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Original Examined Series - 1

Posted by Matthew Bell on
Original Examined Series - 1 - Matthew Bell Wildlife Art

In the Originals Examined series of posts I will focus specifically on one artwork in each post and talk about my process in completing that artwork.

I generally do not have a specific, strict process in completing my original drawings, however over time I have developed certain skills and techniques that I use to help me produce the best possible artwork I can and this is what I will discuss in detail for specific drawings in this series of posts

Artwork 1: African Wild Dog (WD4)

African Wild Dogs have long been a favorite of mine to draw and my Wild Dog originals I feel, are definitely some of my best. They are, however time consuming to draw (as is any animal with fur as each and every strand has to be drawn in individually)

Outline and proportions

As with any new drawing, I started this one by drawing in the outline of the animal with a light grey pencil (an HB, F or H pencil is what I would normally use here). As I am doing this I am also drawing in the main features like the eyes, nostrils, mouth, outlines of different colored patches of fur etc. This is a vital part of any drawing for me as I need to get this perfect in order for the proportions to be on point. Proportion in any animal or bird artwork is so important and not getting this right can ruin an otherwise very good drawing. I therefore take my time with this 'step' and keep checking and rechecking that each part of the animal is correctly proportioned compared to other parts


Once the majority of 'outlining' is complete I than start the shading/coloring in process. My first step here (with a colored pencil drawing) is to get an overall idea of the main underlying color of the subject as this is the first light layer that I will draw in. In this particular drawing, a light yellow is the main underlying color and so I colored in basically the whole drawing with this color as my first layer. It is very important to start the layering process with a light color and work your way darker because you can layer dark colors on top of light colors but not the other way round

At the same time as I am constructing the initial layer of color pencil I am also usually also fully completing the eyes of the animal. Getting the eyes perfect is one of the most vital aspects of any drawing and this is why I like to finish them first and then fill in the rest of the drawing around that. The eyes of this Wild Dog have an orange tone and I therefore started the layering with the same light yellow pencil as mentioned above and worked it darker until I had the desired orange color. The last step with the eyes was to get out my milky pen and put in the small white dot of light to really bring the eyes to life

I quite often like to focus on one specific area at a time when drawing an original and with this drawing I would jump between the construction of the overall layers and working on a specific part like an ear or the nose or a specific patch of fur.

The fur

I was also very careful in this drawing, as in all 'furry' animal drawings to remember that each and every strand of fur is important for the overall look of the finished drawing. The fur on this Wild Dog does not all go in one, straight direction but is at different angles across the whole animal which is directly related to the muscles underneath this fur, which is why drawing the fur correctly is vital for that realistic look which I aim for. Finally I used my various shades of black and brown pencils for the darkest areas of the drawing and also brought out the milky pen again to add in patches of light and help to create that 3D effect and make the subject really stand out from the paper

Once I am finished with a drawing I will usually leave it for a day or two and then when I come back and look at it with 'fresh' eyes I notice little things I had missed before that I need to adjust and all the small finishing touches that need to be added

This original took me around 23 hours to complete and is currently hanging on the wall of a home in the town of Hout Bay, South Africa. I will be back soon to discuss another one of my original drawings in post number 2 of my Originals Examined series

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