Drawing Sunday: step-by-step pencil drawing

Hello all! Today, for my Sunday’s art post, I wish to retrace the steps of the drawing of the leaping horse I prepared for the final assignment of Natural History Illustration 101 eCourse. I hope it encourages you to draw more!

So, first I chose a picture that I wanted to copy, and after a long search, I fell for this one and printed it out:

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English Thoroughbred, by buba_noi (Source: Flickr)

I have been drawing horses since a while, so I am already a bit familiar with their anatomy and proportions. Still, I worked on a preparatory study that shows the main inner structures (not really the bones, but straight lines that are a simplification of the bones):

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In the preparatory study I traced the main structure lines with a pink pencil, to let them stand out more, then I added more lines with a graphite pencil. While doing this study I realised that I made the belly and hind legs too small, so I erased them completely and re-drew them by measuring relative proportions with the other parts of the body that I already drew. The study helped me in the next stages of the drawing, by making me notice proportions, symetries and relations between the different parts of the body of the horse.

Then I took a new piece of paper, went to the window to use it as a tracing table (a transparent surface with a back light, that enables you to overlay two sheets of paper and trace on the top one by following the contours of the picture on the lower one). I have no picture of it, but it was simply the outline and a few more inner lines.

I moved back to my desk with the new sheet and used a 6B pencil to draw the basic tones:

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Sorry for the blurred picture, the camera didn’t get enough light to focus properly. I started with the head and right front leg, then proceeded from left to right (so that I didn’t smear the drawing with my hand). I chose to change how dark to make an area only by looking at neighbouring areas, so when I finished the drawing I noticed that the right hind leg was the darkest area, when on the picture it was not; maybe I should have regularly compared which areas of the whole picture had the same shade.

Then I proceeded with harder pencils (first 3B, then B) and made more definite, crisp, and dark shadows, with care not to cover the very light areas. Again I proceeded from left to right, but in addition I put a piece of paper below my hand, to avoid smearing. I had to catch up with the dark areas of the head, neck and front legs, while comparatively making less tonal adjustements on the back legs.

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The final touch was the rendering of the hair. This horse, and its breed, has very short hair that I could hardly represent in the picture, because I hadn’t any pencil sharp enough to create that texture. So I thought of using my mechanical pencil with HB mines of 0.5mm and made some hatches on the shadows. I refined the shadows of the mane and tail, but am not really happy with them:

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The important things that I learned while making this drawing are:

  • Make breaks when you feel that your concentration level is getting low. You can come back after a few hours or the day after.
  • Get a full mental image of the main tones, so that you have it as a reference when you make shades.
  • Allow yourself to draw a bit and to erase what you don’t like. This is the big advantage of pencils!
  • Make the preparatory study, so that you have the anatomy of your animal in mind, you can guess its three-dimensional shape and consequently lights and shadows. It is also an excellent time to get the outlines right, with as many attempts as you want, before copying them on a fresh sheet of paper.

I hope this explanation encourages you to try drawing your favourite animal! Do also browse the Internet for material and videos about drawing techniques. There are some amazing teachers out there!

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