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Sketching Pet Cats and Dogs

Updated on September 23, 2019
AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet, and artist who lives on the Wirral peninsula in England.

The trick to sketching pets is speed. If you wait for them to stay still then you may be waiting for a very long time! If animals move before your sketch is finished, you can be assured that they will never, ever adopt exactly the same pose again. so loosen up and try to sketch an impression rather than fuss over exact details.

Observation and quick drawing responses are vital, 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 it's being missing out on increases with every moment.

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 and patting at the pen.

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.

Sketching Cats

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 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 Jazzy.
Ink sketch of Jazzy.

Watercolour Sketch of a Cat

Ink sketch of Ygraine.
Ink sketch of Ygraine.

Sketching a Dog

Subjective Opinions

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.

Experiment and Have Fun Sketching!

Try a variety of different approaches to sketching. Use different materials to draw on and with. Set aside any pressure to produce "good" work instantly. Like all skills, sketching takes patient practice to master. Remember that you are not obliged to show your sketches to anyone until you feel ready.

If you have no pets of your own, perhaps you could visit your local park and sketch other peoples' dogs there. If you're happy to visit a zoo, you could have a go at sketching the huge variety of captive animals living there.

Photographs have their place as visual prompts, but these can easily result in flat and lifeless looking sketches. Drawing the real thing, drawing from life, is a highly valuable skill which all successful artists need to develop. Don't be deterred if early efforts aren't so great; just keep practicing and learn to observe.

Take some time to study how other artists have tackled similar subjects, and discover what you like and dislike about their approach. Is a finished sketch too sweet or cartoon-like? Does it convey a sense of the animal's character? Does ti capture an impression of the animal's movements, or of the texture of its fur?

Most important of all, have fun sketching.

© 2009 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

Comments

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    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      8 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      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.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      9 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

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

    • ravenhecate profile image

      ravenhecate 

      9 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 imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      9 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      Thank you, Kimmie.

    • Kimmie10 profile image

      Kimmie10 

      9 years ago

      You are a good sketch artist.

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      9 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      Thanks for all your kind comments.

    • profile image

      rajibroy 

      10 years ago

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

    • tanakasan profile image

      tanakasan 

      10 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.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      10 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.

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