How to draw a bear

Drawing animals is the first step to designing your own fantasy creatures. Nature has an amazing variety of solutions, shapes, colours and sizes to solve the challenge of survival. You'll find that drawing and studying animals will yield more exciting and unique ideas to your artwork.

I always begin with broad gestures and light pencil marks when starting a sketch. I'm only trying to find the animal's gesture, so I tend to work quickly. 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. Create a light sketch

How to draw a bear

Keep your arm loose and move quickly – this is the messy stage where things don’t have to be right!

I begin with a light sketch when working out how to draw a bear. 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 it into a wire skeleton and shapes to start. This is the foundation of my study.

02. Draw through forms

How to draw a bear

Build up the form with repetitive, fluid strokes to keep the drawing full of motion

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

How to draw a bear

Locating the joints and major muscle groups helps to keep the sketch grounded and accurate

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

How to draw a bear

Adding in some value can help to turn the form

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

How to draw a bear

Add fur in correlation with the muscle groups to keep the animal from looking flat

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.

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