Our art lesson on 'how to draw a cat' is a step by step demonstration of the techniques involved in creating our pen and ink drawing.
At the start of any artwork, settling on your choice of medium is very important. It should be fit for purpose and sympathetic to the choice of subject. Pen and ink is the ideal medium for illustrating this subject as its jagged lines are naturally suited to creating the bristling texture of this angry cat's fur.
The first step in this drawing lesson is to sketch a basic outline of the head using a lead pencil. This outline is to establish the main shapes and proportions of the image and does not require much detail.
Give some thought to the compositional shape of the image on the page. The instability of the inverted triangular shape of the cat's head helps to increase its sense of threat.
Make sure that you sketch the image very lightly. It will act as a guide for your ink drawing and will be erased after the next stage.
The next step is to outline the sketch with ink using a mixture of line drawing techniques suitable for that medium.
Technique: Broken, unbroken and stippled lines.
Broken lines were carefully hatched at gradually changing angles to capture the bristling edge of the cat's fur.
Unbroken lines were used for the smoother areas such as the eyes, teeth and tongue.
Stippled lines were applied to suggest the more softly textured outlines such as the ears and the edge of the mouth.
In any portrait, the eyes and mouth are the most expressive features. There is no difference in our drawing of a cat.
These features should have a striking impact that lends a sense of drama to the image. This is done by using contrasting tones which are built up with layers of cross-hatching.
You can create a sense of drama in your drawing by using contrasting tones. For example, note how the cat's right tooth remains unshaded so that it contrasts with the dark tones of the tongue, whereas the left tooth is darkened to contrast with the light background. This technique, which is called a 'counterchange', highlights each tooth equally by contrasting it against its opposite tone.
Another tonal contrast is created by the hatching of the background to the left side of the mouth. This is done to highlight the tongue and chin and thereby increase their dramatic impact.
Detail: Using hatching and cross-hatching techniques to suggest tone.
Cross-hatching is a technique that you use to create tones with pen and ink.
To create an area of tone you 'hatch' a single series of parallel lines. In order to deepen that area of tone you 'cross-hatch' another series of lines at a different angle over the first area. You can further darken the tone by 'cross-hatching' more layers while changing the angle of hatching with each subsequent layer.
The secret of good cross-hatching is not to overdo the number of layers. The darkest areas of your drawing should still have the sparkle of white paper shining through them while the lightest areas should remain untouched.
The bristling fur on our cat is a complicated texture which is gradually built up in several stages using cross-hatching and stippling in a series of layers across the image.
The first step in building up the texture of the cat's fur is to lightly stipple in some of the darker sections of tone on the cat's face. This will also begin to establish the three dimensional form of the face.
The density of the fur is increased with another layer of stippling and the dark tones of the ears are built up with a mixture of cross-hatching and stippling.
The texture of the fur should be built up gradually in layers across the whole drawing. If you focus on one small area of the work and bring that to a completed state, you cannot accurately predict the finished effect. A more gradual approach to building up the drawing will give you greater control over the final result.
At this stage, after a lot of careful stippling, the texture and the tones of the fur are beginning to come together as one unified form.
The more jagged edges of fur around the outline of the drawing are applied in a series of hatched lines. Note how the angles of these hatched lines are gradually adjusted to suggest the direction of the bristling fur. They also radiate inwards, pointing to and increasing our focus on the facial features.
Further layers of cross hatching and stippling are applied to enhance the texture and unify the image.
Again it is important to emphasize that you should evenly build up the overall drawing as a unified image, avoiding the temptation to bring one area to a conclusion so that you can see the finished effect.
Detail: Using hatching and cross-hatching techniques to suggest texture.
As you are gradually building up the layers of texture and tone, you should begin to notice a satisfying balance between the blend of cross-hatching and stippling. This is the point where neither technique seems dominant but both contribute equally to the form of the image.
When you recognize this sense of balance, it is a good time to consider the drawing finished. If you take it further, you are in danger of overworking it.
In any drawing, you are seeking an overall harmony of the elements that you used to create it. In this case the careful composition of the shapes, tones and textures of the image collectively combine to communicate the unstable temperament of this angry creature.