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.