Thursday, 9 July 2009

Drawing A Cat

I needed to draw a cat for my picture book Bears on the Stairs, but unfortunately the cute puss Maddy, who might have been my model, had gone back home. Drat!

Fortunately I remembered a wonderful old book I've had since I was a teenager, called Drawing A Cat. It was printed in 1945 (!) and was originally a present from my Dad to my Mum, who also loved to draw. Mum gave it to me when I showed real interest in drawing.

It's great for reference, which is very useful to help make any animal drawing 'believable'. I sketched various key poses from Clare Turlay Newberry's wonderful observational drawings, to create this crib sheet to work from:

Using these sketches as a starting point, I then simplified some features and exaggerated others, to turn fairly realistic cat drawings into something more suitable for a picture book character.

I talk a bit more about this process and how good visual reference helps to make your cat's poses believable, in this short film:

I also demonstrate step-by-step how I draw a cat in this next film, which you might find helpful if you are trying to improve your character drawing:

I ended up using quite a few of Clare Turlay Newberry's  poses to help me illustrate my picture book Bears on the Stairs. Here's one drawing, finished in pastels, adapted from the standard sitting poses. Often the alterations are quite subtle: enlarging the head and eyes is always important.

My Bears on the Stairs illustrations are all finished now, and the book is available to buy, but you can peek at how I began creating my artwork for the book here, or see some of my pastel cat illustrations in progress.

Regular readers to this blog will know that cats have been both an inspiration and a bit of a nightmare in the studio. Have you read my stories about the two different flying cats

Despite these antics, cats have been a favourite in our house for a long while. Before she sadly died, I used to draw our cat Smudge every year for my husband, as a birthday card. I chose various activities they shared. This is an illustration of the nightly battle to get Smudge into the kitchen so we could go to bed:

As you can probably tell, she was a very grumpy cat, who would much rather have come upstairs to bed with us...

Around the same time as I drew the illustration above for John, I also drew a rather cuter cat for a very important job indeed.

I was just starting out as a book illustrator, having worked as an editorial illustrator for many years. As you can see, it was a ginger puss rather like the one in Bears on the Stairs and it was to illustrate part of the very first letter I sent out to introduce myself to children's book publishers - the one which ultimately got me my very first book, The Show at Rickety Barn (which also stars a ginger cat - they are everywhere!) 

You can find out why Puss is tied up and, if you are a new illustrator, read about how to publicise yourself and contact publishers here.


Janine said...

Your scetches and paintings are awesome.
I´m deeply impressed

Jessie said...

What a lovely book! Your sketches are great, although a couple of them maybe not so savoury! hehe.x

Lynne Chapman said...

True - I don't think American publishers in particluar would be very keen on the bottom-licking one!

Joanna Dover said...

Love these!

AtelierBrigitte said...

Great sketches! I love them. Must be great to have such a wonderful book (and a wonderful gift from you mother).

Emily said...

It is no easy task to capture the true silliness of cats! Great sketches

Lisa M Griffin said...

what wonderful sketches... nice seeing the variety of poses for this lovely cat.... my favorite's are the "cleaning" shots - isn't it amazing the contortions those animals can create? =)

enVide neFelibata said...

just to push up the stats even more. Keep up the wonderful work you're doing. We're all pleased to see it.