While looking through some animal anatomy books I came across a few lion images that attracted my attention (Ellenberger, 1996). With my theme found I wanted to do with this exercise a bit more expressive and dynamic drawings. Lions, especially the females, are hunter and they do it mainly during darkness. This I wanted to capture.
To warm up and to get along with the figure and anatomy of a female lion I did some quick sketchbook studies with chalk and ink and colored pastels (water-soluble). I studied the skeleton and the main muscle areas to get a better grip on the main parts of the body responsible for movement, posture and stance.
I liked to interplay of the orange pastel with the black line drawing. Also I wanted to work with some washes in the negative and positive space. Still not sure how and to which extend I wanted to mix skeleton parts with flesh parts, I decided to work on two compositions.
Lion study #1
For the first study I worked on source images of a standing and moving lion. I decided to overlay the first lion with a second lion, but only indicating the neck and head in a bending movement towards the ground. As an eyecatcher I added to the far right a small skull of another animal, a kind of vanity theme. I used an A2 white paper for this study.
Blocking in the main muscles mass with orange pastel, I continued with charcoal in more expressive strokes in the negative and positive space. My intention was to create a darkened atmospheric with contrasting marks. I worked back and force with putty rubber and charcoal in the surrounding space till I found an interesting and contrasting pattern that give enough depth and atmosphere. In the foreground I applied more horizontal marks for a believable and solid ground. With the rubber I added some marks indicating light direction. I applied more marks with orange pastel and charcoal on the lion to create form perception. Light washes in the top right area gave the final touch to my drawing.
I am pleased with the expressive and atmospheric marks. The depiction of the lion is quite calm as a hunter on the search. I am not so sure about the overlayed image of the skeleton lion. Feels a bit awkward. The overall composition is quite balanced but also quite ordinary.
Lion study #2
Based on the previous study I decided to make a different approach with my second study. I chose an ochre colored pastel paper (indicating the fur color of the lion). As drawing material I chose ink and brush as well as chalk for line drawing. I wanted to create a more atmospheric drawing with light indication of form and a skull as a focus area. As source image I chose a standing lion in front view. I started with a quick outline of the skull in black chalk and continued with free ink washes with a brush in the positive and negative space, indicating main shapes. With a frisket pen I added some marks that I didn’t want to be covered by ink washes. During the drawing process I decided to make the skull more pronounced and add white pastel marks. I finished my drawing with additional marks in ink for form perception and in chalk to enhance the rough structure of the paper support.
I am satisfied with my drawing process and the atmospheric appeal. I need to think how I can take this further. Starting quite loose I found the forms during the process. The light skull is clearly the focus point. I kept the surrounding space quite vague and added only a few marks to create the atmosphere. I think the overall tonal range could be enforced with darker blacks. Somehow the used black ink was not giving these blackness.
With a bit of thinking process at the beginning about the aim of this exercise I got along and I think that my working on the positive and negative space helped me to find my intended expressive marks. Somehow I could be more careful not to overwork, the last study was more successful in this respect.
Ellenberger, W (1996) ‘An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists‘. Kent: Dover Publications