Draw a Realistic Cat, Starting Meow!
Have you ever followed a bread crumb trail when scouring the internet which led to watching hours-worth of funny cat videos on YouTube? It’s OK. We are all friends here. I have done it, too — and on more than one occasion.
Although this post doesn’t include any funny cat videos (though you may want to venture off to YouTube cat land after this), it will focus entirely on cats. Because when it comes to drawing our feline friends like a pro, forms and shapes are everything.
If you want to learn how to draw realistic cats, or just practice your shapes and forms, then keep on reading! Below, artist Mark Menendez shares the most important aspect of drawing this popular subject. But if cats aren’t your thing, don’t worry. His tips can be applied to other subjects as well. Enjoy!
Colored Pencil: Understanding Basic Forms
Animal portraits created with colored pencil techniques are a popular subject in my classes and seminars, and many of my students want to learn how to draw cats. Whether shorthair or longhair, the feline form can be challenging.
The bulk of art instruction books and videos, especially those demonstrating colored pencil, focus on detail. I prefer instruction that focuses on basic forms. While the handling of detail is essential in any work of art, it is only one element in creating a drawing or painting of merit.
To me, the capturing of form, through a faithful rendering of light and shadow, is much more vital than detail. Therefore, as I teach, I have always put emphasis on first capturing form, whatever the subject, as revealed by the direction, position, quality and temperature of the light source illuminating the subject, and then applying the detail.
The use of basic forms is almost always included in the first few pages of every beginner drawing book or video. Yet I find students, whether my young artists or my “seasoned citizen” students, often want to skip past that section of the instruction.They prefer to get right to the details.
In my opinion, they’re skipping the stage of the drawing that renders the illusion of three dimensions. Why is this so?
Consider this: When someone sets out to bake a birthday cake, you wouldn’t start by mixing the icing and decorating by piping the borders, leaves and flowers. No, you would bake the cake first!
The two layers, one stacked upon the other, is the form upon which all the icing, borders, leaves and flowers is built. You can’t decorate without that foundational form underneath. And so it is with any three-dimensional subject you draw or paint.
Be One with Nature
The basic forms found most often in nature are the sphere, cone, cylinder and cube. When you observe the four basic forms, you may discover they each have a distinctive “shadow shape.”
Many times the shadow shape on a spherical form is in the shape of a crescent; the cone, a triangular shadow; the cube is identified by a quadrangular shadow shape; and on the cylinder, the shadow runs in a rectangular fashion, running along the sides of the form.
The feline form, as observed, can be created from the sphere (the head and body); the cone (the ears, snout and feet); and the cylinder (the legs and tail). After sketching a cat using the basics forms, you then observe the shadows and render the shadow shapes as observed on your subject,
With the shadows in place, then you can add the fur texture, features, and other details, As I repeat so often in my class, “Form first, details last!”
Want More Cat Drawing Tips?
It is easier than you may think to render lifelike cat drawings in colored pencil. In fact, in Mark Menendez’s video workshop, Colored Pencil Animals: How to Draw a Cat, he demonstrates techniques for making vibrant color, including scumbling, layering and blending; how to create form and shadow; lessons for drawing fur, whiskers and eyes; and more.
And speaking of eyes, check out the preview trailer below for an inside look into how Menendez captures that realistic sparkle, while getting a little creative with his color choices.