It's Easy To Draw Animals Right?

in art •  3 months ago


This is my first real commission that I was ever paid to do.

Needless to say I was nervous as hell about it, but I am proud of how it turned out.

This piece was commissioned because a friends sister in law's sister's dog had died (yes, that is a sister of a sister in laws friend who commissioned this, work on it for a while and it will make sense).
So I had to get this one right. Animals are usually easy to draw unless it is someones pet, in which case the person has known the animal for a long time. Needless to say a standard dog drawing would not do.

So here are the photos that were given to me as reference:

He was a really cute dog.

Anyway, I didn't want too get to artsy or expressive with the drawing. The point was to capture the "essence" of this dog so that the person who would receive it would have an artist rendition of their pet. I started by just trying to get a sense of the dog through drawing him. The results were as follows:


As you can see I drew directly from the photos. But.. I couldn't quite capture him. I drew some motifs to liven up the drawings a bit. I drew them (including the dog's name) first:

WEEGEE 1.jpg
WEEGEE 2.jpgWEEGEE 3.jpg

I then placed all of the pencil drawings together in photoshop to see what looked best with the two versions:


I sent these to the person's friend who had commissioned the drawing to see if it was what they were looking for.
Their response was "It looks good, but it doesn't look like him". Well sh*t, they were right. I hadn't captured the essence of the animal. It needed to look like Weegee, not just a dog. So I went back and tried to redraw him over and over again.
But.. it never quiet captured the essence of this persons pet.
So I did something I never do, I photoshopped the actual photo of the dog and then lightboxed over it.


Now you may not believe me on this, but I only actually lightboxed the eyes from the photograph and a few reference marks on the outline to get the dogs facial structure correct. I then used the photo as a direct reference to render the shadows, but only by looking at it. By lightoxing these few keys features I was able to get the drawing to look like I wanted (albeit really close to the photo itself). The final result was as follows:


As an illustrator, I felt a little disgusted in myself. I felt as though I shouldn't have to lightbox something to get it correct. If you google "swiping" you will see the venomous responses to industry professionals using this method. I was happy with how it looked, but if felt unprofessional to me.
But you know what? They loved it. They absolutely loved the way it looked. It looked like their pet, not a "version" of their pet. I realized in this moment that there are times when lighboxing can be useful.
The following is a quote from the late comic artist Wally Wood:

"Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up"

My college art professor quoted this to me as I was packing up my senior exhibition after graduating. He said to always remember it.
Granted, Wally Wood was jaded by the industry that he worked in. He felt as though it was a waste to... well.. waste time on aspects of creating a story that were unnecessary. I never really understood it until now.
Sure, there are people who abuse lighboxing in the illustration industry. But now I realize there are times when it's use is appropriate. In this case the final image came out how the person who commissioned the drawing wanted, and I didn't sacrifice a lot of artistic integrity by "cheating" on a few key aspects to make it look correct.
I guess I am still figuring out all of the tools that are at our disposal as an artist, and I struggle with some.. ethical?... aspects of it. But in the end I am glad I was able to make someone happy with a piece I created for them.

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Hahah. Isn't that like cheating? Great end product though


That's the moral conundrum! haha, but in the end I think it is how you use it an how often. Is it a tool? Or is it a crutch?

Dachshunds were originally bred to fight badgers.


Badgers are bad little bastards. That means Dachshunds are even badder. That's awesome!

You touched an interesting artist problem. In the end I agree with you about the method, I think what is very important is to make the client happy without breaking any law of course.          
I have heard from many professionals that they have no qualms resorting to using every shortcuts they can think of when deadlines are looming, though it might hurt their artistic integrity.          
I think you did a great commission work, when someone's dog died, what the owners want would be to have a piece that resembles their departed loved one. A lovely doggo decorated in a beautiful border <3.          


Thank you! I really appreciate that :)

Hi vesteban,

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Thank you!

The drawings are extremely nice and impressive. The ones you drew personally made mad sense than the ones that was photo shopped.
Don't feel bad using technology to satisfy your clients. Why were such technology invented if not to better the lives of people and to make artist work easier. The problem would have been if the client didn't like it but she did. So be happy, you made someone happy.

Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.

Awesome quote, although am still trying to wrap my head round it but what I simply understood was that.

Don't work hard,

Work smart


Thank you! And yes you nailed it, that is essentially what the quote was saying :)


It would really be nice if you could loan me your talent for a day or two. Drawing has always bin my dream


Haha! I will try to send some your way through the ether. Good vibes headed your way! Seriously though, anyone can do it :) just gotta do it regularly.

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Thank you!

What matters is that the person loved the picture. I guess when you are being paid for art you may have to compromise. I think it worked out pretty well.


Thank you! I appreciate that :) I'm certainly not making a habit of it, but in this case it ended up alright!

hello i think this is quite amazing what you did and you shouldn't be disappointed in yourself i think this was a brilliant idea and most important is that the owner of the dog must have been so happy with the result:)


Thank you! They were happy and that is what mattered.


Yes i think this is definitely what matter the most:)ps i don't think animals are easy to draw loool a 4year old will draw a better cat than me:D

Well, as long as you are not abusing it, then its totally okay. And besides, she ended up loving it and that makes up for it.

I think I love the one you made without the photoshop more, it really is beautiful. But well, it doesn't look like hers...

You did a great job on the both of them!!


Thank you!

Whatever you had to do to please your client, you did it. It turned out great, and although you may be displeased with yourself as an artist, I am sure that they were quite please with it.

I think trying to capture the true essence of an animal would be very hard because to them, that animal had character and that is what they were wanting. Overall, I believe it turned out great!

howdy from Texas there vesteban! oh man what pressure is that to paint someone's beloved friend who died? But you did the dog justice and honor!
I thought it was wonderful.

If the shortcut served its purpose, why not? In the end, it's all about delivering what the client wants. From an artistic integrity's side of things, I think it is acceptable when you have exhausted all creative attempts without resorting to lightboxing. You're just doing what is effective for the situation and as an artist, you're out to provide creative solutions anyway.

I have scrolled over and over again... at the end you have done a beautiful artwork and a great memorial for the dog holder. And by the way the dog will be forever in memories of the Blockchain. :-)

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Very nice drawing. I wouldn't beat yourself up about it because the lightbox is a tool. Tools are there to use.

I looked at this intently before scrolling down. I'm not really an animal person, but I really liked the expression and your very unique framing. Then after reading your text, I have no desire to google "swiping," because those people are all losers in this thing we call life. These are the same people that think they can tell an expensive wine by looking arrogant and sniffing at it. Cross these people off your list and carry on!

I'm so glad your clients liked the drawing.

Very nice piece of commission art, @vesteban ! And what an interesting conundrum about using references, how much of the art is the artist's and how much is the reference.... but you made the right call here, I think. Maybe because it is commissioned to resemble the dear doggo, it is very important to capture doggo's likeness, I think!

Beautiful inking and the borders are also very lovely <3

Congrats on curie, as well !

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Thank you for this! Somehow I just saw this post, my apologies for the late response. I really appreciate you sharing my work :)