AMONG artists there are many specialists; men who give attention to the representation of some one type of subject only. We have our portrait painters, for instance, and our landscape painters. There are those who do nothing but marine views or who select city streets or gardens and flowers or some other kind of thing which appeals to them individually.
Included in these special groups of men are those whose interest lies wholly or mainly in the picturing of animals, - who devote years to the acquisition of knowledge on this particular class of subject; who go on expeditions far afield seeking first hand information; who travel the world over, perhaps, sketching and drawing and painting all the time, wherever animals are found.
But we do not purpose to consider our subject here from the standpoint of these specialists; instead we simply wish to point out to the reader some of the benefits which the average student of art may gain from animal sketching in pencil, and to offer a few suggestions regarding such work.
Animal sketching combines some of the advantages of drawing from the human figure with those of outdoor sketching, for as the subjects to be pictured are often in motion, one gains an ability to grasp the most significant of their characteristics instantly and a facility to rapidly represent them on paper, and as animals are found out of doors, as a rule, one must go into the open to draw them, which should add to his enjoyment and afford a beneficial change from the class room or studio. Aside from these considerations, however, which do not always exist, as the beginner frequently works indoors from photographs or stuffed specimens which can be drawn at leisure, there is another point worth mentioning, for it should not be forgotten that the more things one learns to draw and the greater his mental collection of facts of form and of light and shade and of color becomes, the easier it will be for him to advance, especially if he wishes to become an illustrator or turns to the usual types of commercial art for a livelihood. And the more one knows about animals, the more he will wish to know, as a rule, for his life will be the richer because of his knowledge.
Pencil Sketch by Charles Livingston Bull.
It is seldom that living animals can be used to advantage for indoor classes, so the beginner in animal sketching is more often provided with photographs or with stuffed specimens from which to draw. Through these things he gains a fundamental knowledge of his subject before he ventures to attempt the more difficult task of working from living things. In many of our cities it is possible to obtain sketching permits which allow one to work in the museums, and the student who has this opportunity should avail himself of it. not only because it will fit him for his later work, but because he can find in such collections mounted specimens of a rare or unusual nature, such as animals from the tropics or the polar regions.
It would hardly be wise for the student who has not advanced some distance in his art studies to spend much time drawing from living animals, yet there will he no harm if he occasionally does so, and once he has gained a certain amount of skill in working from still life and casts and the like, he can profitably give considerable time to it. Then as soon as he is grounded in the fundamentals of animal sketching through the work from photographs or stuffed specimens as described above he should take every opportunity for such practice and make the most of it. We say "take every opportunity" because one soon learns that he must get this practice when he can; - we do not always have animals about us and even if we do they sometimes fail to show a willingness to pose. In fact, it is often necessary to follow animals from place to place in order to sketch them at all. This is of course difficult, so the beginner, drawing from living animals for the first time, should try to catch them asleep or busy eating or at rest; even then they will offer difficulties enough.
Head of Russian Wolf Hound, Sketch by Charles Livingston Bull.
Head of Puma, Sketch by Charles Livingston Bull.
Domestic animals usually afford us the most satisfactory subjects for our first sketches, partly because they are more often available, partly because we are already more or less familiar with them, and partly for the reason that they have little fear of man and so assume natural positions. Cats and dogs are good and they offer a wide variety of subjects, and horses and cows and other quadrupeds common to our farms are excellent, too. The beginner will also find that as a rule cows or oxen or sheep or other slow moving creatures are easier to sketch than such restless or quick moving types as horses or dogs or kittens, but this is not always so, for when they are at rest one is about as easy to do as another.