Project Five – Exercise 3: Live animals – using line and tone

For this exercise I wanted to capture the esssence of young cows in our neighbourhood. They are still in the stables so I had to go and look for one where I could get a closer look on them. I find the fur of young cows quite fascinating as it is still hairy and not as smooth and glossy as that of elder cows.

Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 3

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 3

I did a couple of sketchbook studies at the stables to find interesting posture and compositions. After deciding on one I went home and checked it a viewfinder on the study possible interesting placements. I decided to place the eye of the white/black cow in the sweet spot of the composition (approx 1/3, golden rule). I really liked the kind of curious and perhaps sceptical look of the cow, therefore I decided to make this cow the main focus area for the viewer.

Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 3 - sketchbook

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 3 – sketchbook

I decided to go for a large A1 format and colored sugar paper with rough surface. As drawing material I was looking at oil pastels (where I already got some experiences in previous exercises) and conte chalk. In order to find a decision I made some rough sketched in my sketchbook and on the cooler sugar paper to see overall visual impact. At the end I went for the oil pastels as I really liked the brighter white (a key color for my focus cow) on the coloured paper compared to chalk. Also I had a few more colours at hand. I also found that the brown colour of the paper gives a quite nice earthy and natural appeal to my theme. But it also worked quite well as a colour for the right brownish cow and brings a nice touch to the middle one. With this learnings I started my drawing.

Stefan513593  - project 5 - exercise 3 - testing

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 3 – testing

I drew first the overall shapes as well an additional frame, acting as a composition frame and to indicate the metal bars of the stable. With free strokes I blocked in the main areas. I was careful to keep some the paper blank, either as highlight for the white/black cow or for toning for the right cow. In the negative space around the middle cow I indicated with black another cow to the left, putting a nice contrast around the cow’s head. I applied free strokes for some shadow areas and to indicate the hair of the cows. To enhance the composition I place a feeding tub diagonal at the bottom edge. I toned the background with the side of the pastel, revealing nicely the surface structure of the paper. At the end I applied a turpentine wash in the surrounding space (background, left cow) to enforce contrast. With final strokes I enhanced form perception and to push the composition frame a bit forward.

Stefan513593 - project 5 - exercise 3 - progress

Stefan513593 – project 5 – exercise 3 – progress


I achieved believable form perception with an interesting composition. With more free strokes I added expression, contour and specific characteristics of the young cows (hair). Overall I like the idea of the composition frame (I learned this during my research on Alberto Giacometti). I think I depicted quite well the stance and character of the cows. The final drawing conveys a calm atmosphere, as it was what I observed in the stable. I guess later this year on the field the young cows would be more dynamic. Something for me to think about how make a drawing more dynamic. Next time I would also like to experiment more with tone and color overlapping shapes to create different atmosphere.

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