IT is sometimes said, second thoughts are best, but applied to the sketching of wild animals they may become an error of judgment. It is of such paramount importance that the mental and visual impression received by the first glimpse of an unfamiliar animal should be retained; it being the fountain from which, perhaps, the source of inspiration may flow at a later date. Our first view of a Giraffe may be that of a dappled shape against the sun-splashed foliage, and the vision is a delicate pattern of cream, fawn, and green ; or it may be a glance inside a building and an impression received of a gaunt, towering caricature of the animal world. Neither of these instantaneous glances or impressions should be dismissed from the mind, but stored in the memory for future reference, perhaps to be revived many years later in the form of a vivid character study. This is the art of visualisation, and should be part of the training of every young student. It can be acquired with practice, and no finer method can be devised of demonstrating the importance of essentials such as action, pose, proportions and character, and the secondary position of mere details. The correct number of tail feathers or the exactness of the stripes has an interest in the final result, but is negligible in comparison with the importance of the characterisation.
When drawing from the Giraffe (Plate xi.t) note the prominence of the shoulders and the sloping back. The apparent knock-knee aspect of the forelegs and the grotesque hindquarters, the articulations of the spinal column in the neck, and particularly the facial expression. In this respect the Giraffe is, perhaps, one of the exceptions which prove the general rule, for it is not the ears and tail, but the mobile lips and limpid eyes which enable it to demonstrate so effectively the supercilious smile, the bucolic joker, or the melancholic dyspeptic.
PLATE XLI: Study of Giraffes
PLATE XLII: Study of Camels
Artistically, the Giraffe is a failure, but an excellent test of draughtsmanship.
The Camel (Plate xi.u) is another good model for the student. Its movements are not hurried and it will often stand in the same position for long periods.
Again, both this animal and the Giraffe are excellent training on account of their size. It demands a breadth and largeness of observation to put correctly upon a small sheet of paper the proportions of an animal several times the height of the observer. This faculty applies with equal truthfulness to other models such as trees and buildings, but in these cases a point of view can usually be selected for the purpose, whereas with animals the choice is often not with the artist. Upon one occasion I was obliged to observe my model through a keyhole and more than once from a precarious perch upon the top of a step-ladder.
Kangaroos (Plate mitt) are, again, excellent practice for the cultivation of a broad and free method of drawing. They pose quietly and with an infinite variety of graceful positions. Confusion of pattern and coloration is almost absent and full use should be made of them to develop and improve a feeble technique.
The Polar Bear (Plate xliv), as a model, appeals to all the instincts of the artist, equalled, perhaps, but not greater than those called forth by the drawing of the human figure. The most delicate of handling is required to contrast the firm bony structure of the head with the massive and yet subtle lines of the fur-covered body. The exact moment when to draw is essential. Its poses, so dignified and statuesque in themselves, are not always suitable for the pencil, and hours of watchfulness may be required to put down in a few simple strokes all the concentrated strength and beauty of the beast.
PLATE XLVI. Study of Indian Cattle
The Brown Bear (Plate xuv), on the contrary, is merely a study of hair and possesses little of interest to the artist apart from its hold upon the affections of the general public.
Drawings of interest can always be obtained from Lions, Lionesses, Tigers, Leopards, etc. Every method of technique can be employed, and varying from the purely decorative to the naturalistic. The broadside view of a Lion yawning (Plate xt.,v) is an example of a vivid, quick sketch elaborated by continued study. Although, perhaps, the final result is not so artistically satisfying as the broader treatment of the Polar Bear, it is shown as an example of the results which should be easily obtained by a young student.
PLATE XLVII. Study of Wapiti
Professor Arthur Thomson, in his book, " The Art Anatomy of Animals," has shown most concisely the arrangement and growth of the hair forming the mane of the Lion, and every student should familiarise themselves with this diagram. Further to this, note should be made of the development of hair upon the jaws of the cat tribe and its importance to the artist. Upon the head of the Tiger very little of the striping has been introduced, and yet the distinct character is quite obvious. This growth is also present upon the domestic cat and, carried further, upon the Lynx, finally forming almost a halo upon the head of the Lion.
It has been previously stated in this book that efforts should always be made to avoid the stuffed animal appearance, and that a suggestion of the twitching tail or movements of the ears will give the touch of life. A perfect example of such details will be found in the decorative drawing of an Ostrich with its raised foot and turn of the head.
This bird also makes an excellent example for a lesson upon evolution. The wings have almost disappeared, and are no longer of use as aids to flight, having neither primary nor secondary feathers. The Ostrich relies for safety upon its fleetness of foot, and when running at full speed will use the wings in a rotary or windmill action to help its progress. The foot bears a close resemblance to that of the Horse, the hoof being represented by the big toe nail, whilst the remaining toe ceases to perform any useful function.
PLATE XLVIII. Study of an Ostrich
PLATE XLIX. "Action" Studies of Monkeys
The remaining plates should be of interest to a student, inasmuch as they are pages reproduced direct from a sketchbook and introduced in order to show a variety of technique. The daintiness and grace of the Indian Cattle (Plate xLvI) obviously required the most delicate handling of the pencil, with a loving patience which will enable the exquisite modelling to be captured.
Plate xLvrl. The front foreshortened view of a Wapiti is an interesting contrast. A momentary pause, when both brain and pencil must move at lightning speed to capture the arrested action, requires a simplification of technique, and this may be observed in the suggestiveness of the treatment of the slender forelegs. As a sketch, the rear view of the same animal is not quite so successful, the head being rather heavy and laboured. A slighter treatment of this detail would have helped the impression of foreshortening.
For drawings such as these, my own preference is to use a carbon pencil upon smooth paper. A twist of the fingers will give either a broad flat point or one of copperplate fineness, whilst greater or less pressure to accentuate a colour or detail becomes almost automatic. Sketching direct in pen and ink has never appealed to me, owing to the rigid inflexibility of the pen point, but I admit that many splendid results have been achieved in this method. When used, however, it is, perhaps, advisable to accentuate slightly the angles, and by so doing stress the character, or otherwise the solid black of the ink is apt to make the outlines become rather monotonous. For examples, note the head of the young Fox (Fig. 38) and also the Lynx (Fig. 39).
As quick sketches (Fig. 36) Wolf Cub, and (Fig. 35) Jackal, are interesting, but nothing more. There is not sufficient material to work from at any future date, and the same criticism may be applied to the page of Monkeys (Plate xux). The studies of Chimpanzees have, however, far more valuable qualities of suggestion, and the quick foreshortened sketch of an Elephant (Fig. 42) has captured the elusive action of this huge beast as he rocks from side to side and transfers his weight from leg to leg. As an example of observation, this drawing is, perhaps, unequalled throughout this book.
Animal painting to-day is woefully neglected, and perhaps this is not to be wondered at when the difficulties are considered. The varieties of animals alone amount to some hundreds, each having its own zoological or anatomical peculiarity, and a thorough knowledge of this is necessary before elimination of unessentials is begun. The artist has, however, the art of selection, that priceless gift which enables him to rise above the camera and the film. The true picture appeals more by what is left unsaid than by facts given.