Skip Navigation


Art on Air Meet the Artists KET
Lesson Instructions | About Rex Robinson

Art On-Air Home
For Teachers
For Kids
Meet the Artists
More Education Resources
Drawing Animals

Rex Robinson


In Drawing Animals, Rex Robinson demonstrates a three-step method of drawing animals. By following this process-and by practicing-artists are able to draw anything they want. Student artists can learn to draw anything they want, too!

Lesson Focus

Drawing animals as an example of the process of "representational linear description" (or, how to draw anything you want!).

Time Requirement

One hour is generally enough time to begin on the third step, when students finish the face or accent area and complete a contour (outline) of the animal. Another session would provide time to complete the image and its basic environment. Practice in the skills increases confidence, accuracy, and speed.

Skill Development

The challenge of drawing something develops the greatest degree of observation and awareness as well as hand-eye coordination skills. The more realistic the drawing is, the more intense the experience becomes.


Drawing Animals will:

  • increase observation skills and awareness, enabling the viewer to "see" what the student is looking at.
  • inspire the investigation of natural design and function.
  • allow students to break complex subjects into workable large, medium, and small shapes by using the process of general to specific.
  • encourage students to cross the creative threshold of self-expression comfortably. Beginning around the 4th grade, students need examples and assistance for their drawing ability to mature.
  • increase self-confidence and freedom of expression.
  • demystify fine art and visual expression and make it more accessible to students.
  • proclaim to students that we are all art students together (if we use both sides of our brains).
  • propose that the main differences between an experienced art student (artist) and young art students are an understanding of process and practice, practice, practice.
  • demonstrate that people who can write their names can draw (with desire and practice).
  • help students communicate ideas, solve problems, and express themselves.

Related Artists/Art Works

  • All the numbered reproductions are available from Art Connection (see the resource list on page 22). Download the Art On-Air guide for these resources.
    John James Audubon, *Wild Turkey (#7534, $22 retail), *Mallard Ducks, Cardinal Gross Beak, American Gold Finch
    Debra Butterfield, *Untitled (horse sculpture, Speed Museum Collection)
    Albrecht Dürer, *Young Hare (#2040, $9 retail), Little Owl (#2033, $7 retail)
    Charles Landseer, The Sutherland Children (Speed Museum Collection)
    Pablo Picasso, Bullfight (#5105, $18 retail)
    Frederic Remington, Arizona Cowboy (#1146, $3.50 retail)
    Norman Rockwell, A Boy and His Dog-Pride of Parenthood (#2684, $7 retail)

* Particularly good examples to use with students.

Additional Examples

  • John James Audubon, Robin, Canvasback Ducks
  • Albrecht Dürer, Squirrels (#2037, $8 retail)
  • Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Evening (#1003, $3.50 retail)
  • Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Skull with Brown Leaves (#7573, $25 retail)
  • Paulus Potter, The White Horse (#1123, $3.50 retail)
  • Frederic Remington, The Scout: Friends or Enemies (#1197, $3.50 retail)
  • The Yoruba People, "Carved Door Panels" (coiled snake carving, Speed Museum Collection)

Connections to Educational Standards

The following Kentucky Academic Expectations are all related to Drawing Animals:

  • 1.13: Students make sense of ideas and communicate with the visual arts.
  • 1.3: Students make sense of the various things they observe.
  • 2.22: Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view.
  • 2.23: Students analyze their own and others' artistic products.
  • 2.24: Students appreciate creativity and values of the arts and the humanities.
  • 2.25: In the products they make and the performances they present, students show that they understand how time, place, and society influence the arts and humanities such as languages, literature, and history.
  • 2.26: Through the arts and humanities, students recognize that although people are different, they share some common experiences and attitudes.
  • 5.1: Students use critical thinking skills such as analyzing, prioritizing, categorizing, evaluating, and comparing to solve a variety of problems in real-life situations.
  • 5.2: Students use creative thinking skills to develop or invent novel, constructive ideas or products.
  • 6.3: Students expand their understanding of existing knowledge by making connections with new knowledge, skills, and experiences.

Materials Needed

  • pencils (2b, 4b, 6b, or any drawing tool)
  • eraser (gum, kneaded)
  • paper (drawing or all-purpose)
  • models (Photographs or pictures from such sources as Audubon, Ranger Rick, National Geographic, or nature posters may be used-the larger the better. Mounted animals are preferable; these can sometimes be borrowed from university biology or history departments, parents, taxidermists, museums, or other sources.)

Alternative Materials

  • watercolor pencils and markers
  • watercolor brushes (larger for wash, smaller for detail)
  • watercolor paper

Other approaches could include any drawing tools and paper.

Vocabulary Used in the Lesson

  1. awareness
  2. blocking in
  3. color
  4. composition
  5. contour line
  6. creativity
  7. crosshatching
  8. cylinder
  9. demonstration
  10. edge
  11. foreshortening
  12. form
  13. geometric shapes
  14. negative space (shape)
  15. pushing
  16. realistic art
  17. sighting (sight measuring)
  18. value

Lesson Instructions

Pre-Lesson Inspiration

Students are highly motivated by animals and have an urgency to communicate the subject with believability and accuracy. As young art students mature, their technical drawing ability generally requires demonstration and assistance from a more experienced artist. Once students see the process broken down, they can apply it to any subject. Showing examples of realistic art highlights the beauty, design, and information that inspired the artist to apply the required discipline and effort. After students can express themselves realistically, other modes of expression are opened up.


The best inspiration is the real thing. Animals have complex detail and exact proportion difficult to see in a living, moving creature. Using borrowed mounted animals as models, students can take their time to follow each step of the demonstration. If such models are not available or if you have a personal objection to using them, photographs may be used as described under "Materials" above. While students work, each animal is demonstrated to round out the example and increase the understanding of the process. Personal assistance and encouragement should always be available.

  1. Have students align their pencils to the subject and find the longest, straightest lines vertically and horizontally, then lightly start placement on paper. They should block in with pencil and lightly draw the largest, most basic shapes. Next they add medium and smaller shapes.

    *Helpful hint: Have students check their drawing using measurement, at least by comparing height to width. With their arms straight toward the subject, they hold the pencil perpendicular. Then they should sight over the top at the edge of the animal and slide the thumb down until they sight the measurement.
  2. Have students round off the geometric shapes with a more naturalistic contour line. At this point, they define features (eyes, ears, and nose) and other medium-size areas.
  3. Have students fill in areas with lines of information (i.e., textures, colors, values, size/length, and direction). They should emphasize how the lines follow the form; for example, radiating lines around a cylinder (a tail) brings out the form or creates a three-dimensional effect. Having one main light source on the subject brings out light, medium, and dark values. Pushing or exaggerating the value range and textures in line clarifies the drawing. Suggest that students finish the work with some suggestion of grass or the animal's natural environment.
  4. As a final check, tell students to squint at their drawings, closing their eyes almost all the way, to see the strongest lights and darks. Generally, good value range makes a work more visible and follows a formula of 1/4 lights, 1/4 darks, and 1/2 middle values.


After the pencil process is practiced and understood, students could add color with watercolor pencils and/or markers. They should continue to use lines of information rather than "color in" outlines. Using a damp brush and a little water can soften under edges and areas. The top and forward areas should be kept dry.


  • Survey how artists have responded to nature and animals from cave drawings to the present.
  • Cut out animal drawings, reinforce them with stiff paper, make a set, and choreograph a play showing actions and reactions between animals and between animals and people.
  • Concentrate on grade-appropriate themes: a backyard pond; Kentucky animals; endangered species; animals of the continents, history, or pre-history.
  • Create collages of animal photos in the shapes of states, continents, etc.
  • Take a photo trip to a zoo.
  • Illustrate poems, stories, or songs about animals, nature, and pets.


Field Trip Destination
Game Farm
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
#1 Game Farm Road
Frankfort, KY 40601
Call (502) 564-6508 for information about programs and materials available to schools. The Game Farm provides students with the opportunity to observe a variety of Kentucky wildlife.

Edwards, Betty. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Sources for Reproductions
Art Connection
Attn: Sue Jarvis
111 East Second Street
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 685-3770

John James Audubon reproductions are available from:
Audubon Museum Gift Shop
P.O. Box 576
Henderson, KY 42420
(502) 826-2247
Don Boarman, Director

Speed Museum Collection reproductions are available from:
J.B. Speed Art Museum
Gift Shop
2035 South Third Street
P.O. Box 2600
Louisville, KY 40201
(502) 636-2893 for tours

Available from Nasco Arts & Crafts
Art Lessons for Children, Volume 5 (videotape) ($29.95)
de Reyau, Rudy. How To Draw What You See ($16.95)
Foster, Walton T. How To Draw Dogs (also Horses, Animals, Cats, and Trees) ($6.95 each)
How To Draw Dinosaurs (also Animals) ($4.95 each)
Of Animals and Birds (art history) seven-print collection ($67.65)
The Usborne Complete Book of Drawing ($14.95)


Thanks to the J.B. Speed Museum for allowing KET to reproduce two images from its collection:
Deborah Butterfield, American, born 1949
Untitled (Horse), 1981
Paper and stick on wire armature
Height: 8'6"; Length: 14'; Depth: 3'
Acc. No. 82.1; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Heuser Sr.

attributed to Charles Landseer, British, 1799-1879
The Sutherland Children
Oil on canvas
Height: 23-3/4"; Width: 19-3/4"
Acc. No. 64.31.6; Gift of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951

Last Updated: Monday, 29-Dec-2008 15:23:24 EST