When the student has his paper ready and the subject selected, the method of working will be about the same as for drawing from the human figure. Of course the different kinds of animals differ more in appearance than do people, and this means that even greater attention must be given to the interpretation of the individual characteristics of each subject, which in turn means that before starting to draw, one should analyze his subject thoroughly, searching especially for such characteristics as are not common to other animals. Then when the first strokes are made on the paper they must be direct, for there is little time for fumbling or erasing. Of course if the animal is at rest the work may be carried on more leisurely, but it is well to get the habit of drawing quickly and positively. Animals move so constantly that the artist can seldom draw more than a few lines before some change in position is noted. In this case it is often better to begin anew, and if another move is soon made of enough importance to prove disturbing start still another sketch, until there are possibly a half dozen or more small ones begun on the same sheet. Then these can be carried along simultaneously, for the animal will probably either resume a previous pose sooner or later, or the artist can change his own position until his subject appears relatively the same as before.
Head of Airedale. Sketch by Charles Livingston Bull.
Usually the first sketches are done in outline only, though this outline should be made as expressive as possible, - an entirely different line is needed for the shaggy coat of a Saint Bernard dog than would be used for some short haired type like the hound. If the animal remains fairly still it will not be difficult to add some shading to the outline, and if time permits, it may be possible to put in enough surrounding detail so that the sketch tells some story, for the animal can be shown as if doing a special thing, - a kitten can be sketched, for instance, as if playing with a spool of thread, or a dog gnawing a bone may be shown, or a calf drinking from a pail.
It should not be supposed that domestic animals are the only ones suitable for this free-hand work, for if one has the opportunity to sketch wild things in the woods--though one seldom does - or caged animals as in a zoo, he should make the most of it, and will sometimes find them even more interesting than the domestic species, not so much that they are different in themselves but more because they are less familiar to us. Needless to say, such animals as these would be drawn by the same method which we have already described for those of a domestic nature.
Now the student cannot make these sketches too frequently for the practice will always be beneficial, but if one wishes to become really proficient in animal sketching, he should not stop with work of this kind. He should learn something of the anatomy of animals and this is by no means simple; he should learn to interpret and express their emotions, for animals, especially the more sensitive types such as dogs, will show fear or surprise or pleasure just as plainly or even more plainly than a human being. He should study their habits. He should learn what animals have the most strength or alertness or agility and in what manner they display these characteristics; and he should bear in mind, too, that just as animals have individuality considered singly, so do groups of animals have certain characteristics common to a given species. If we study such groups we will notice these differences in many ways; let a number of horses and cows and sheep out to pasture and they will collect in formations of different sorts and these formations will change under varying conditions. Some groups of animals if driven to fight will make a circle with their heads towards the outside; others will separate and each go his own way. It seems hardly necessary to more than touch on such differences here and it would take much space to do so, but let the student make observations for himself.
Now when it comes to sketching groups of animals it will be found that one can scarcely work without some recourse to his memory and imagination, for even though a few in a group may retain their position for some time it is more than likely that others will be moving. This means that it often proves necessary to sketch them one or two at a time, putting them into natural arrangements on the paper later.
The most difficult thing of all, perhaps, is to successfully picture animals in rapid motion. One must learn by observation and study the impression given by such movements and then attempt to put this impression on paper.
The excellent sketches of animals by Mr. Charles Livingston Bull, accompanying this text, are taken directly from his own sketch books and are worthy of the most careful study.
Head of Red St. Bernard, Sketch by Charles Livingston Bull.
Head Of A Lion. Sketch By Charles Livingston Bull.