin as when water touches black it becomes a bit too dark especially for a drawing like this. I have looked at several tutorials which say if you have to use black use a dark blue , which would not be suitable for this fish. In the end I did use black but over the top of an already damp paper and then went over it with a cotton bud to catch some of the colour.

Fish on a Plate - fish complete
Fish on a Plate – fish complete

The finished drawing is not brilliant but for the time I spent on it I’m quite happy with the results. The only part of this picture I am not happy with is that I rushed the completion of the violet coloured cloth that I used for a background.

Drawing Animals – Grabbing the Chance

Grabbing the Chance ball point pen 4
Grabbing the Chance Finished Drawing
Grabbing the Chance Finished Drawing

For this exercise ‘Grabbing the Chance’ I was a bit clueless t first on how I would go about it. I live in an apartment where the only pets u see are the ones on the posters telling you you can’t keep pets and all my friends live in apartments where they are not allowed to keep pets.

I thought about going into the Sois (back streets) and sketching mangy dogs which would probably have been a great subject apart from the fact that dogs here in Bangkok are nocturnal and by the time I would get round to sketching them they would be walking around, barking and biting.

I decided to take a day out to the zoo with my two young daughters, the only problem with this is that my daughters are too impatient to wait for me and sit down and sketch so I took my small sketchbook and my trusty camera.

I started to walk round with my kids taking pictures of the animals that were there and like I thought, my kids were running in front shouting ‘next one, one’. My big surprising break came ten minutes into our zoo visit, at the KFC within the zoo grounds, we got our order and sat down to eat at the tables outside only to be mobbed by hundreds of Ravens, my favourite bird. Being the 5th most intelligent animal in the world and an amazingly beautiful creature I find it very inspiring.

I took plenty of photos of which the photos above are just a few of the best ones plus I managed to do a series of simple pencil sketches working from the real life birds and the screen on the back of my camera and with the kids finishing their meals I decided that I would do some more sketches at home and we finished the rest of the tour of the zoo.

At home now a few days later and looking back at the sketches I did at the zoo I wasn’t very impressed so I took out my trusty ball point pen and made a better second attempt. As this exercise is indeed called ‘Grabbing the Chance’ and I should be drawing the animal like I am ‘grabbing the chance’ I made some quick ball point pen sketches in the same notebook not taking more than 15 minutes a drawing.

This time I could see that my drawings of the bird were improving, after all I had been sitting looking at the photos for the last few days studying their structure how their wings folded on their backs, their feet, their upper and lower beaks and taking note of any other details that would help me to get their anatomy correct. It paid off, this time I was quite impressed with the ballpoint pen  drawings and the best thing about the Faber Castell you can smudge them as they dry slowly so this helped me to create some of sense of texture.

From there I made some sketches with a Rotring 0.3 drawing pen and then moved onto making some pencil sketches with a B5 pencil in my larger A4 sketchbook which I think are great the animals looked bold and elegant and are definitely worthy of a big final piece. Rather than work from the sketches, I chose to work from a photo as I wanted to get the colours somewhere near, firstl I did a study in colour in soft pastel then decided to do the finished piece in coloured pencil as I needed the practice.

Inspired by ‘Wing of a Blue Roller’ by Albrecht Dürer in last research point I paid close attention to detail in order to give the bird the respect it deserves. I took into consideration all I had learnt in previous projects ‘Using hatching to Create Tone‘ and ‘Still Life Group in Tone‘ plus a few other lessons and began drawing the animal.

The finished drawing isn’t a perfect likeness which I am not too worried about my aim here was to draw at a decent pace and I have seen that these birds come in different shapes and sizes. The anatomy however is correct and I have done well to reproduce the folded wings using texture and by depicting the light shining off the birds back.

I drew the outline of the bird with a 2H pencil, at first I thought that I hadn’t made a good attempt at filling up the paper then realised that that this was how I saw the bird, ‘busy bodying’  away from the center to have a nosy around and so I just carried on and I am pretty impressed with the final drawing.

Research point: Renaissance Masters and Animals

Leonardo da Vinci “Study of horses”, red chalk on paper, 1504-6

Research point: Look at how Renaissance masters such as Leonardo and Dürer depicted animals

During the Renaissance period (14th-17th centuries) Europe became the academic heart of the world with Renaissance scholars absorbing the knowledge acquired from other older cultures such as vanishing the Islamic world. Like many other areas of study during this period, both biology and natural science became progressively more specialized and began to take on their own identity.

The Renaissance began a cultural revolution that seemed to be driven by art and science at this time was no different, in fact it was the artists and sculptors of the Renaissance period seeking perfect realism in their work that brought anatomy and biology to the forefront of all scientific areas.

Renaissance artists were the first to dissect plants and animals for a better understanding of the living world. From this artists were able to create more energetic and realistic works of art and make the connection between the structures of animals and humans; Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the first scholars to do just this.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

These days described as the first animal rights activist Leonardo da Vinci would often go to the markets and buy caged animals to set them free. In several of his works Da Vinci combined art with science. This combination of art and science is especially clear in his depiction of animals.

To render the animals in his works with scientific precision Leonardo not only studied the anatomy of the animals but also their physiology. But too really depict them with scientific precision he performed dissection on a number of animals as well as studying their movement in their natural habitat.

Cavillo di Leonardo - 1490 c
Cavillo di Leonardo – 1490 c

Nowhere is it more obvious as in his ‘Cavillo di Leonardo ’ (Leonardo’s Horse 1490 c) right. Not only has he managed perfectly reproduce the animals stance and bowed head but the wonderful muscle tone and folds around the neck.

Leonardo da Vinci “Study of horses”, red chalk on paper, 1504-6
Leonardo da Vinci “Study of horses”, red chalk on paper, 1504-6

In ‘Study of horses’ red chalk on paper 1504-6 which I think is actually a ‘ A Study for the Battle of Anghiari’ he focuses on the horse’s hind legs especially on how the defined muscles and tendons giving an impression the horse’s legs are buckling under weight. To me this is a prime example of how his scientific studies helped him to achieve this standard of realism.

Albrechct Durer (1471-1528)

Born in 15th century Nuremberg, Germany into the Northern Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer was the son of a goldsmith who taught his son to draw, hence Albrecht’s appreciation of fine detail. Dürer is undoubtedly one of the greatest oil painters of the Northern Renaisssance but is also famous for his superb watercolours as well as woodcut prints and engravings.

Until the superb quality of George Stubbs’s work elevated animals in art in the 18th century animals were not thought of to be ideal subjects and the drawing of animals was considered to be merely a demonstration of an artist’s technical skill. However almost two centuries before Stubbs, Dürer began to view animals with the attention they deserved and demonstrating this with an array of watercolours and woodcut prints that over time have become increasingly popular and widely reproduced.

Albrecht Dürer Wing of a Blue Roller 1512
Albrecht Dürer Wing of a Blue Roller 1512

Albrecht Dürer was a familiar name to me and I was especially familiar with his painting ‘Wing of a Blue Roller 1512′ an image I have come across time and time again, and it’s a always been a goal of mine to create something similar being inspired by this wonderful piece.

The painting Is a perfect example of his exceptional drawing skill, ‘he uses watercolor to delicately blend the soft graduating color of the plumage and overpaints linear detail with gouache (an opaque watercolor) to pick out the jagged edges of the feathers.’ [3] He has managed to capture the contrasting textures of the feathers and down of the wing perfectly with so much realism that you can almost feel it.

Albrecht Dürer Rhinoceros 1515 pen and ink drawing
Albrecht Dürer Rhinoceros 1515 pen and ink drawing

Dürer created this pen and ink drawing of the Indian rhinoceros based on notes and a sketch by an unknown artist from Lisbon who had obviously been a traveler and seen the animal with his own eyes. However Dürer had never seen this animal for himself and recreated the drawing enhancing the anatomy of the animal by adding an extra horn to the Rhino’s back. The rhinoceros had not been seen in Europe since Roman times and Dürer’s image of the animal was generally accepted as being anatomically correct until the 18th century. Again, even though he had never seen the animal for himself, he has almost managed to recreate the exact texture of the animal.

[1] http://www.medievalists.net/2011/05/10/leonardo-da-vincis-representation-of-animals-in-his-works/

[2] http://explorable.com/renaissance-biology

[3] http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/animals_in_art/albrecht_durer.htm