My top tips on how to draw animalsCherith Harrison
I love animals. From a young age I’ve been fascinated by their individual personalities and characteristics, and I’m now fortunate enough to be able to incorporate my passion for them into my work. Inspired by popular wildlife and pets, I sell my designs and gifts across the globe, and people often ask me for pointers and drawing ideas. As a result, I’ve decided to write a little post with my tips on how to draw animals …
1. Find your own artistic style
I do enjoy accuracy in a drawing, but I also like to ‘make it my own’ so that people might recognise my pieces. Where it’s possible, I’ll often exaggerate certain aspects of an animal. Maybe I’ll enhance their bright colours, or perhaps make their plumage/fur detail a bit more elaborate. Establishing your own style is important. Doing what you’re happiest doing will be reflected in your work.
Doodling is a wonderful way to hone your artistic skills, improve your hand-eye coordination and encourage your personal style. I have board on my desk containing my doodles (you never know when they’ll come in handy), and I use my bullet journal to make quick sketches in. Out for coffee? Take a pad and pencil with you and try making some quick sketches of passing dogs, birds and even bugs! I recently headed down to Edinburgh zoo to sketch their pandas.
3. Animal Sketching tips for beginners
I’m pretty confident when it comes to drawing the overall anatomy of an animal, so now I’ll start by loosely plotting the main features (eyes, nose mouth etc). I do this lightly in pencil and hardly take my eyes off the picture I’m drawing from. I’m constantly checking to make sure my placement of the different features match that in the picture; are the legs the correct distance apart? Is the scale of the wing in proportion to the rest of the body? Is the texture of the feathers thicker on the breast than on the wings?
Once I’ve plotted everything down, I’ll usually start adding more detail at the eyes and working my way out from there.
4. How to draw a dog
I’m a huge dog lover and back in 2017 I was honoured to be asked to design and produce a bespoke gift collection for the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. With so many pet lovers following my work, it’s no surprise that one of the most common things I’m asked about sketching is, ‘How do I draw a dog?’
If you’re new to sketching, start with the basics! I often find people are too eager to get to the details; ignoring the overall anatomy of their dog. It’s easy to understand why – details are much more enjoyable to draw, right?
Focusing on the skeleton first. If you understand that, layering on top of it will make it easier to get the rest of the proportions correct. From here, you can begin to sketch the muscle over the top. Adding the fur to the top of this should be easier, since you’ve already established the dog’s physique.
For some, the most difficult part of drawing a dog is its head. I find most people go wrong around the dog’s muzzle. If you make the muzzle too long or too short, it will dramatically alter the likeness of the animal. Be sure to observe this part of their face and note the breed of your subject before getting started.
When working on the ears, start at the base. Even when a dog has one droopy ear, the base will often stay a consistent shape. From soft floppy ears to upright pointed ones, there’s a great variety of ears across the canine world – but a pair generally mirror each other.
5. Find inspiration for art
All of my work is inspired by animals and the wonderful stories their characters tell. I love drawing from live subjects, but also enjoy taking inspiration from photos I come across. Whilst creating the Robin design that you see on our tea towels, I created 2 different drawings; 1 of the robin and 1 of the winter foliage. I did these using Crayola super pens.
I used images I’d saved on Pinterest as inspiration for a fun pattern of holly and ivy. From these, I got to work creating loose drawings. I wanted them to be quite whimsical in style, so I deliberately drew those elements memory – this part was really fun to do as it felt quite liberating to not be drawing from a photograph! I like to look for patterns within the subject matter, which I deliberately exaggerate through scale and colour to help give the image a sense of personality, beauty and vibrancy.
6. Find the best drawing tools for you
All my designs begin with a single pencil or pen and, if you’re new to drawing, these are essentials for getting started (as are a plain paper sketchpad and pencil sharpener). It’s also worth investing in a kneaded eraser. Kneaded erasers don’t wear away or leave behind residue, thus making them better for fixing errors.
Before you go out and buy yourself a ton of drawing tools, play about with these basics first; slowly adding a new tool where you feel it suits your style. Don’t be afraid to try out tools that go against the usual list of drawing tools for beginners, that’s where your personal style will really come through!
I love mixing traditional and digital mediums throughout my work. The holly berries that were part of my Robin design came from a doodle; but I wanted to change the colours to a more browns and red, Autumnal palette. To get the desired effect, I often use Photoshop to adjust colours and to combine different drawing elements. Nowadays, there are lots of free drawing apps that allow you to play with different techniques. I recommend you try some of them out to see if they can provide you with a little extra inspiration.
Want to get started and sketch on the go? Our little A5 notepads (link to notepad page) are easy to carry and great for quick drawings whilst you’re on the move. They come as a pack of two in a variety of animal designs.