Dec 6, 2010

The progress of hyena

I have been drawing hyenas for the last three weeks. And boy, those are tough animals to draw! They are related to cats, but they don't look cats. They have some similarities with bears but they are not related to bears. And if you screw up, you end up drawing them to look like rats. Great.

Now, I don't know how much you know about my drawing methods, so I thought that it would be great if I shared some sketches and my thoughs of the progress. Hopefully this helps some artists who are also struggling with their animal drawings.

Lets see if I have improved in the last three weeks!


Everytime when I start to draw a new animal, the first thing that I do is to try to draw it by heart. I don't really know why, probably because that way it is easier for me to notice the mistakes when I check the real animal from a photo.

Hyenas are not so familiar animals to me but not unknown either. I drew one hyena two years ago but it was drawn just for the fun of it, not because I wanted to study it. Now I wanted to learn to a draw hyena so well that I could draw it anytime, anywhere and most importantly: being to able to draw it without being too dependent on the reference pictures.

So, it was time to test my memory. And I got this:

It was.. okay. Maybe too cartoony and it looked more like a rat than a hyena. But it was a good start.

The next one was awful, as you can see. There was so many things wrong it. And that smirk! What the...!

Because the previous was so horrible I tried again. It worked out better but was lacking the feeling of hyena. 

Oh, and ignore the mouse-ish hyena on the left corner. That failed, obviously.

 Next day I did some research. I read about hyenas and googled lots of pictures that could be useful reference. I did few studies of the head as you can see above.

 Two days later I drew again. I didn't want to scan all the sketches because those were bunch of failures. This is the only one that I can tolerate. A fat, sad hyena.

After drawing so many failed sketches I fed up and just stopped drawing hyenas for few days. Not because I gave up or anything. I needed a break.

Breaks are very important when you are drawing. You need to give your brains some time to work out all the thing that you have learned. I don't take breaks as often as I should because I am impatient and want to get things done right away. It is good to have passion to learn and get things done as fast as you can but you also have to learn to slow down. There's no need to rush things.

And what happened few days later? Well, this:

A drawing that has some unnecessary details and almost looks like a hyena. Why it worked out? Because I took a break? Yes, but also because I stopped being too critical while drawing. I drew what felt right and didn't keep checking what's wrong with it all the time.

Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't be critical when you draw. Of course you have to check and redraw if something looks odd. My point is that you shouldn't reject everything what you draw. I have that problem and believe me, it can be more damaging than helpful.

If you don't know what I am talking about, imagine this: You are drawing and at the same time you are figuring out (and sometimes even making up!) excuses why the drawing looks bad. Constantly. All the time. Nothing is good enough. And if it looks good, it was just pure luck. Sounds annoying? It is.

In other words, be critical but give some space for your artistic side. Or something.

After the success of the head, I tried to draw the whole hyena. I wanted to fool around a little bit so the hyena ended up having a little bit muscular body. It was fun. Later that day I checked the drawing again and made some notes how to improve the picture.

A week later I tried to find out if I had learned anything:

 Apparently, I didn't. Those two are too stylized and missing the "thing" that makes them look hyena.

 I felt lost so I had to go back to the basics. I made more studies of the head, this time I focused on the jaw and cheeks. I also checked what kind of noses hyenas have so that I wouldn't keep on drawing cartoony wolf/dog noses.

After that.. I drew alot! Again!

The muzzle works really well in this one.

It's not smart to try cartoon expressions when you are still studying the object but I couldn't help it!

Sigh. There has been ups and downs but I think I'm on the right track.

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