Never mind about illustration trends: learning how to accurately draw animals is the first step to designing your own fantasy creatures. Nature offers an amazing variety of solutions, shapes, colours and sizes, all designed to solve the challenge of survival in different way. You'll find that drawing and studying animals will provide plenty of inspiration that can be incorporated into your artwork.
To help you get started, I'm going to show you how to draw a bear. I always start by working quickly and using broad, light pencil marks to find the animal's gesture. This is especially key when drawing from life, where animals move about as you draw. So, get your best pencils at the ready as I reveal how to draw a bear in five simple steps.
01. Start with a light sketch
I begin with a light sketch – I don't want to make any solid marks or bold lines yet, I'm just finding the shapes of the animal's form. I will break this initial sketch into a wire skeleton and shapes to start. This is the foundation of my study.
02. Draw through forms
As I begin to build up my drawing, I'll draw through forms. This means that I'm not worried about forms covering each other, but rather I begin to see through them. This helps to keep the drawing fluid and keeps me aware of where the forms are overlapping in space. I'm also looking for landmarks, such as the scapula and knee caps, to help me locate the anatomy of the animal as it develops on the paper.
03. Find the muscle groups
This is where my experience in drawing real-life animals frequently comes to help. I'm able to locate and find a variety of different muscle groups based on both my previous studies and memory.
However, I'm always sure to really look at my subject so as not to miss out on what's actually in front of me. Locating the joints and major muscle groups can also help with fur placement and rendering later on.
04. Introduce form and value
Now that I've got a solid blueprint in place, I can begin to add in some quick values. Here, I'm imagining a light source above the bear.
This is where heavier lead comes in handy. I tend to alternate from HB and B lead, but you can use what you’re comfortable with. I'll draw with these heavier pencils to nail in those lines, and flesh out the forms of the muscle groups, too.
05. Flesh out details
Now I can begin to suggest a few details here and there. Every animal has a different set of proportions and small details that make that species unique, and every species has unique individuals.
It's important to pay attention and really see what's there. I'm also interested in adding in markings or any other distinguishing textures or features in this step.