Archive for category Subject: Animals

Drawing Pets | Giovanni Civardi

I really don’t think there’s a subject that Giovanni Civardi can’t, won’t or shouldn’t turn his hand to. This is a wonderful collection of animal drawings that just burst with life, and he passes the horse test with flying colours (horses being one of the most difficult subjects and the easiest to get wrong). In fact the drawing on page 44 of a farrier shoeing a horse is about the most complex subject you can get.

Once again, this isn’t a full instruction manual, but rather a series of drawings and short demonstrations that lead by example. I’m not generally a fan of copying, though I know it works for a lot of people, but I really would recommend that you try to reproduce some of what’s here. It’ll be a tall order, but you’ll learn more by doing this than from almost anything else.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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Drawing & Painting Wild Animals || Vic Bearcroft

Whether you like this book is going to depend on whether or not you want to paint the zoo’s stock-in-trade (the analogy is Vic’s – he suggests zoos as the most practical way of seeing animals in real life).

Assuming you do, this is a thoughtfully arranged book that groups its subjects into Big Cats, Bears, Pachyderms, etc. This makes a varied topic manageable and also means that creatures with broadly similar characteristics – body shapes, hair/fur and so on – are kept together. You could, I suppose, argue for geographic groupings, but this would suit the naturalist better than the artist. In each section, Vic deals with basic shapes and distinctive features, moving on to demonstrations that will show you how to paint a specific animal. Treatments and backgrounds vary, which gives you the chance both to highlight your subject and put it in its natural context. It’s in the former that Vic is at his best as his landscapes have a habit of looking rather flat. I can’t decide whether this is deliberate, though. It’s possible that he is playing the backgrounds down so as to concentrate on the main subject, but it also has the effect of making the animals disappear into them, which is unfortunate.

This is a bit of a quibble, as this is otherwise an excellent book and Vic is superb on both the modelling and the detail work that give his subjects life – the most important aspect of animal painting.

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Dogs and Puppies in acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Paul Apps

We’ve already established that the Ready to Paint series is really rather excellent and is being handled well by its publisher, so it’s only necessary to decide whether the individual titles do it and themselves justice.

One of the problems with animal painting is that, all too often, the finished results have a stilted look. Animals have a dynamic quality, even at rest and the merest hint of a hard edge can destroy any sense of reality. Paul Apps manages to capture the doggy aspects of his subjects superbly: the softness, the gentle curves and, above all, the hang of the fur – which he does by a considerable amount of suggestion rather than heavy detail work, something which admirably suits a book aimed at the beginner end of the market.

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Cats and Kittens in acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Julie Nash

This addition to this excellent series comes at the same time as Dogs & Puppies and, although the authors are different, the same comments can be applied.

Cats are one of the hardest creatures to get right and are a complex series of curves and colours that it’s all too easy to get wrong.

Julie Nash manages to capture not just the anatomy of her subjects, but also their character and the sense that, even in repose they are ready to move instantly.

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Drawing & Painting Horses || Eva Dutton

I’ve been writing about art books for more than thirty years (yes, it seems longer to me too) and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of books I’ve seen dedicated to drawing and painting horses. Some of this has to do with the fact that it’s quite a specialised subject and partly because they’re one of the most difficult animals to get right. Just getting all four legs in proportion seems to be beyond most artists. Stick to guinea pigs, they’re just adorable little lumps.

However, all those problems mean that pretty much anyone who does want to paint horses is going to need a really good guide and Eva Dutton is not going to let you down. Her thorough work is beautifully and generously illustrated and deals with all the practicalities such as conformation (basically, what makes a horse look horsey) as well as the techniques you need to capture hair, manes, eyes, hooves and everything else, both static and in motion.

Starting from basics and using simple block diagrams, Eva will show you how to get the shapes and structures right; this section is excellent on the practical, rather than the anatomical approach. From here, she moves on to things like motion and proportion and it’s in these sections that you start to learn how to give your work the character that makes for life and reality. Further chapters deal with backgrounds, colours and markings, as well as a handy selection of brushwork techniques.

The final section of the book is a series of five demonstrations that give you a chance to put what you’ve learned into practice. These are worth following as they give you a chance to work from a pre-planned image, rather than trying to get to grips with a moving creature before you’re ready.

This is a nicely thought-out and well-structured book from an author who is clearly comfortable with her subject.

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Draw Animals with expression and personality || Anja Dahl

Any book that sets out to teach you how to draw animals in just 64 pages is being wildly optimistic. The variety of species alone makes the task virtually impossible. However, Anja Dahl manages to make a pretty good fist of it and certainly won’t leave you disappointed.

The introductory section on materials and techniques also looks at how to capture fur and feather, but it is quite short and this is an area you may feel you want to supplement. The rest of the book is devoted to a series of short lessons covering dogs, cats, birds and horses. Each section is necessarily quite short and works from a photograph to the finished drawing in only two or three pages. If you’re looking for extensive demonstrations, you won’t find them here.

Overall, as a basic introduction, this is fine, but I can’t help thinking you’re going to need to do quite a lot more reading if you really want to develop your skills.

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Lee Hammond’s Big Book of Acrylic Painting

The above-the-title billing gives you a clue to Lee Hammond’s popularity in the US and, if the title suggests a bind-up, you’d be correct. The material has previously appeared in four other titles, but the selection here provides an excellent introduction to the medium. More substantial than many similar books, this one covers still lifes, landscapes, animals and people as well as the basic techniques. Each section is admirably thorough – the one on people includes exercises covering all the main facial elements as well as demonstrations that deal with both male and female subjects as well as babies and toddlers. Overall, there’s a good sense of your money’s worth here.

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Painting Wildlife step by step || Rod Lawrence

I think it’s fair to say that you need a fair degree of skill under your belt before you tackle this book. However, that’s not unreasonable, because birds and animals are a difficult subject and anything that proclaims itself a beginner’s guide is inevitably going to trivialise and simply annoy the more serious practitioner.

That said, for those who aren’t daunted by the author’s highly detailed approach, it does start somewhere near the beginning, with main chapter heads devoted to fur, feathers, eyes and ears, feet and tails, etc. In other words, short demonstrations covering basic structure rather than full-blown and perhaps rather off-putting projects covering a whole creature.

Doing things this way allows you to build up your skills and techniques progressively and also to pick out whatever it is you need at any particular time. If there’s a criticism, it’s that there aren’t any complete projects, so you never get that “pulling it all together” section that most books like to include. Although, as the book is already 144 pages long, extending it in this way could double the length or significantly reduce the admirable attention to detail that characterises the author’s approach. Forewarned, you shouldn’t feel short-changed when you come to the end.

The overall approach is painstaking and Rod does well to break a complex and difficult subject down into manageable chunks that don’t become overwhelming.

Buy it on Amazon

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Artist’s Complete Problem Solver || Trudy Friend

This is clearly a book the publisher expects you to keep by your side and probably get dirty in use. How do I know this? Well, they give you a plastic sleeve for the paperback cover and that’s an additional production expense and publishers HATE those.

OK, so we’ve deduced that it’s something you’ll be referring to as you paint, but does it live up to the implied claim of its title? Well, the subtitle limits its coverage to Landscapes, Flowers and Animals, but that’s still a wide scope. The basic layout is: problem on the left-hand page, solution on the right, so it does follow the by now conventional pattern of the made-up problem, a painting done deliberately badly to illustrate a particular point. I’ve always had reservations about those because I can’t help wondering whether anyone finds them recognisable. That said, if you’re going to say, “most beginners do it like this”, there’s no other way round it really. A score draw on that one, I think.

In terms of coverage, there’s a good balance of both detail and more general work, especially in the landscape section. When we get to flowers and animals, things are a bit more specific and get down to species quite quickly so that you might find your particular bugbear [not a species, ed] doesn’t get covered. If the book has a weakness, this is it. Nevertheless, Trudy is an old hand at the problem/solution approach and she does it well. On balance, I’d say you’ll get much more from this than you’ll miss, which is perhaps faint praise, but it’s very much one you’ll need to make up your own mind about.

David & Charles

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Chinese Animal Painting Made Easy || Rebecca Yue

Rebecca Yue has written several previous books that adapt traditional Chinese painting methods for the Western eye and palette. Her approach does not so much dilute the pure form as adopt its methods and provide a simplification of line and form that is easy to follow and which produces attractive results using materials and methods with which her readers will be largely familiar.

The looseness of this approach is perfectly suited to creating animal paintings that have a sinuousness and a sense of movement that perfectly captures the character of her subjects and also, almost coincidentally, makes for a simplified form of animal painting that will appeal to those who find this a difficult subject. This give the book a double appeal and it also fulfils a long-felt need.

From basic techniques, Rebecca moves on to demonstrations featuring both domestic and more exotic animals, giving a variety that should cover just about all her readers’ requirements.

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