JS: These are a few little tips I’ve picked up to help with drawing birds and mammals, particularly furry ones. This isn’t gospel by any means and it may not suit the medium you work in, but for my own drawing they’ve helped me to get closer to the results I’m after.
The easiest way to think about this is if you were to stroke or pet the animal, which direction would you do it. Often with animals you want to try and convey their personality a little so I start with the eyes and work out from there.
Every single line doesn’t have to follow the fur either, it’s just a good rule to fall back on. I like to break direction when you get down to the toes, purely because I like suggesting the roundness of them. The same way it’s fun to play with a cat’s paws and tigers have massive heavy paws which are great to draw.
Some animals have wonderful swirling hair and fur patterns that look like a wind map. They can really lend themselves well to pen drawings and are very satisfying to loose yourself in.
Below is a quick animation to show how I started the above drawing of a little dog called Paloma. The drawing is done from a photograph and I start by lightly sketching in the basic structure, but I can use the lines in the fur to help navigate across the page. Then I go back and use heavier/darker lines to put the detail in. The ability to sketch with ballpoint pens is one of my favourite attributes of those kind of pens.
SHOWING MUSCLES UNDER THE FUR
With shorter haired animals it’s a good challenge to use the least amount of marks to suggest both fur and also the muscle structure underneath. I like to break the surface into blocks and then work in from there.
On the Dachshund below I also used a trick I learned from comic books of making the two legs on the other side of the body darker to push them away. It’s a simple thing but it can make a nice difference. Also the back leg on the right is taking more weight so the lines are darker and heavier to show that.
Below is a little dog we met in Rhonda and he walked with us for a little one morning. I really love the way the fur on his tail shoots off in a lovely curve sending radiating lines outward.
Below is a good example of nice thick fur. I think the key is to suggest it more as a mass rather than trying to pack it with detail. Again this is something that works well for ballpoint on a small scale but could be applicable elsewhere, I’d love to know if it helps you in a different medium.
Below is a polar bear drawing which is supposed to illustrate how you can suggest the shape of the animal (the curves around it’s torso) with not too many lines.
If you’re going to add some colour to your drawings then you can get away with less detail in regards to feathers…
But if I want to go all out and lay out the feathers I approach it the same way as the dogs with short fur. Break the image up into blocks and try to get my head around the layering.
Open wings generally have the same structure of feathers on the underside. Below is nice poised eagle followed by a scraggly looking heron.
Tops of wings have their own lovely structure too, is important to make sure you’re suggesting the symmetry too even when it’s a funny angle.
Below is an example of being more suggestive of the feathers rather than going nuts trying to draw each one. It’s a white-tailed sea eagle which was quite windswept in the photo so I made sure to keep the outlines quite broken so show the feathers being blown around.
Last of all, feathers can follow the same patterns as fur and run down the back of the bird as if you were stroking it. I can’t imagine how soft that would be.
That’s all, feel free to comment or reply. I hope you enjoyed the post, more Artist Interviews on the way!