Thursday, August 04, 2011

How to draw a cat: Ginger cat in coloured pencil - close ups and thoughts on the process, technique, what it was essential to consider

 Details of the cat in the last post


So how did I work?

My little Jakar battery eraser was essential for drawing back through the colour for those whiskers, adding highlights to the eyes and creating light fur over shaded areas or darker stripes.  It's such a brilliant drawing tool.   Coloured pencil on moleskine paper erases really cleanly and I think is my favourite surface for using them alone, rather than in a mixed media piece.   I also like warm cream paper.

I rarely erase as in correcting and didn't at all here - the first marks are faint, were in orange and were assimilated into the final result.    That gives plenty of time to move things a little before going in with more colour and more detail, knowing you are happy with where it's positioned.

It's so important to understand the layers of the fur and the direction - the skeleton and muscles beneath the fur, causing those shapes and changes of fur direction.  The brow and mouth must be parallel so that the cat isn't distorted or flat.

The shadowing showing the mouth is so subtle - overdo it and it looks like a cartoon but it has to be there just enough to show - a fine balancing act.


I let the fur of the body fade off into scribbles as I wanted attention focussed on the face and eyes.

And the ears inside were a delicate mauve and pink

- curving the marks and scribbles helps to shape the curve of the ear - it's like sculpting with your drawing.   That little slightly balder patch, just in front of the ear, where the skin shows through is also important.

Editing what is used from the photo is vital - I decided to leave out most of the background to focus on her face and fade out the fur at the top for the same reason.   The lower eye was simply black in the photograph - a camera can't deal with the degrees of light and shade that the human eye can,  I had to work out a way of making it look shaded, work out where the pupil would be and keep it convincing.

In addition to all the technical stuff, it's vital to catch the character of the animal - each is so different.   This one was a sweetie with a dreamy gaze and the noisiest chatterbox I've ever known in the cat world - she couldn't come into the house without a long tale of miaows and greetings.

In close up you can see the scribbly way I draw - it isn't actually a 'tight' photorealist drawing as that isn't the way I work.   The image is made up of lots of scribbles, layers of colour, erased lines etc

So ..... that's how I went about it.   You can see other work I've done on cats here.   It's not something I do a lot but I really enjoyed this one and my daughter cried when she saw the online image and loved it - so all is well there!   not that I want to make my daughter cry ............

And for some stunning drawings of animals take a look at Gayle Mason's work at Fur in the Paint.

14 comments:

dinahmow said...

Oh, lovely! I did sketch Rusty (the ginger one), but not in colour. And you know how I struggle with the rarely still black rascals!
Thanks for the process comments and your take on moleskin. I like the paper for biro-type sketching, but, as I also like to slosh watercolour...not so good!

vivien said...

oh black cats are SO difficult! I intend to do some more cats so will have to have a go at our sooty monster - he's just a blur of black with 2 naughty shiny eyes most of the time!

Yes I like the moleskine for biro as well - but not so much for fountain pens.

Sloshign water colour is good :>)

annie said...

Vivien, I do love to read about your process of thinking and working and to see some of the details. It amazes me to hear about these battery erasers. Katherine Tyrrell talks about using one in her work, too. They must be slim to get those whiskers. And I am surprised that these papers will take them-- that Moleskin sketching notebook must have a forgiving surface. I am also relieved that I am not the only person who finds black cats a challenge to sketch.

Sandie said...

I love the way you draw because it has so much life, so I was very interested to read about your processes - especially the challenges of using a photo. I also like the sound of the battery eraser - reckon I may invest in one of those.

Margo said...

Thanks for the tute on doing cats Viv. I so wish I could take a lesson or two from you in person, but as I'm in Texas and you are an ocean away, I shall just have to enjoy what you so generously provide online.

vivien said...

Thanks everyone :>)

Annie and Sandie those battery erasers are really gentle on the paper - they really are brilliant. I use the side edge for fine detail like the whiskers and it's just perfect.

Yes, Katherine uses them a lot. We've met up a few times and it's fascinating to watch the different ways people use the same materials

I so wish I could have been in Provence with them all but I just couldn't :>(

The battery eraser is really cheap - it does eat up refills so buy plenty!

Thanks Margo :>)

annie said...

Wish you could have been in Provence, too, Vivien. How I have enjoyed those sketches and paintings.

I can see that I will have to buy one of those erasers...

As Margo says, thanks for all that I learn from you, also out here in Texas.
:)
annie

vivien said...

you are welcome :>)

I learn so much from others too

laura said...

Thank you for the primer--you are a genius at cats! I love cats--and ginger tabbies have a special place in my heart thanks to my darling Cleo who was with me through everything for 18 years and a fine cat in her own right!

vivien said...

thanks Laura :>) Cleo sounds lovely - I like the name.

I'd never known a ginger female before this one - I'd thought they were all male - since then I've heard of quite a few.

annie said...

I too love Gingers--especially Jackie Morris's cats in WE THREE, GINGER CAT TALES, a fun and sometimes poignant blog.

vivien said...

what lovely illustrations - thanks for mentioning her

Gayle Mason said...

Lovely soft fur Vivien and I enjoy reading how other artists work.
I hope you do more cats soon.

vivien said...

Thanks Gayle - and I always love watching your work develop as you know :>)

I am planning to do some more cats as I enjoyed this - and life at the moment isn't making it easy to paint, whereas I can fit in cp pieces.