Learn to Draw > Drawing animal heads

gorillaThe human head rests its weight on the spine; relatively little muscular strength is needed to hold it in this upright position. But if the muscles are not working, the head drops to one side, as can be seen if someone falls asleep in a chair. In animals the head and neck must always be held stretched out, and this would entail vigorous activity and eventual fatigue if left to muscles alone.

The head and neck are, therefore, held by a supple tendon running from the projections on the vertebrae of the chest to the back of the head. A plate of sinew runs from this tendon down to the neck vertebrae. If the animal bends its head down, it has to stetch the neck sinew by working the muscles; if it stops this muscular activity, the head springs back into its stretched out position. Old, work-worn horses sometimes hang their heads all the time because the sinew has lost some of its elasticity.



The shape of the skull is determined primarily by the relation between the brain case and the face, both in humans and animals. The brain case is relatively small in animals, and brow, nose, and upper jaw are in much less continuous a profile line than in humans. The lower jaw has to adapt itself to the changed shape, and altogether the skull presents a profile roughly comparable to a pair of tongs.

brown bear Animal skull shapes are wigely varied according to their habits, particularly their manner of feeding. The position of the eyes is important. Monkeys and carnivores look straight ahead like humans. It can almost be said that the more defenseless the animal, the further its eyes are set to the side to enlarge the field of vision. A man, if he is concentrating, can see movement and color within a cone of about 90 degrees. He can see clearly only within an angle of 30 degrees. A rabbit when it rears up can see for 360 degrees - a complete circle.

The aspect of an animal's head is much affected by the structure of its outer ear, and in some, too, by the formation of horns or antlers. The outer ear in humans and monkeys lies against the skull; most other animals have pointed, upright ears, although elephants, pigs, and some dogs have hanging ears. All outer ears are made of cartilage, but, unlike the human ear, they are very mobile. The ears of lynxes and squirrels have an added tuft of hair which makes them seem bigger.

camel and gnu head studies Animals are far too different from each other to make a practicable scheme of proportions. The example given of the musculature of the horse can help the student to work out that of other animals. Parallels between human and animal skeletons and musculature should make understanding easier, for basically they are very similar, and a knowledge of their different requirements and habits explains the differences.

To draw an animal it is best to make a constructional sketch first, fixing the position of the backbone, leg bones, neck sinew, and skull, marking in the recognizable points of proportion: os sacrum, wither, knee and elbow, heel and foot. Next come the contours of the thorax and the straight stomach muscle, the hind leg,
siamese cattail, and lower line of the neck. The sketch is finally developed with a more detailed outline of the head with the positions of the eyes and ears and the positions of nostrils and mouth, and, lastly, with a closer rendering of the structure and position of the feet (claws or hoofs).

Most animals are covered by a thick and relatively long fur, and unless the artist has an intimate and inborn knowledge of the animal's anatomy he will not get far using a purely impressionistic vision. The animal's coat should be described with texture-like strokes, unless paint is used, but even then the strokes should be made in the direction of the hair growth to give a realistic impression. The growth of the hairs is determined by the need for water to run off the animal as quickly as possible and to create the least wind resistance. In some places there are whirls and ridges or crests where the hair growth lies in different directions or meets.

The drawing and painting of animals has always been a subject of special interest, in the same way as portrait or flower painting. Even in modern art animals often occur and are frequently more attractive than other subjects treated. Perhaps the emphasis on the type in animal subjects has an appeal greater than the unnecessarily individual character of many other subjects. With modern zoological gardens, aquariums, and now underwater observation of animal life, the themes have increased in number. One group, however, seems to have been almost forgotten: birds.

Next:
How to draw birds

rhinocerus, tiger
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