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Sketching Animals At The Zoo and Beyond

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How to Approach Sketching Animals
A fast, informal sketch of Gorillas in the Zoo

A fast, informal gesture sketch of Gorillas in the Zoo

Ed Hall, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Sketching animals from life is incredibly rewarding. With a little practice, you can learn to capture the character and movement of your favorite animals. Of all the approaches to animal field studies, gesture is by far the most suitable. Animals don’t strike still poses like a model in a studio, so it is very important to use gesture as a way to record what you see quickly, efficiently, and with purpose. This is a skill that takes time to develop, but it will pay huge dividends in the future if you stick with it.

As you draw, try to imagine that your hand is unwinding a ball of string, steadily and deliberately. It is important to look at your subject at least as much as you look at the paper, and remember that you are not trying to draw every single hair, eyelash, wrinkle or toenail. It’s an essence drawing that attempts to capture the spirit of the animal through a series of undulating contour lines and value masses. (Note: it is important to distinguish here between outlines and contour lines - do not outline the animals. Use contour, which can be “on and in” the figure as well as around the figure, to build the form instead)

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