Drawings and sketches

Animal Expression- Part 2: Ears

Starting at the top, so to speak, this week we’ll look at ears.

It’s important to not only look at the ear itself, but where it inserts onto the skull. These drawing were done in less than three hours with a Wolff’s Carbon pencil on vellum bristol paper. All the animals are native to Africa.

Bat-eared Fox, Kenya 2004

Bat-eared Fox, Masai Mara, Kenya 2004

Sometimes the ears occupy most of the top of the skull. They are the defining feature of this fox species, which is nocturnal. This one and its mate, however, were out and about near their den at mid-morning.

White Rhino, Lewa Downs Conservancy, Kenya 2004

White Rhino, Lewa Downs Conservancy, Kenya 2004

Ears can also be set high and perched almost at the corners of the skull. Notice how the fringe of hair makes them much more interesting and expressive than they would be without it. Also: Note that I didn’t “finish” the drawing, but concentrated on the parts of interest. Something to remember that might solve a problem sometime.

Cheetah, Masai Mara, Kenya 2004

Cheetah, Masai Mara, Kenya 2004

Notice that the cheetah’s ears are set low on the its head. They are down when the animal is relaxed and only come up when something has caught its attention. Ear set and skull shape are critical for getting  a cheetah head to look right.

Lioness, Denver Zoo 2008

Lioness, Denver Zoo 2008

I just happened to find this image of a lioness which has almost the same angle to the head as the cheetah. You can see that while her ears are in a similar position on her skull, they are much bigger in proportion to her head size. They are carried more erect and have a black stripe on the back that is apparently used as a signaling system when hunting with other lions.

The first three drawings were animals that I photographed in the wild. The lioness and the next two are zoo residents. While remembering that wild animals show wear and tear that captives do not, it is still very useful to do these kinds of studies to learn how to draw details like ears.

Hyena cub, Denver Zoo 2008

Hyena cub, Denver Zoo 2008

The outward curve of the ear inserts smoothly at its base into the skull. Hyena cubs are dark chocolate brown. For comparison, here is an adult (the mother).

Hyena female, Denver Zoo 2008

Hyena female, Denver Zoo 2008

As the head grows, the ears appear to move back on the skull. Unlike the cheetah, the hyena’s ears are carried upright. Hyenas always seem to look ready for anything.

Look at your own pets, whether it’s a cat, dog or hamster and see what you can observe about the ears. Then try drawing them!

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