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Animals are a great subject to draw as they span a tremendous amount of variety in forms textures and colors. For many pets are a readily available if not entirely cooperative model and we all have access to film and photography. We’re going to look at some general tips to get started drawing a live subject and then have a little look at some broad ideas behind drawing animals.


For anyone who has to draw their pets you will often find that they very rarely sit and pose for you. The following might seem like more a list of the capture them on paper rather than actually drawing!

  • Sleeping pets are an easy target so if you are getting started try waiting until your pet is asleep.
  • They often want to get involved! This is a particular issue with cats who tend to try climbing on my sketchbook or grabbing at the pencil. Find things to them such as toys food or a second person to occupy their attention.
  • Keep it relaxed and draw around them more if you don’t already. Once they are used to seeing you draw they tend to take less interest.
  • Be prepared to work on multiple pictures at once especially if you have a very active pet. Animals tend to repeat poses so you can start several different drawings and cycle through them as your pet returns to the same poses.

It can be difficult to do a study of a live animal as they eventually move away or do something different. This means we may need to take photos. I do recommend drawing from life as much as possible as it will make you more familiar with the three dimensional forms and will help you capture a better sense of liveliness from photographic reference.

  • Relax and take it slow. Pets tend to follow you less when you move slowly. They also can be impossible to direct – it is easier to let them to down on their own.
  • Be prepared to take a lot of pictures! Often I find animals will move and blur photos or just turn the wrong way. Very few photos taken are useful.
  • Just like drawing many animals get about second person can often help you with this.
  • Think about eye-level. Usually you want to be around their eye-level, instead of looking down on them. This is essential to getting good portrait photos of pets to work from.  Try holding your camera lower or for smaller animals (and cats), placing them on a higher surface.
  • Find a place with good light; natural light is often best. Black furred animals are especially hard to photograph as cameras especially on phones compress the tones. Try to light them well– you can get some good fur colors just before sunset.


Although animals seem different to us most mammals birds reptiles and amphibians have the same body plan as us morphed into different shapes. These general tips will get you started without having to learn the proportions for every creature!

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