How to Draw a Pet Portrait
Your pet should not be the first thing you draw. If you make this your first attempt you may be disappointed with the result. Start by learning how to draw basic structures, such as cubes, and apples. Concentrate on making the things look like they have depth by adding shading. Then move up in complexity; try bananas, and pineapples. Once you can do convincing drawings of other forms then you are ready to tackle a pet.
There are two main differences between drawing pets and drawing fruit. First of all pets move, secondly they often have fur.
To beat the problem of drawing something that moves the best thing to do is to take a picture. For beginning artists it is usually easier to replicate something that is in a photo because you can judge proportions better. Get a clear picture, ideally one with good lighting. In a portrait drawing there is no background, but if you are going to add a background make sure the shadow on the background matches the direction of the shadow as it falls on the pet in the picture. The background you draw does not have to be the same as in the photo.
Most pet portraits are head only, and the pets eyes are the thing that will really make the picture come alive. I usually leave the eyes for last, you will note your pets eyes are not big black circles. If you are not comfortable drawing eyes, practice them before you draw them in. The drawing of the Cocker Spaniel at the top of this link is an excellent example of what a lighter colored dogs eye might look like. You will be advised to note that even if the picture does not show a white reflective spot on the eye, you should add one, in the direction the light would be coming from.
Note the proportions of your pet, how much room is there between the eyes, between the ears, from the eyes to the nose and mouth, and so on. Get these basic features placed correctly and your picture will look better than if they are misplaced.
The most difficult thing for most people is drawing the fur to make it look real. Use short strokes for short hair, longer strokes for longer hair. Use more strokes where the pet is darker in color and fewer where it is lighter in color. You will note that even black pets have very few actual solid black areas when it comes to putting it on paper, and white pets will have few solid areas of white. Even with a black pen and white paper (or pencil) it is possible to indicate the color of an animal.
Okay I lied, not all pets have fur, but you can clearly see the importance of drawing texture in your animals. I prefer drawing in pen and ink. Note that if you are using pencil rather than pen and ink you can buy some dark pencils, and some light ones.
Practice makes perfect and your first drawing attempts will probably not turn out like you wanted. Do not get too upset, keep corrections to a minimum, start over if your drawing gets too messy and out of control. Sometimes you will see that something is clearly wrong but cannot figure it out. Have another person look at your drawing in comparison to the photo. They may be able to spot something such as the pets eyes being too large, that you are simply unable to see because you have been looking at the drawing so long.
Similarly holding your drawing up to a mirror and looking at it that way sometimes makes errors in proportions stand out. You may wish to capitalize on it and make it your style if a certain mistake in proportion results in a cool effect, although it wouldn't be an accurate representation of the pet.
Drawing your own pet is often easier than drawing somebody elses. Since you see the pet regularly you are more familiar with it and will know if the picture is not working. As such anyone who is interested in drawing animals of any kind is advised to find as much time looking at pictures and live animals as they can.
*All drawings are property of the author and are not to be reproduced without written permission. Please also Note that while it is okay to LEARN by copying other artists drawings it is not legal to market them as your own original works. I would suggest only drawing from photos, (or real life if you can) not from other peoples art works.*
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