Draw Animals: The essential guide

Discover how to get started learning how to draw animals with this step-by-step guide.

Learning how to draw animals is one of the best ways to fill your sketchbook.

Especially is you're good about daily drawing.

Drawing frequently will help you understand the keys to drawing movement, action, and characteristics of animals with quick sketches. Which is an easy way to discover your own creativity in drawing.

Taking a trip to your local zoo is one of the best ways to draw animals. Draw from life whenever you can.

Of all the approaches to animal sketching, gesture drawing is the most effective. Unlike human figure drawing models, animals don’t often stay in the same pose. Which is why it's essential to draw animals using a quick, loose, sketching approach.

Drawing what you see, quickly. This quick gestural approach takes practice to get the hang of, but will pay off the more frequently you do it. If you're just starting and figuring out how to learn drawing, quick contour drawing gestures are a great drawing exercise.

Here is a collection of quick tips you can use to draw animals.

1. Avoid details when you draw animals

A lot of lessons on sketching for beginners get caught up in drawing too many details.

Drawing isn't about capturing what you're looking at photo-realistically. Instead, draw loose contour drawings. When you're sketching animals, it helps to focus on drawing the larger shapes of the animal. Not just the shapes of the animal's body, but also the shapes created by light and shadow.

Also, looking at the animals more than you're looking at your paper. Trusting that your hand will make lines that capture the gesture and likeness of the animal.

Remember, you're not trying to draw every single strand of hair, each bit of fur, or scales. Instead, you're drawing the overall action and movement of the animal. Using only loose lines. There's no such thing as a mistake when you're sketching animals.

Another tip is to not just draw the outer outline of the animal. To also include thought lines as you're finding the overall action and shape of the animal. Building the form with lines in and outside of the animal shape.

2. Draw animals from different angles

As with any type of animal sketching from life, its easy to stay in one spot and draw. Depending on the animals, they may be sleepy and stay in one spot for most of the day. Try to avoid sketching animals from just one angle. Instead, move around and change your perspective of the animals you're drawing. Sketching is an exploration to help you better understand the movement and anatomy of different animals.

Constantly challenge yourself when you're making art. Force yourself to move around to draw different angles of animals. Angles and perspectives you haven't drawn before.

3. Sketching to grow your mental library

Animal sketching frequently will help build your visual library. You'll end up knowing how to draw virtually every animal the longer you sketch animals every day in your sketchbook. Quick and loose gesture drawing is the most effective approach for sketching animals in your sketchbook.

Through these quick animal sketches, you'll grow your visual library of animals. Understanding the main shapes and structure of animals. As you draw animals, focus on observing how they move so you understand the animal anatomy.

4. Sketching animal movement, weight, and volume

Simplified contour lines and are a great way of capturing the key elements of an animal sketch. These elements are movement, volume, and weight. As you sketch animals, your goal is to convey energy. You accomplish this by observing and drawing the large forms and shapes of the animal.

Pay attention to how these elements of the animal interact in a relationship with one another.

5. Draw animal characteristics

As you're sketching animals, observe the characteristics of each animal. Look at how they interact with other animals, observe how it sits, walk, run, sleep, and eats.

Each animal is different.

Even if they're part of the same species. Aim to translate unique characteristics when you draw animals.

6. Draw animals from a variety of angles and perspectives

You don't have to draw animals while facing them straight on. Vary all the angles and perspectives you can. Try to fill a page with quick sketches using all the different angles and perspectives possible.

An elephant looks a lot different walking away from you than he does coming at you or in profile. Being able to capture animals “in the round” will really improve your drawings and will help you convey a three-dimensional quality on a two-dimensional surface.

7. Draw more detailed animal sketches

After you’ve established a page of gesture sketches, move to a more studied drawing of say 20 to 30 minutes. You might want to start this drawing with a gesture and then work it up into something a little more finished, maybe using some value drawing techniques.

If your gestures were successful, you should find it easy to establish large forms quickly. You can then focus on drawing textures to sketch a more detailed drawing.

Also, include the entire scene when you draw animals. For example, when you practice things like urban sketching, don't forget to include the animals in your sketch.

Pick interesting vantage points from which to draw the animals. Take your time, move around and observe before plopping yourself down to draw. Don’t wait for the animal to come to you – “find” the pose for yourself.

8. Animal sketching with color

Draw animals with color drawing pencils, color markers, watercolors, and inks. This will help you keep your drawing loose. Even switching to a colored pencil instead of a normal pencil can help you feel different and approach your sketches with a new perspective.

Generally, use a quick-drying color medium. This way you can keep drawing more and more animals. Keep your oil and acrylic paints at home.

9. A sketch can be a complete work in its own right.

Remember to have fun. You can quickly become frustrated if you over analyze your sketches. But this is what makes sketching so fun. There isn't such thing as mistakes. Which is also why I recommend sketching in pen when you draw animals. When you draw animals, fully embrace a messy and loose quality in your sketches. Avoid perfection and photorealism.

The goal is to have fun and capture a moment.

You'll know when you draw animals correctly if you feel like you're drawing too many lines and your drawings are messy. Trust that your hands will capture what your eyes see. Animal sketching is equally, if not more about seeing and observation than it is making lines on paper.

Sketch fast and have fun.

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