Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
Tiger Head Demo
Whether before or after looking through this demonstration, I strongly encourage you all to look at this explanation in the informal demos page. This tiger head demo still has a fair bit of value, but the explanation there more accurately reflects the way I will be explaining these concepts moving forwards. I am currently working through revising all of the lesson content from Lesson 1 onwards (mainly to make the material more succinct, improve production quality, and to make minor tweaks here and there) and when I get to Lesson 5, the concepts covered in the informal demo will serve as the foundation of how I approach head construction.
For now, you'll have to make do with what is there.
This demonstration focuses in on constructing the head of an animal. Though there are many different kinds of animals out there, these principles generally apply across the board, as they speak more to how forms fit together in the kinds of complicated arrangements that faces require.
The demo video includes full audio and discussion of the concepts demonstrated in the drawing.
Step by step
As with just about all of our constructions, we start with a simple, initial mass. In this case, we're looking specifically at the cranial ball that we use in the rest of our animal constructions.
As I've mentioned in other demos, this is not going to encompass the whole head. It is a beginning building block, and we will be adding additional forms to it. Don't draw it to be needlessly large - if you need to, lean towards making it smaller, as you can always add more padding to it later.
Specifically, this mass relates to the back of the skull - it does not include all the muscle and fur you may find on an animal that serves to add bulk to the overall appearance.
Make sure that you don't leave this stage until you feel that this ball is three dimensional. By this point, you should be confident in your belief that what you've created is not a circle on the page, but rather a solid, three dimensional form that exists in the world.
Here we're carving in our eye sockets and establishing the "footprint" of the muzzle. That is, the part to which the muzzle, which will be an additional form we introduce later, attaches.
When dealing with eye sockets, I frequently have students who will block that in as a simple, continuous ellipse. This is not the ideal solution to this problem however, as you're essentially taking a flat shape and sticking it on top of a three dimensional form. The result is that your 3D form gets flattened out.
Instead, cut your eye socket into the form using a series of distinct lines. These lines should each be drawn with consideration for how they follow along the surface of the form, like you're carving into it with a knife. They should be angular, not smooth, to continue to accentuate your awareness of the planes of the face that are being defined.
As I mentioned before, an animal can have all kinds of additional elements that contribute to the size of its head that we don't factor in when drawing the cranium. Here I'm adding what looks a bit like a helmet. This blocks in the general mass of fur, muscle, and whatever else that extends out from the actual skull.
Moving forwards, we start to break down more of the forms we see in our reference, building it directly on top of the scaffolding we've created so far. At no point should you ever let go of your awareness of the major planes and angles of the face. For example, if you look at the lower jaw, while I'm getting much more complex, I'm still allowing my silhouette to turn around the clear corner that exists between the front and side of that form, as defined by the underlying construction.
Also, always consider the "footprints" that additional forms have on the existing ones. For example, the ears are not just flat shapes pinned onto the silhouette - the tiger's left ear (our right) connects to a specific location that we can see. The other one, due to the angle of the head, is connecting further back where the footprint would not be visible.
We're also building the eyelids with full awareness of the eyeball that exists underneath them. Because the lids conform to and wrap around the eyeball, having that form present beforehand is very important and serves as a helpful guide.
Lastly, an important note - when drawing eyes, or really anything that appears black in your reference image, DO NOT FILL IT IN WITH SOLID BLACK. I cannot stress this enough - we have an urge to fill in what we see as black, but this is no different from the orange of the tiger's fur. Just because it lines up with the colour we're drawing with does not mean that there is any benefit to filling it in. Instead, you should be treating everything in your subject matter as though it were solid white or grey.
Ultimately, as you'll see in the next image, we can decide what we want to fill in, but at this point it will rob you of some of the constructional cues that help you understand the forms you're working with, and how they relate to one another in space.
And finally, detail. Until this point, until your construction is solidly hammered out, I don't want you to be concerned with any detail and texture. Once you're satisfied with that underlying structure however, be mindful of your reference.
Every piece of detail and texture you draw should relate in some way to something you see in your reference - especially when, as in this case, we have things like stripes. You may think you understand how a tiger's stripes run over its body, but in all likelihood unless you've studied tigers for a considerable amount of time, you probably don't.
Also, when drawing fur, don't zigzag your strokes - design each individual tuft of fur with intent and care, rather than letting yourself go into autopilot. Less is always more - there's no need to go overboard with any sort of detail. Add just enough to communicate that feature's presence, and let the viewer's mind fill in the rest. Subtlety is key to a successful drawing.