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Animal Sketching for Beginners

Animal Sketching for Beginners

by Len A. Doust

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This handy manual provides the confidence, insight, and guidance to help any sketcher create realistic animal drawings. With the help of the author's thirty-one clearly detailed drawings, this basic how-to-guide:
• illustrates major attributes shared by many animals
• shows how simple shapes can create complex drawings
• functions as a valuable anatomy reference
A source of inspiration for artists at all levels, this book will be especially helpful to beginning art students.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486146287
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 08/15/2012
Series: Dover Art Instruction
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 64
File size: 4 MB

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By Len A. Doust

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14628-7



PLATE 1.—At Fig. A, I have drawn in their simplest form these shapes. At A,1 you see the body with its two sections, at A,2 the neck, at A,3 the head, at A,4 the fore legs, at A,5 the hind legs, and at A,6 I have added hoofs.

These basic animal shapes are based on the horse in their proportions, one to another. Many people may make a passable drawing of a furry cat or dog where the actual form is hidden and the suggestion of fur needs no great accuracy, but when drawing a horse or any such smooth-coated animal one must have accurate knowledge of its form, or the result is disaster.

Now let us assemble the shapes of Fig. A. The result, as shown at Fig. B, has a close resemblance to the toy horse of the nursery, and you may think the lesson is as childish as the result. I cannot insist, but do implore you to go no farther into this book until you can draw Figs. A and B without reference to this plate. Remember that these toy shapes are not here to teach the drawing of the horse only, but of every four-footed beast. As a slight proof of their utility, I add at Fig. C a very rapid sketch of a horse based on Fig. B.

PLATE 2.—My next plate teaches another primary lesson. You will notice the sketch of a man walking at Fig. A and the writing attached. Check these words with the three sketches of a horse, and you will discover that they agree. Associated with this movement of the legs is the important fact of the leg position. Always remember that the four legs are not all behind one another. This is ably demonstrated by the lines drawn under each horse. Although the simple demonstration of the leg movements of a horse when walking is that of these sketches and the words around the man figure, yet a more careful observation proves that the times of the actual placing of the feet to the ground are not in pairs, but individually and one after the other; in other words, the order of the taps of a horse's hoofs are as follows: front right, back left, front left, back right. Bearing this in mind and remembering that each foot is lifted quite considerably between each step, you may easily obtain the approximate relative positions.

One other observation may be made from this plate: the simple one that a horse's feet move along two lines as shown dotted. When we come to a half or full front view of a standing horse, this fact becomes obvious even as it is in Plate 1, Figs. B and C. Never forget the three dimensional outlook, that is to say, never neglect the fact of thickness as well as length and height.

PLATE 3.—We will leave the subject of motion for the time being and return to that of form. Fig. A shows the simplified outline of a horse. The shape appears most complicated even in this simple style. I have no need to remind you, so soon, of Plate 1; but I suggest that you lightly divide this Fig. A into the sections of Plate I, Fig. A. Heed the curved lines above the back and beside the hind quarters. Practise these shapes in various sizes up to ten inches. Note the short cross line which cuts the back line in the centre. Fig. B shows the back line and the chest and stomach line. To these are added, in Fig. C, the line of the hind quarters and the fore leg. You observe the faint resemblance to an animal. The head shape and inside of hind leg are easily added.

You will gain, not only a knowledge of proportion, but also an adroit use of your pencil, if you practise this page thoroughly. You may not at this early stage understand what each line represents in actual life, but with these lines firmly fixed in your mind you would, I am sure, make a study of a horse very much more easily and accurately than you would have done just the few minutes before, when you had not studied this apparently unimportant plate. These early plates of simple construction are the vital ones. Copy them, memorise them, draw them reversed, even trace them if you wish. I care not what you do with them so long as they are fixed in your mind. Do not imagine that every line is accurate. I draw these without careful preparation. No matter if the shape is not the shape of a horse, the important thing is the type of lines used and their approximate relations to one another.

One other point to heed on Plate 3—the proportion lines to the left of Fig. A. As a rule, you may estimate that, in a horse, the depth from withers to base of chest is equal to the length of fore leg excluding that part which overlaps the body. This clue of measurement is for a horse and is not applicable to most other animals, hence I will not over-emphasise it. You will notice, in the next few plates, which are facsimiles of direct quick memory sketches, that I have frequently used this measurement as a guide.

PLATE 4.—The sketch of Fig. A is very much more important than it first appears. What is here that was not in our previous sketches ? Nine short lines. Yet what a difference they make. They give form. I cannot, in this short book, give a full description of the horse's anatomy, but will briefly refer to the reason for each of these lines and its position.

The eye of a horse is set high in the head and well to the front; more will be said on this feature when discussing the head. The line at the top of the neck suggests the slight hollow between the top fleshy muscle bearing the mane and the chief neck muscles. The line at the base of the neck also shows a division of muscle. The sloping line of the shoulder suggests the edge of the shoulder-blade. The two short angular strokes at the top of the fore leg are muscle hollows and are always quite definite in the horse and most dogs. The line on the fore leg is also a muscle line; but that by the hock (or, to the unlearned, the back knee—horsemen, do not laugh !) is a hollow between the bones of the leg and is the most pronounced hollow in a horse's frame. The short curved line by the buttocks is a bone edge, well covered with muscle and flesh, not sharp but definite—in a cow this great bone stands out very boldly.

Fig. B shows these lines from a half-turned view and Fig. C from a nearly full front view. It will assist you to remember these lines if you copy this plate, making your drawings double the size. At Fig. B, I suggest that you fit the main part of the side view of a horse into a square. At Fig. C, I demonstrate the importance of getting a suggestion of thickness, by having in your mind the simple drum-like shape shown here, which is very similar to a gymnasium vaulting-horse.

PLATE 5.—The back or hind view of a horse presents a few fresh difficulties. On Plate 5 I show the vitally necessary guide lines. Fig. A of this plate is the reversed view of Plate 4, Fig. A. A common failing among inexperienced would-be artists is that of a difficulty in drawing equally well the same object turned either way. One is apt to practise only one view; and, with steady improvement in that view, one is tempted to ignore the reverse.

Get accustomed at once to drawing a horse from both sides; not only will you need sooner or later both views, but each will expose the other's weaknesses. I have mentioned in other books the useful dodge of looking at one's drawing in a mirror. In this way you see errors to which your eyes seem blind while drawing. Learn to draw from both views, and you will obtain a clearer and more accurate knowledge of your subject.

Fig. B 1 is a direct sketch of preparation lines for the drawing of Fig. B. Notice the neck sinking behind the shoulders and the body behind the hind quarters. This is yet more conspicuous in Figs. C and C I, where the view is so full that the hind quarters nearly hide the rest of the body. The actual full front or full back view of a horse is a strange shape. You will seldom use it, if ever; but it has useful lessons.

PLATE 6.—On Plate 6, Figs. A and B, you see a side view and a full front view simply drawn. Notice that the shoulders are narrower than the body. Of course, the legs may be in varied positions. Copy these drawings not as specimens of horses but as useful guide lines. It would be waste of time for me to show you careful and finished drawings of horses. When you draw a horse it should be from a horse. All I aim to do is to shorten the period of struggling failure by giving you clues. Faced with a horse to draw for the first time, you would have a difficulty in seizing upon the essential shapes. These drawings are of lines and forms to be fitted into your mind, not into your drawings, and are to be adjusted to use when you are actually drawing a horse.

Figs. C and D show the sag of a horse's hind quarters when the weight is only upon one leg. As in the human figure, the body swings over the leg taking its weight, and drops very definitely on the side of the free leg.

The full hind or rear view of Fig. E is very expressive of the roundness in the body of a horse. To realise the thickness of any animal's figure is of first importance. You will, from this plate, obtain a clear impression of the diverse forms in a horse's figure. If you learn to draw a horse you overcome ninety per cent. of the difficulties in all animals.

PLATE 7.—The legs of a horse are not so complicated as they at first seem. I suggest that you copy Figs. A and B. Here I have reduced the actual form to simple shapes. Heed carefully the proportions and angles. Especially be sure to get the slope of the ankle and hoof; these are enlarged at Fig. C, and at Fig. D is the simple form of a hoof. Notice that the hoof slopes forward at back and front. You will learn all I can tell you about these drawings if you copy them intelligently several times until you can reproduce them without reference to this plate.

The eye of a horse taken by itself is surprisingly like a human eye, but is more roundish and the iris nearly fills the aperture (see Fig. E). Fig. F is a human eye, side view angle. Observe the similarity in shape to the horse's eye, Fig. G, especially the hollow beneath the lower lid and the brow above. At Fig. H is the view when the horse's head is turned away from your view. Notice the protuberant brow. The full front view of Fig. I shows clearly the setting of the eye in the side of the head, and Fig. J gives a half-front view.

I inserted these natural drawings of a horse's eye that you may not be wearied with the block style of the ones before and also that you might more possibly remember these lessons by contrast.

PLATE 8.—I now take you back to the figure of a horse. On Plate 8 you see our block style of legs linked up with a body. The special feature of Fig. A is the curved hind quarters. Copy this drawing many times. Observe Fig. B where a tail is added. Fig. C of this plate is a sketch of a cow in a similar position to that of the horse at Fig. A. Notice the decided protruberance of the hindquarter bones. Also the change in the proportion of leg—shorter from knee to hoof.

PLATE 9.—Now I add, on Plate 9, some natural sketches of horses' parts. The hind quarter drawn at Fig. A is an excellent guide in some respects. First notice the curving contours caused by muscle covered with flesh. Notice the way these curve at their base—a kind of hanging or drooping effect. When drawing any animal keep the areas of shadow or shape simple and broad. Do not try to put in everything you see. Mass detail together as much as possible and try to obtain the general effect. Figs. B and C show variations worth striving for. Here are sketches of a riding horse and a dray or draught horse. The differences are slight but vital to good character drawing. There is a tense springiness in Fig. B and a muscular solidity about Fig. C. Observe the difference in the hoof—the one for trotting and the other for sustaining weight and pull.

The simple sketch of Fig. D shows one stage further in the drawing of the head and neck of a horse, perhaps one of the most graceful constructions in nature. Fig. E, another hind-quarter view, gives very clearly the back view of the hind leg, standing and lifted.

The variation of types of horses is one of the most fascinating features in the whole of animal drawing, depending, as it does, upon such small adjustments and alterations. Dogs are numberless in species; they vary tremendously, some dogs appearing as different from others as do sparrows from ostriches. But the variations in the horse are not those of species but of class. Climate does not affect a horse so much as its method of work. A horse is a labouring animal, and it is the kind of labour which forms the kind of horse. Herein it is more closely associated with man. Practically all other animals give an indication of their native climate and conditions. A Pekinese dog is very Chinese, an Alsatian is decidedly northern, a hippopotamus calls for swamps, an eagle for lofty crags, and a sparrow for gentle fields. But a horse speaks to one, not of nature, but of man and civilisation. Directly one sees a horse, its peculiar utility to mankind is the obvious observation.

PLATE 10.—On Plate 10 I have briefly sketched two horses. There is no need for me to tell you which would more likely win the Derby and which pulls home the haycart. I want you to notice the difference in the type of line used in each of these drawings. Fig. A shows a straight sharp line, whereas Fig. B was drawn in slower curving line. Observe the full rich curves in the outline of Fig. B, the thick neck, the muscular shoulders and legs, and compare the springy taut effect of Fig. A. You may learn anatomy, you may learn varieties of form, but you will not attain success unless you obtain the spirit of the animal in the character of your line, its weight, form, and style.

PLATE 11.—Now let us consider a horse's head. The first four sketches are self-explanatory. Will you please copy Fig. A twice the size shown here, then add the features in the order shown in Figs. B, C and D? Observe and memorise the height of the eye, for one is apt to place it too low and too far back in the head.

The other figures of this plate should be studied as they give useful indications of main shapes. Fig. F is a diagrammatic shape of a horse's head, front view. Fig. G shows the main lines of an under view.

The principal points to remember from this plate are: first, that the curved line of the cheek bone swings round to the ear. Second, that the bone of the nose is very similar to a human nose, excepting its size. Third, that the eyes are on the side of the head and yet look straight in front, this being due to the huge nose which dominates the whole. Fourth, that the mouth has heavy lips but practically no chin.

We have nearly completed our remarks and sketches on the horse, and yet have barely touched on the subtle form of this most magnificent of animals. I hope you are, in your mind, more familiar with the simple form, the principal shapes.

PLATE 12.—In order that you may thoroughly appreciate the peculiar features of a horse's head, I have added Plate 12. Here you see six heads. I will not insult my drawings by naming them, and leave all observation to you. Do not pass over this plate too quickly. It will help you if you copy this plate double the size. You will by this means appreciate the surprising differences and also the surprising resemblances between these heads.

PLATE 13.—Everyone who sketches landscape has times when he or she desires to include cows or a cow. If you have studiously followed the previous part of this book, you should be able to sketch Fig. A without much difficulty. Having copied this, you should see the differences in a cow's form from that of a horse. Turn to Plate 10 and compare the horse with this sketch of a cow. Look at the quarters. Especially obvious is the straight back of the cow. Notice the upward tilt of the cow's nose and compare the relative thickness of the bodies and the length of the legs. Observe the very definite hollow on the cow's back where the skin hangs between the hip bone and the ribs. All these features need variation in the case of a bull. I leave it to you to copy Fig. B and to compare with Fig. A.

Let me now set down the main comparisons of horse and cow.

A horse's back has a hollow (where the saddle is set). A cow's back is nearly straight; in fact, there is a slight rise in the centre of a cow's back.

A horse's body is about equal in depth to its distance from the ground. A cow's body is considerably deeper.

A horse's neck is arched and about as long as its head. A cow's neck is concave or hollowed at the top.

A horse's head is held above the body in its normal attitude. A cow's head is carried low. A horse's hip is rounded, sloping downwards to the tail. A cow's hip is practically straight; if anything, the tail is slightly higher.

A horse's fore legs are in front of the withers. A cow's fore legs are exactly underneath the withers.

A horse's hind leg is equally halved at the knee. A cow's hind leg is shorter from the knee to the hoof.

A horse's hoof is broader than its ankle. A cow's is equal.

A horse's nose is curved or arched. A cow's nose is concave or hollowed.

A horse's ears stand well above the head. A cow's ears stand out on each side of the head.

From the psychological standpoint I add the following. A horse gives the impression of energy. A cow of lethargy. A horse seems ready to carry or pull something else. A cow seems to have as much as it can manage in carrying its own weighty body. (I have seen many a cow active, but only when goaded by frenzy or excitement of some kind.) A horse looks intelligent and useful. A cow looks unintelligent but useful. A few of my readers may understand me when I venture to close these comparisons with the remark that a cow seems willing to die usefully but a horse seems eager to live usefully.

PLATE 14.—The above comparisons will be more plain to you on studying Plate 14. Here are varied positions of a cow, all demonstrating its peculiar construction.


Excerpted from ANIMAL SKETCHING FOR BEGINNERS by Len A. Doust. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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