Learn How to Draw Land Animals - For the Absolute Beginner

To properly construct the figure of any subject you want to illustrate, observe the structure of its form and find what kind of shape that can resemble its body structure. The idea is to have a basis for portraying the mass of the figure. The basic shapes can be easily positioned upon your desired perspective or point of view.

here's an example of the process using a rhino as an example.  

  • Combine different kinds of shapes to obtain a good base. A rhinoceros has a large thick body and a big wide head. Aside from its muscular body structure, it has a very distinct body shape and thick legs.

  • Establish the main shape of a rhino based on the basic shapes you used. Rhinos usually have prominent bone structure. Their foreheads are large, and they have prominent eye holes and jawline. A head of a rhino significantly forms an arc due to curved shape of its skull combined with its horn.

  • Erase the base and complete the primary outline. Take note of the lines that overlap the other, this means that the portion is behind that part (the jawline and legs).

When you finally have the main outline, you can now proceed to shading. for this example, i will use a blended toning, or smearing. 

The idea is to blur the raw markings of the drawing tool (charcoal or graphite) to create a single solid tone. The linear shade and scribbles are merged into a smooth and formless shade value. A smudge stick is advisable if the shade you applied with your charcoal or graphite pencil is already as dark or as light as the value you desire.

The lightness and brightness of each gradation is adjusted by the number of layers you apply. 

To obtain a darker shade, apply another scribbled shading and repeat the process until you achieve the dark value you need. the process is repeated until you get the depth you need. 

Now let's proceed. 

  • Gently apply a shade on the portions that should be darker. A rhino has a noticeably detailed body contour, just follow the direction of the primary outline you have made to properly identify the certain planes of its body shape (like the plane on its legs and the plane right next to its jaw, etc..) the roundness of the trunk means that the center of the figure would have a brighter area (with implied light source coming from the front). 

  • Initiate the smearing to obtain the first layer of shading. Observe the highlights and the planes. The dark portions signify the change or shifting of the plane from the rhinoceros’ basically oval body shape (elongated sphere). The curving highlight and the sudden change in tone value indicate the different planes on its head and a thick prominent jawline.

  • Establish the different planes further by darkening the portions that should appear farther. Apply another shade with charcoal or graphite. Then smudge it evenly on their respective portions. If you are going to illustrate certain details on portions with a shade alone (like the ridges on the neck) smear this portion with strong and heavy strokes patterned on the detail, this will sync or fix the shade marks to the paper so it will not be smudged completely and blur out easily.



Increase the contrast of the image by applying a third layer of shading to the dark portions, and redefine the highlights with an eraser or a white charcoal. Convey the small details of the body to show the rhinoceros’ prominent bone structure. And then apply the shadows on their respective positions.

More detailed instructions and examples are available in the book "Learn How to Draw Land Animals - For the Absolute Beginner". Each of the step is thoroughly explained so it can be easily followed even by those who has no experience in drawing. More styles and tips are discussed, such as depicting the structures of figures, linear shading, etc. 



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