I will be presenting another rendition of my Drawing Animals workshop at the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators conference in Brisbane, Australia this summer. My hour-long talk will focus on capturing the life and vitality of animals in quick sketches.


To sketch is to take a snapshot of moments in time: what is that animal doing? How is it moving? Sketching helps us to understand what we are seeing, as it's often difficult to determine shapes and movement just by looking. Use your sketchbook as a workbook.


Minute details aren't critical in a sketch; getting the overall shape and form is. You aren't just putting outlines on paper, you are recording a living, breathing being: learn to think about the animal as a 3-dimensional creature with weight, mass, volume, bones, sinews, muscles, and skin...and strength. If you've held a cat or a dog or petted a farm animal, you can remember how that animal felt to you, its weight, its muscles, its strength. This is what you are drawing.


Understanding the basic structure of a vertebrate animalis so important! The structure is internal, and not always apparent from the outside. You don't need a degree in comparative anatomy to sketch, but a very basic knowledge of the skeletal structure, how the bones connect and how they move is essential to making sense of both overall shape and movement—and sometimes those odd poses that animals get into.


Above all else, have fun with your sketching! Sketch with abandon! Don't worry about making finished art to frame or show off, just sketch!