After purely geometric patterns (see Drawing 101: From Lines to Curves and Drawing 101: Spirals), the next step is: ANIMALS. Not fierce and beastly, though. Animal drawings appeared on pottery in Mesopotamia around 5800 BC. Their simplified lines seem incredibly modern. Why? First, they lack details and unnecessary ornaments. Second, they catch the essence of the animal. If birds’ main trait is flying, then wings become elongated in drawing. If deer’s peculiarity is antlers, then antlers get exaggerated in drawing.

Tip: Do like Mesopotamians did: Capture the essence and render it as simple as possible. With the minimum number of lines. This is the best strategy for any good drawing. 

Let’s practice the animals painted or incised on the pottery. Common are: fish, birds and deer.

Jumping fish. Start with 2 intersecting lines, both slightly curved. Add fins. The movement is suggested not only by the diagonal position, but also by the charcoals’ strokes that seem to rush in an imaginary sea.


Tip: In the first three classes you learned to control your line. For straight lines a strategy is to tremble them slightly (see Drawing 101: Lines). For curves other strategy is to overlap thin, barely visible lines until you get the right shape (see Drawing 101: From Lines to Curves). For today’s exercise try a different line. Change the common pencil with charcoal or soft pencil (2B to 6B). Emphasize the beginning of the line and let it go in one stroke, as if you were an artist. Lines get more expressive because soft pencils and charcoals allow for subtle variations in lines’ width.

Bird with elongated wings.
bird catching fish_opt
Now it’s time to combine: bird+fish=bird-catching-fish!
Deer with elongated antlers.


Try now expressing with lines the main trait of a dog, cat or whatever animal you see around. If physical features are important, then exaggerate one of them. If movement is crucial, then compose your drawing on a diagonal line. If psychological qualities are at stake, then …. your creativity comes in. How would dog’s loyalty be traced on paper? I’d use dots like an aura around the body. What about you?