Drawings and sketches

Animal Sketching At The Denver Zoo!

Hippo and penguins. I did the hippo in about 15 seconds since he went underwater at that point.

Hippo and penguins. I did the hippo in about 10-15 seconds since he went underwater at that point, so no time to add any tone or detail. The penguins were more cooperative.

I got to spend a day sketching at the Denver Zoo a week ago. There really is no substitute for drawing from live animals if one is an animal artist. Photos alone just don’t cut it and, even more, photos that you haven’t taken yourself. The kind of sketching I’m showing here is about process and observation, not a polished or finished result. I hadn’t done this for awhile so it felt awkward at first, but got easier as the day went on. I used a 7×5″ Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbook and a .02 black Sakura Micron pen, both of which I keep in my purse, a roomy Tom Bihn bag which can also hold my iPad. So that’s it….paper and a pen. Anyone can do this and you’ll see animals, whether it’s a pet cat or a tiger, in a new way. Start with animals who are resting or otherwise not moving. What is challenging is exercising one’s visual memory by doing ones that are moving. You will see with zoo animals in particular that their movement often has a pattern. Observe that, pick a gesture or angle and start and stop as needed as the animal comes past again.

Steller's sea eagle and cinereous/eurasian black vultures. The eagle held still. The vultures were busy hopping around.

Steller’s sea eagle and cinereous/eurasian black vultures. The eagle held still. The vultures were busy hopping around.

Kangaroo and Kirk's dik-dik. The kangaroos were towards the back of their enclosure. The dik-diks were pretty close.

Kangaroo and Kirk’s dik-dik. The kangaroos were towards the back of their enclosure. The dik-diks were pretty close.

De Brazza's monkey, mandril and Red River Hogs

De Brazza’s monkey, mandrill and Red River Hogs. The De Brazza’s monkeys never stopped moving. It took awhile to even get a reasonably accurate head sketch. The mandrill just sat and looked at me. Red River hogs are one of my favorites, but I hadn’t had a chance to draw them much before. So the first one shows me searching for the shapes and proportions. Nothing wrong with doing that.

Red River hogs. What's not to like about drawing them?

Red River hogs. What’s not to like about drawing these guys?

Gorilla and giraffe. The big male was working on a treat stuffed into a wood cylinder. Even though his back was to me, I found the shapes interesting to draw. The giraffe was quite a way away so I couldn't really see the head all that well.

Red River hog, gorilla and giraffe. One of the hogs held still long enough to do a decent head sketch. The big male gorilla was working on a treat stuffed into what looked like a short length of wood. Even though his back was to me, I found the shapes interesting to draw. The giraffe was quite a way away so I couldn’t see the head all that well, but I really like drawing them, so what the heck.

The zoo has a small group of takhi/Przewalski's horses and of course I had to sketch them. I also shot some video.

The zoo has a small group of takhi/Przewalski’s horses and of course I had to sketch them. They also kept moving around, but this one stayed grazing for just long enough.

Takhi/Przewalski's horse and a bactrian camel laying on its side.

Takhi/Przewalski’s horse and a bactrian camel laying on its side. I did the camel to study the legs. Note how I used small circles to indicate the location of the joints.

Okapi back of head, takhi/Przewalski's horse, okapi

Okapi back of head, takhi/Przewalski’s horse, okapi. With those ears, why not draw the back of the head? I think that’s my most successful sketch of the day. The okapi was mostly moving, so I had to pick a position and use my visual memory along with noting the stripe patterns on the legs. This was a species I had never drawn before and it was s little challenging to keep the odd proportions correct. It’s reasonably close.

Colobus monkeys, maned wolf

Colobus monkeys, maned wolf. The monkeys were up in their trees, moving around and swinging on the ropes. All I could do is try to capture the basic appearance and the gestures. The black one is from memory. The wolf whose back of the head I did was lying down. The other one was pacing so, as mentioned above, I waited until he/she came past me again to continue the sketch.

It was snowing the next morning, so I went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Art. They have a large, very good collection of taxidermy mounted animals set in nice dioramas. One generally does not rely on mounts since accuracy varies greatly, but for field sketching on a bad weather day, they’re perfect! And they don’t move! As with the zoo animals, I was after a quick impression sketch, not a detailed study, because I had limited time. But one could certainly bring colored pencils, larger paper and do more finished work. One might choose to focus in on, and really work to understand, how the feathers are lifting where the bird is grooming them.

Crane

Whooping crane

Warthog and anteater.

Warthog and great anteater. For both of these I was concentrating on the movement and expression. Also the markings on the anteater. Ran out of room for all of the tail, but didn’t worry about it.

 

 

3 replies »

  1. love sketching at the zoo..i take my art students there every year to draw all day long and then later develop a painting from their work 🙂

    Like

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