Select your animal – easier said than done, perhaps, but here’s your chance to be creative and spontaneous. Keep your sketchbook with you and seize any opportunity as it arises.
Look for the basic shapes that make up the animal’s form. Do a series of small and fast line sketches of different poses. Experiment with different media – thick and thin, soft and hard. Do as many studies as you can. Spend a couple of hours on these preliminary sketches and then spend another couple of hours a few days later trying to capture the essence of the animal through intense scrutiny of form, colour, texture, character, scale, stance, movement and so on.
Once you feel comfortable with your subject and you’ve experimented with a range of media and poses, make a large drawing (A2 or A1). Consider how best to fit the overall form into the rectangle using a vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape) format. For this drawing concentrate on expressive and gestural line and use variations of pressure, speed, line lengths, etc., to give the animal a sense of weight and vitality. Position your subject within an atmospheric and realistic environment.
In the sketch below Lucian Freud has managed to capture the essence of the pigeons. He has used fine lines and the pattern made by the feathers to create the impression of roundness and softness in the more detailed bird. Monet’s study of two turkeys adopts a looser approach but again models the body through patterning across the surface of the animal.
Our rescue collie ‘Lotty’ was the model/poser for this first set of sketches. She’s 12 years old and although still reasonably active – she love’s playing football (in lieu of herding sheep) – but likes to relax and watch the world go by even more. So, asking Lotty to take time out and pose for these sketches was no problem. [H&S/PC alert – no pet was harmed in carrying out this exercise as I had a) a willing model, and b) they were all done at different times over a couple of days.
I used Derwent Graphic 5H and 5B pencils for these sketches.
Our other dog ‘Salty Dog’, a long haired German Shepherd and two local cats ‘Bali’ and ‘Amber’ – all now deceased. I used photographs I had taken for these sketches and a variety of media – pencil, oil pastel, marker pen, coloured pencil and felt-tip pen.
The reliable Lotty in a favourite pose – sitting contemplating and not that eager to move (unless another dog comes into view). This sketch was made in our garden with Lotty sitting on the path below me. I have used an A2 200gsm fine grain heavy weight paper and Staedtler fineliner pens for the main drawing and DJeco gel pens for the background setting and shadows.
The focus is on the eye (she was eyeballing me as I was sketching) and I am pleased with the touches of colour there, in the mouth and collar. I think I could have done better with the legs and paws, but my eye was drawn upwards.
My favourite medium for this exercise were the Staedtler fineliner pens for their good colour and ease of use. Having said that, the Graphic pencils and felt-tip pens were also fun to use, and I think that I have managed to make fairly good attempts at producing sketches with expressive and gestural line. I tried to vary the mark making to depict hair, but it is quite a tricky skill and I am sure that with more practice I could achieve even better results.
If anything I would say that my work is more in line with the detail of Lucien Freud’s ‘Two pigeons’ rather than that of Claude Monet’s much freer ‘Two Turkeys’.
I am quite pleased with my final drawing, although I did chose a challenging angle and did not get the lower elements quite right in terms of scale and balance. Mind you, Lotty is a dog with a very trim back end and she carries most of her weight on her chest and front legs – maybe my drawing of a ‘top-heavy’ dog gives some idea of this.
Stuart Brownlee – 512319
3 August 2015