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.
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.