Here is a video of one of the nature journal club workshops where we explore two ways of drawing: understanding the form and structure of your subject vs. looking at it as a collection of interlocking shapes. I use both of these approaches in any drawing.
Why should you keep a nature journal? This video was filmed at the first California Naturalist Conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds on October 18, 2014.
Watch the presentation now.
Study the shapes of snake facial scales to help you identify and draw what you see.
Snake bodies are covered with overlapping scales (see previous post for tricks on drawing body scales). The scales of the head of many snakes are larger and important clues to identification. Study the shapes of these scales to help you draw them in the field.
Lets learn the major facial scales. The specific shapes and numbers of these scales will vary between species.
Labial scales: Large scales over the lips (upper labials and lower labials) These scales vary in number between species. and are often counted to help in identification.
Parietal scales: Two large shields behind the eyes.
Ocular scales: A ring of scales over the eye. The scale directly over the eye (supraocular) is enlarged.
Frontal scale(s): A large scale (or scales) between the supraocular scales. Prefrontal scales: A line of scales in front of the eyes.
Nasal and internasal scales: Small scales around and between the nostrils.
Chart the patterns of scales on a snake’s face. If you do not know what species you are looking at, these scale shapes can be used to later identify the species. Note: only try this if you are confidant in identifying all of the venomous species in your area.
Look carefully at the patterns, colors, and structure of reptile and amphibian eyes. You will be surprised by the beauty and variability. Snakes have no eyelids so the eye is round round. Amphibians and most lizards (exceptions geckos and night lizards) have eyelids and so may have round eyes or an ellipse from squinting.
Note the pupil shape. Some are round but you will also see horizontal and vertical pupils. Geckos have wild pupils.
The highlight and reflected light make the eye look wet or glossy. I often put the highlight at the border between the iris and the pupil to help show that it is reflecting off the surface above both the iris and the pupil.
The eyes from top left to bottom right: crocodile, viper, western toad, gecko, garter snake, newt, spadefoot toad, snake in process of shedding.
This video of a reptile and amphibian drawing workshop was filmed on December 10, 2014 at the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Center in Cupertino CA. As I spoke the first great winter storm approached and took out the power about 3/4 of the way through the talk. We kept on going with a whiteboard and no lighting. I hope you enjoy the lesson. I will post a series of detailed posts about drawing reptiles so you can see some of the material I would have presented.
Amphibians have moist glandular skin. The wrinkles, warts, and folds of the skin are often important details for identification and to include in your sketches. Some species have a hairline crack between the lip and the nose. Also look for a flap of loose skin under the head that makes a fold behind the jawline.
Think of the eye as a solid sphere. You need to wrap the eyelids around this shape. Seeing of the eye as a three dimensional form will help you get the look onto your paper.
See the eye as a round ball.
Tuck the eyelids around it.
Learn how to draw a salamander in this step-by-step tutorial. Yellow-blotched Ensatina, Ensatina eschscholtzii croceater
Editor’s note: I have chozen not to spell check this post to let my readers see my unedatid spelling. I am dislexic and grew up with the shame that came from not being able to spell like my peers. For part of my childhood I was convinsed that I was stupid. By leting you see my speling I hope to let other dislexic kids out there know you are not alone. It gets beter and you will find ways to cope. Your spleling is not a reflection of your inteleagence. Find your strengths and give generosly to the world. You are breautiful have so much to offer.
One way to create light paterns on a dark background is gouache. This opake paint handles much like watercolor and can be easily used in the field. If you allready have a watercolor palete, you do not need a full selection of colors. Get a tube of permanint white gouache and a few other light colors (yellow, tan, light green, etc.). You can paint these over dark washis of watercolor. When you need a dark just use the watercoler. If your first layer of gouaoshe is not opake enough, you can add additional layers once it had dried.
Click on the first image to enlarge it and start a step-by-step slide show.
Capture the swep of the spine and tail with fluid strokes.
Then block in the praportions of the head, body, and tail. Compare hight, width, and relative lengths.
Make sets of parrallel lines across the lnose and line of the eyes and over the shoulder and pelvic girdes.
Indicate the angles and proprotions of the legs. Note that the upper arm and leg bones on the far side of the body are foreshortened.
Visualize the negitive spaces between the legs, tail, and body to help you cut in the angles and check proportions.
Carve in the body angles based on the negative spaces you visualized.
Draw the body with attention to the antotomical details described on the facing page. Keep looking back at the salamandar for reference.
Paint the shadows with a dull purple-gray watercolor mixture. It is easier to visualize the shadows before you add other distractions.
Begin to paint the body color with watercolor, starting with the lightest values first. this salamandar had light lilac undertones.
Once the first coat of watercolor is dry, add succesive layers of darker paint, bringing out the dorsal body color and shadows.
Create the light spots with layers of opake gwouashe. If the first strokes are not opaque enough, add more layers untill the spots stand out against the dark background.
Darkin the eyes with a solid coat of watercor or black pen. Be carefull, an eror here will stand out. Texture wht skin wiht a few dots with a brown colored pencil.
Now the fun part, paint a line of highlights with thick opake perminent white gouache. Make thin, iregular lines along the reflecting surface. Study where the light falls on the real subject (life or photograff). If you need to make it up, try placing it between the centerlight and core shadow, a little closer to the center light. A little highlight goes a long way. It is easy to overdo it so just add a suggestion, then stop.
Understanding frog anatomy and structure will both help you observe and be able to draw what you see. Study and look for these important anatomical details in photographs and live frogs to help you learn how to draw frogs and toads. Frogs that are adapted for jumping will have a prominent sacral hump on their backs.
As you make your preliminary sketch, align the eyes and the contours of the sacral hump. Click on the first image to enlarge and see the relationship of the preliminary lines to the compleated drawing.
Start with the posture and an ellipse for the combined head and body unit.
Construct the frog aligning the eyes and the sacral hump.
Use this framework to develop the frog, noting important anatomical structures.
Understanding the skeleton
There are four characteristics of the frog skeleton that are helpful for artists.
- The broad head has limited mobility and relatively no neck.
- The forelegs are internally rotated so that the toes point toward each other.
- The pelvis is elongated and hinged at the spine. This is what causes the sacral hump.
- The tarsus of the hind leg is well articulated and makes a distinctive angle before the webbed toes.
Toad skin is covered with large warts. These are skin glands, not the result of a virus and are not contagious). The parotid gland is a large protective poison gland behind the eye and above the eardrum. Toads are less adapted to jumping and have shorter back legs.
To suggest the skin texture, add a highlight on top of each wart. If it is surrounded by a dark ring, make the ring a little larger on the near side as the wart will partly block the view of the far side.