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Safari Snippets: Practicing Sketching

I wanted to try sketching the animals while on safari, so I did some practice sketches in the months leading up to our trip. It was also a great opportunity to research a few facts about each animal, which proved really interesting.

Despite my practice, sketching from real life was a million times harder than sketching from photos. No matter how much you beg, elephants just won’t stand still when they’re browsing! (Fun fact: Browsers eat leaves, grazers eat grass.) I won’t be sharing my on-safari sketches, but here are some of my pre-trip sketches.

The elephant joke in this one is for my Dad, who loves a good pun!

Sketching elephants

I always intended to paint the large hornbill in the centre of this one, but never quite got there. For any Lion King, the movie, fans, Zazu, Mufasa’s birdy advisor is a hornbill.

Sketching hornbills

Kudu have the most magnificent ears. They are extremely large and pretty antelope – and in real life they don’t look like the bandits mine have turned out to be!

Sketching kudu

Ironically, I was inspired to draw the leopard on the top right with very few outlines after my favourite Wildlife Photographer of the Year photo – a polar bear that is only defined by it’s outline in the sun. I want to explore further the question “What is the minimum number of marks required to make an animal identifiable?” Obviously, it’s way fewer than I use here!

Sketching leopards

Despite appearances, the warthog on the top right here is having a mud bath. He is not dead! The fellow below him is my favourite, even though he appears to be being eaten by a wormhole!

Sketching warthogs

This is my favourite African bird because they’re so unexpectedly big! They grow up to 1.5m tall and their bills are so striking in colour.

Sketching saddle-billed storks

I had a lot of fun making the mud splashes for this one!

Sketching hippos

Zebras are a happy lot. They often seem to pose with big, cheesy grins. Unfortunately, the one on the right has been caught with his cheeks full of grass… or he’s been stung by a bee and there’s been some serious swelling… or of course, it could have been too much Christmas pudding!

Sketching zebras

Please skip over the next picture if you’re afraid of clowns. I don’t know where that one on the top left got his clown suit, but he’s pretty scary in it, right?!! And by the way, since doing the research for this page, aardwolves are on my “must see” list!

Sketching hyena

I’d love to learn more about how to show motion in my sketches. I wanted the guy on the right to be charging, but he looks like he’s just having a tough morning jog to me!

Sketching rhinos

I bought some new watercolours for this painting and I love how vibrant the colours are!

Sketching lions

  1. Shazar
    26 January 2017

    Katherine – your writings have reached new amazing drawing heights! wow.. thanks so much for sharing those.. you inspire me with such beauty. And I loved your minimalistic leopard!!

    • Katherine Thomson
      26 January 2017

      Oh! Thank you, Shazar. That is so kind of you to say.

  2. JoD
    27 January 2017

    I’m with Shazar, they’re all lovely but the leopard is beautiful. So clever. Does this mean we can still be friends? I think so 😉

    • Katherine Thomson
      7 March 2017

      Thanks, Jo. That’s very kind of you. And yes – friends always 😉

  3. JoD
    27 January 2017

    P.S. I can’t believe you didn’t post these before. You’re like one of those ladies of old. The stern aristocratic explorer types that keep a sketch book and diary.

    • Katherine Thomson
      7 March 2017

      Me? Aristocratic? You’re so funny! But really, I get what you mean and I am 🙂