Know your subject. The better you know your subject, the better you can express it in your artwork by adding your own knowledge to create something original with a strong narrative while compensating for little defects your reference photo might have. I created Unsuspecting from two photos reconstructing a scene I was often seeing among my kittens.
Choose your reference photo (s) with care. You can’t produce great artwork from poor reference photos. Good focus, good light is important but not enough. You also need something that “speaks” to you and will stimulate your creativity to make it even better. The reference photo is from Rod Barbee. When I saw the animals’ expression, I knew I had to draw them and created Snow Pals.
Know your strengths and use them well. This also means choosing the right medium and tools that will allow you to express them to their fullest. With King Of The Castle, it was choosing Pan Pastels to create this dramatic sky instead of my usual colour pencils.
Practice makes perfect. You learn from your trials and errors. By exploring your medium, trying new techniques and making mistakes yes, you will develop your skills and improve over time. With Shere Khan, I started using blue greens for the background and soon realised it was the wrong colour. I kept changing the colours until I ended up with something that matched his eyes and complemented it well.
Less is more. Sometimes your subject is so strong just on its own, that it is better to keep it plain as adding anything else would only detract from it. Keen Eyes was one of those. It had such an intense expression on it Handsome face, it didn’t need anything else.
Change the story. By using a combination of reference photos or changing the background, you can sometimes create a stronger narrative that will have more impact on the viewer. I loved the expression of the caracal in Anne Noël’s reference photo but made it more interesting by adding the butterfly (reference photo courtesy of Paul Lloyd) and it became The Butterfly Effect.
Challenge yourself to grow. Sometimes, the only way to grow is to go out of your comfort zone and tackle something totally different that will help you develop new skills. Cats have always been my favourite subject with the occasional dog, fox or other furry animal. This Iguana photographed by my friend Anne Noël looked challenging enough. Scales and Bark was undoubtedly the most technically difficult drawing I ever attempted.
Choose a strong title. The right title can add an extra-dimension to your artwork whether it is by adding a touch of humour, give your artwork a second meaning or make it more memorable. Having captured a very sweet scene of a kitten resting against this big toy mouse, I made it even more powerful and memorable by naming it Truce.
Artist ~ France Bauduin