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Drawing Lesson 41, Part 2 – Drawing a Dog

Drawing a Dog in Graphite Pencil

Video Lesson Description

In this video lesson you will discover the step-by-step process of drawing a dog in graphite pencil.

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Drawing a Dog

To achieve good results when drawing a dog, the fine artist needs to, above all, make numerous fast sketches of the animal in various poses, from different directions and angles of view. The more sketches the better. Such sketches have two main purposes when drawing a dog:

1. The accumulation of the knowledge about that particular animal, how it moves, behaves and looks in different activities;

2. The creation of preparatory visual materials that can be used later on for longer drawings and compositions.

Such a visual study of drawing a dog must include learning its shape, the constructive arrangement of its body, the dynamics of its movements and so on.


Drawing a Dog
When drawing a dog and other animals, we can see similar anatomical features that animals share with humans. The similarity becomes more apparent when we examine animal skeletons. The anatomy of animals causes their dynamics. Every animal has its specific movements and gesture poses. The proficient fine artist must be able to observe, understand and depict those individual characteristics that belong to a particular animal.

Such skills allow the fine artist to portray an animal as a living and active creature. This is very important and valuable when drawing a dog. This ability comes with the understanding of the distinctive features animals have. When the fine artist is critically observing and drawing what he knows, feels and thinks, the drawing comes out full of life. On the other hand, when an artist does an accurate copy rather than a constructive drawing, the result might look dull and unexciting – like a stuffed animal.

When drawing a dog while an animal is performing an activity – like walking or jumping – the fine artist needs to understand dynamical mechanics, which is applied science dealing with motion and forces producing motion.

When drawing a dog and dog’s fur in pencil, the length, direction and strength of the pencil strokes represent the texture, thickness and shine of the dog’s skin and hair.

Did you know that this breed of dog is relatively new? It originated in Germany at the very end of the 19th century, so it has just over 100 years of history. The German Shepherd breed is known for its intelligence, strength, is easy to train and has a very loyal and protective nature; so it serves its owner very well. Originally, it was used for sheep hoarding and guarding and now is the dog of choice for the military and police.

When drawing a dog, observe how the length of hair becomes shorter on the dog’s head and much shorter on the black-mask nap. The healthy dog’s nose is always cold and wet. The mouth is open and its tongue is sticking out to control its body temperature. Dogs do not have sweat glands and pores and therefore, can not regulate their temperature by cooling down through sweat evaporation. Instead, they get rid of excessive heat by breathing with their tongues hanging out.

Every animal, as well as, humans moves by contracting their muscles. The force depends on the size of the muscle’s cross-section. The muscle’s force does not depend on its length. The size of an area is proportionate to the square of the area side. For example, one square inch area is a square with one-inch sides. I hope you are not lost, so far.

So, an animal twice bigger in size will produce approximately four times more force. However, a twice-bigger animal is heavier. The animal’s mass will depend on the animal’s volume and volume is a cube of a linear size. For example, one cubic inch is a cube with one-inch sides.

In this way, a twice-bigger animal has four times the force but is eight times heavier. Some of the extra force goes to carrying its own weight.

Let us reinterpret this knowledge for a dog. For example, linear sizes of an average dog are twice smaller than the dimensions of a wolf. With twice bigger cross-sections of muscles, a wolf is four times more powerful than a dog. At the same time, a wolf’s weight is cubed, so it is eight times heavier than a smaller dog. For every unit of force, there are two units of weight; therefore, the wolf has to carry twice more weight per available force unit compared to a twice-smaller dog.

Now you can see how animals’ sizes influence their dynamics. The bigger an animal the heavier it is and more muscle force is required for its movements.

I think it is very apparent now why a tiny ant can carry a load many times heavier than its body, why small birds are not walking but jumping, why a grasshopper can jump 30 times its body length (which, by the way, is equivalent to an average human jumping over an 18-storey building). You would not expect a heavy elephant or hippopotamus to be any good at jumping, while the much lighter kangaroo does it perfectly.

Dynamical mechanics influence the upper and lower limits of animal sizes. Today, the biggest land animal, the elephant, can reach five – six tons in weight. The smallest vertebrate or animal with a backbone or spinal column, among the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, is the frog; scientifically named, Paedophryne amauensis. It was discovered in Papua New Guinea and measures at only 7.7 millimeters or 0.3 inch. It is so minute that several such frogs can be placed on a single dime and the bones of this frog are very tiny.

This frog is close to the lower limit after which internal bones become unsuited for supporting an animal’s structure. Smaller creatures like insects and spiders do not have internal skeleton. Instead, they rely on chitinous exoskeleton, which is an external rigid covering providing both support and protection. There is an upper limit for animals with exoskeleton after which it would become too fragile and heavy. So, insects and spiders will never grow above a certain size limit.

I have spent some time talking about bones and muscles to illustrate that a fine artist must have an understanding of the structural characteristics of a particular animal. The comprehension of how skeletal constitution influences the animal’s body shapes allows the fine artist to make correct animal drawing. Just depicting the texture of dog’s hair is not enough for a believable and realistic picture of a dog. The shape needs to be constructed right from the very beginning.

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