Feb 12, 2013

Book Review: draw animals in nature with Lee Hammond

In this review we get back to basics so to speak and take a look at what can be seen as a very traditional artists practice, Sketching animals in nature.

The book presents itself as a beginners guide to sketching a variety of animals from birds and common animals, to exotic big cats and undersea dwellers. It contains the usual introduction of basic techniques as well as materials needed to accomplish the tasks. There are a variety of exercises that take the reader through the sketching process from basic (construction via basic shapes) and the more advanced (sketching differing kinds of realistic fur).

One of the central exercises has the readers making a grid around the reference image and on the destination page and then drawing the animal box by box, breaking it down into abstract shapes. While I don’t have any issue with learning about how to break and image down into component shapes, I find this particular exercise problematic for beginners as it is far to detail oriented at the expense of the big picture. This becomes an issue when many young artists already suffer from drawing perceptions that are far too concerned with the minutiae of a drawing instead a solid understanding of the basics.  That being said, I find that in practice the grid exercise is extremely useful when trying to understand the complexity of animal anatomy.

The book really hits on a core theme that artists often forget, and that is to “Be easy on yourself and just enjoy the process”. This statement rings true for the novice and seasoned alike, especially as your career gets going and you begin to become more and more end result oriented. This theme is carried throughout the book, with the structure of its varied exercises coupled with the author’s observations of roadblocks that artists find themselves facing.

Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was its section on before and after sketches that highlighted how much improved the student’s drawings were after they took their time and went through the exercises.

I believe that this book is worthwhile if you are uninitiated to the world of sketching animals or just need a refresher in your sketching process.

(Below is a sketch created using the techniques demonstrated in the book.)