Sketching Pet Cats and Dogs
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.
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.
Watercolour Sketch of a Cat
Sketching a Dog
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.
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.
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© 2009 Adele Cosgrove-Bray