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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's Draw Warthogs

I have an upcoming illustration project that has warthogs in it. Before I begin, I am taking some time to familiarize myself a little better with these ugdorable creatures.

"I wake up in the morning, I look in the mirror, and I ask myself; just how did you get so good looking?"

I often do this before starting on a drawing that has animals or costumes I am unfamiliar with. (The drawings, not wondering how I got so good looking.) I like to do studies from life when I can, or photos when no models are available. 
As I draw from my reference, I try to commit everything I can to memory.  Most of this will happen automatically as you draw. Your brain beings to see certain things as correct and others as incorrect.  

Studies from photos

After you have worked from the photo it is amazing how much information your memory retains. Details you didn't realize you were taking in come back to you as you draw.  

From Memory

The next drawings, done from memory with no reference around, will lack the sharpness and realism of the ones worked from the reference, but they will have a little more personality to them and I usually find them more interesting. 

 Once I feel like I have a decent understanding of my subject I start on the final drawings for my illustration. 

 Warthog Tracker #1

Warthog Tracker #2 

Later on, when I am into the final illustration I will bring out my reference again to fact-check, and make sure I haven't put an extra leg in there somewhere.  My brain is good, but it has been known to trip over itself from time to time.  

Most of this method of handling reference with illustration I blatantly stole from the Disney artists.  On some films, like the Lion King, they would have workshops where they would bring in an actual lion and do life drawings of it before they began work on the film.  It was a very good way of both keeping the personality in the character, while at the same time making sure it is anatomically coherent and believable. 

To see this process clearly outlined and executed, check out Ian McCaig's Visual Storytelling Tutorial from the Gnomon Workshop. It is a really excellent demonstration and has been very influential for me in my approach to using reference.

This article is a re-post from an article on MuddyColors.blogspot.com.  To check out the original article and comments, click here.  


  1. I like the image of the sitting warthog. With its ears back, it kind of has an air of sympathy to it. Kind of like a dog who knows he's done something wrong.

  2. Super job Justin and I totally agree - the figures drawn from your imagination are a lot more interesting.

  3. Very insightful! Your sketches look beautiful.

  4. Thanks for sharing this process. I found it very useful as I'm currently drawing all kinds of animals that I'm unfamiliar with. I will definitely give your approach a try. Cool sketches btw, I especially like those trackers in the end, very menacing!

  5. Ugly animals are the most beautiful for an artist: extreme features, intense expressions, complex anatomy. A fluffy teddy bear is not a very challenging subject to sketch. I love your warthogs Justin as well as all your work! Congrats!

  6. That's a beautiful warthog up there at the top <3 I'm also quite the fan of the tracker. That pig's got attitude hehe

  7. Thanks for that glimpse into how you use reference, Justin. The warthogs definitely take on more personality as you draw them from memory and you're right, it's amazing how much you retain about a subject after you've drawn it using reference a few times. The final sketches of the warthog trackers have great personality and the poses are spot on.

  8. Could you tell me what kind of brown paper you use? I can't find any paper that looks like this, but I really like the stuff people draw onto them.