Project Five – Exercise 1: Animal line study

This project is about pets and other animals. We do not have pets at home, so I was wondering how to get close to live animals. Either visiting a zoo or looking around in our neighbourhood to see if any farm animals are on the field or all still in the stables. Luckily, I found some cows in a stable nearby, but after seeing further down the road sheep on the field on a sunny day I decided to go for them. The sheep had still their brownish winter fleece on. It was great to see that many of them delivered their little lambs. I  filled many pages of my sketchbooks.

What I found out was that some are rather shy, turning quickly their back to me and moving away. Some others were very curious and coming close to me. They were behind a fence. In summer they are on the dyke here and they loose their shyness. After a few days with them I decided to move on, to study at home my sketchbook drawings and to do an intense scrutiny of the sheep’s characteristics, patterns, texture, stance etc. With that I did further detailed studies in my sketchbook.

My sketchbook studies live on farmer’s land (selection) and back home for more detailed studies:

Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 1 - sketchbook studies animals

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 1 – sketchbook studies animals

I wanted to capture some of the characteristics that I found out:

  • Vitality: Shyness and curiosity
  • Behavior: eating and caring for their little lambs
  • Weight: thin legs with thick wooly body
  • Color: brownish fleece, the lambs white
  • Texture: typical wool structure of the fleece,  but the back parts with rather short texture

Study #1: The curious sheep

I decided to go for sepia ink to capture the brownish color and bamboe pen as this helped me in previous exercises to focus on more expressive strokes. To capture better the curious look I decided to go for a vertical format. With the paper on the wall I drew standing with rough and gestural marks. I used marker pen for the surrounding space and to indicate with loose strokes pieces of hay laying around on the ground.

Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 1 - sheep study #1

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 1 – sheep study #1

I am satisfied with the composition and the expressive marks. But I felt a bit frustrated with the process: the sepia ink was less stable and too fluid compared to black ink, so that I had to refill my bamboe pen quite often. This distracted me from the focus on the subject a bit.

Study #2: Mother and lamb

For this study I decided to go for charcoal to capture the characteristics fleece pattern of the mother sheep and use putty rubber to ensure a certain whiteness of the lamb and for expressive ‘negative’ strokes. To make the composition balanced and calm I decided for a horizontal format. As in previous study I worked standing. At the end I applied loose strokes with ochre wax pastel to indicate the brownish fleece and to keep the mother sheep contrasting from the lamb.  With loose charcoal strokes I indicated the environment.


Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 1 - sheep study #2

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 1 – sheep study #2

I am satisfied with the depiction of the texture, pattern, and posture of the sheep. I am not so convinced about the composition. I think less space to the left and more space to the right would have made the composition more exciting. I guess I should have done some pre composition studies as well.


Animal studies quite different to still life. Different views are not easy manageable if not at all impossible (at least for live animals outside). On the other hand it gives a different quality in expressing moods and atmosphere. After intense scrutiny the special character of the animal appears. This takes many sketchbook drawings. At the beginning I was not so sure how I will succeed. But now I learned a lot and I am looking forward to the next exercises.

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