Sketching Pets

The trick to sketching pets is waiting for them to be relatively still. If they move before your sketch is finished, you can be assured that they will never, ever adopt exactly the same pose again!

Speed is of the essence, then, and also a sense of timing - which is why I often wait until they're snoozing or at least relaxed and sitting still. And a sketch is supposed to be a quick impression of the subject anyway, rather than a detailed finished drawing. I find a small sketch pad kept nearby is more convenient than a larger pad, and with an ink pen all you need do is take the cap off and you're ready to draw. If you start rummaging in drawers for pencil sharpeners or watercolour paints, or begin turning the pages of a large sketch pad, then the chances of your snoozing model rousing its sweet little fluffy head to see what's being missed-out on increases with every movement. More than once I have tried to explain to my cats that it's impossible to sketch them while they're sitting directly on top of the sketch book.

Ink sketch of Ygraine, my West Highland White Terrier.
Ink sketch of Ygraine, my West Highland White Terrier.
Ink sketch of Emily, my Jack Russell Terrier, when she was a puppy so small we nicknamed her Little Mouse.
Ink sketch of Emily, my Jack Russell Terrier, when she was a puppy so small we nicknamed her Little Mouse.

Tips for Sketching

When sketching, think about the size of your page and how you intend to place your subject on that page. There's no need to labour over details of background, but avoid having your main subject floating like a balloon on a blank sheet. Give some indication of the ground or surface which your subject is on.

Think about where the shadows lie. An animal should not look flat, so remember the roundness of the body, the structure of the skeleton beneath the fur, and use shading to give depth to the animal's form.

Experiment with different kinds of drawing, such as line drawing, tonal drawing or cross-hatching. Try limiting yourself to ten minutes per sketch, which is a good way to increase speed, observational skills and lose any hindering 'preciousness' you may harbour about your work. Use different drawing materials, too, rather than limit yourself to what may be familiar. Chalks can be lovely to use on textured paper, for example.

Ink sketch of Mutley, my beloved geriatric one-eyed ginger-and-white tom cat.  Drawing Mutley was easy because he spent much of his time asleep.
Ink sketch of Mutley, my beloved geriatric one-eyed ginger-and-white tomcat. Drawing Mutley was easy because he spent much of his time asleep.
Ink sketch of Ygraine.
Ink sketch of Ygraine.
Ink sketch of Jazzy.
Ink sketch of Jazzy.

Describing my own drawings isn't something I've indulged in since my art school days, when constructive criticism was a part of every class.  These-days I let my work speak for itself.  A person viewing it will either like my work or not; an inevitable and entirely subjective choice.  If someone else likes it, fine; if not, it doesn't matter to me as I draw and paint purely for my own pleasure.

Just a few fluid lines, but this sketch captures the essence of a cat.
Just a few fluid lines, but this sketch captures the essence of a cat.
Minimal lines, yet the mischievous expression brings this sketch to life.
Minimal lines, yet the mischievous expression brings this sketch to life.

© 2009 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

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Comments 10 comments

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Inspiring! Great tips. The time limit is always a good idea, and you're right of course, each time you do get better and learn from the one before.


tanakasan profile image

tanakasan 7 years ago

Thank you for this hub. Fantastic ideas. I've never taken an art class but now at least I have an idea of shading.


rajibroy 7 years ago

great work and i have learnt many things.............


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

Thanks for all your kind comments.


Kimmie10 profile image

Kimmie10 6 years ago

You are a good sketch artist.


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

Thank you, Kimmie.


ravenhecate profile image

ravenhecate 6 years ago from Ohio

Thank you for this hub. I love drawing and painting pets, but work mostly from photos. Maybe I will keep a sketchbook nearby to try and capture my furry ones naping.


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

I'm glad you feel inspired to have a go at sketching. Ravenhecate.


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

These are great sketches. I need to work on shadows. Is this something artists naturally have an eye for because I don't pick up on them that well.


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

Thank you, Izettl.

Practise is the key. Learn to really look at what you're drawing. Make a deliberate, patient point of observing where light and shadows naturally fall.

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