Learning Animal Anatomy

I have recently re-discovered my love of drawing animals. I will tell more about that soon in a future post as it is intertwined with learning to use two new-to-me art mediums. A year ago I had a commission in which I needed to draw a bear and an owl. It was one of the rare times I had to resort to using photo reference to make a painting. I knew I would need to learn animal anatomy and so I started searching for instruction. Thank goodness for YouTube!

I was very fortunate to stumble on a fantastic website and YouTube channel called The Art of Aaron Blaise. His website is here. Aaron is a former Disney animator and has drawn animals for most of his life. His website and YouTube channel has a lot of free content for drawing animals and animation. His passion for what he does comes through loud and clear. Even though he has become comfortable in digital media, he is firmly grounded in the traditional mediums of drawing and painting. I find his instruction and information both thorough and entertaining.

I was able to draw my bear and owl after viewing a few of his anatomy and how-to tutorials. However, I realized I have a lot to learn so I have purchased a few of his online courses, which are very reasonably priced. I have added a new art goal to my list. I want to be able to quickly draw animals from life to create sketch reference for paintings and finished drawings. I have nothing against using photo reference, I have just found that I don’t connect with it very well and much prefer making my own reference from life.

Learning any skill takes practice and with that in mind, I have developed a daily practice of drawing animals and studying animal anatomy. I like to spend my first hour in the studio doing quick gesture sketches of various animals on one of the live video feeds on Explore.org. They also have a YouTube channel! In addition, I try to get to the Oregon Zoo at least once a month to sketch. It is about an hour and half drive, one way, over the Coast Range. This time of the year it can be challenging with snow and ice making the passes tricky to drive. This post is already quite long so I will be posting more about the resources I use to study animal anatomy and about my trips to the zoo in future posts. I hope to include video too!

I took the photo above on my beach walk today. This is where I live!

Below is a picture of today’s practice session.


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