Select your animal. 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, trying to capture the essence of the animal through intense scrutiny of form, colour, texture, character, scale, stance, movement and so on.
My very obliging model was our whippet, Banjo. I started off with some studies drawn while he was asleep or resting in a relatively still pose. I enjoyed using sepia charcoal pencil the most which felt looser and more spontaneous.
Then I switched to charcoal for some quicker gestural sketches of Banjo in motion. I had to go over these a couple of times, firstly to grab a sense of his shape and then to capture motion- I was trying to see which body shapes defined his action. For one or two I used a quick photo to capture a pose that passed particularly quickly, to support what i had captured in my mind’s eye.
Having sketched and studied banjo over a few days and in as many poses as I could I went on to make a large drawing. I started with a very quick gestural sketch trying to capture his essence with a few strokes as possible.
This time I drew him asleep on the sofa so I would have time to study him. I was a bit disappointed that the picture came out a bit flat, particularly before I added the black painted lines. It was fairly accurate but not very alive. I think I have represented his form but as he was so still I wasn’t motivated to vary pressure, speed and line length. I decided to make the cushion red, as a contrast to his fawn coloured coat and to echo the colour of his collar.
Here is the model- he had turned around by the time I took this picture!