Wednesday 30 March 2011


When I came across the photograph of this big cat, I felt I just had to have a go at drawing it. Thoughout the process I've been thinking of this fine animal as a Cheetah, but I've been looking at other images on the net and am fairly sure this is a Leopard.

I know some of friends will tell me I shouldn't mention my mistakes but my blog, web site and art forum are aimed at beginners who may well find themselves in the same situation one day, so for them here are two things I could have dealt with better.

Firstly, I was working from a colour photo so I converted it to greyscale to help me get the tones correct. A leopards markings involve a brownish-goldy colour and black spots. By converting to grey, I lost the goldy colouring completely. Had I referred back to the colour version from time to time I would have noticed this. The second mistake was leaving the white whiskers until last. I completely forgot all about them and by the time I got to them they would have been difficult to do, so I opted for black whiskers.

I also used hard pencils for the first time. My normal selection is HB, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B. For this drawing I  used 5H, 2H, HB and 6B. Fewer pencils but a broader range. I had expected the hard pencils to not produce a very black line but was pleasantly surprised.

Different pencils and two serious mistakes ... am I disappointed? No ... I am three more step along this wonderful journey of discovery.


  1. John, your willingness to share your 'errors' although very slight (ok,ok, so a cheetah is not a leopard, do they know that?) LOL ! and just shows that you are gaining confidence in your work.. and it will help others along their way. Trying different techniques, pencils just goes to reinforce that learning process, you know the saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" .
    We seem to forget,, It's only PAPER we can always do another.

  2. I think you're being too hard on yourself, John.

    I'm not sure what you mean about the brownish-gold colour: do you mean that there should have been more shading? I think that might have detracted from the striking pattern of the spots.

    I don't think the black whiskers matter in a monochrome image. White would have been very difficult to do.

    The main thing is that you have got the essence of the animal. Anyone who has seen a leopard will recognise that pose. I can almost imagine that tail giving a menacing flick!

  3. Thanks Barbra Joan. I'm not sure about the "gaining confidence" bit, but I'm certainly trying different things and loving it.

  4. Keith, the brownish markings are mid-tones in the centre of each cluster of black spots. They didn't show up at all in my greyscale ref photo. It's not a huge problem and I don't like the drawing any less as a result, but if I'd have kept one eye on the colour photo it would have produced a more accurate drawing. Just another small tip that comes with experience.
    Thanks for posting - as always, I appreciate your comments very much.

  5. Wow! John, this is pure genious! You really are a master of your pencil!
    I'm also pretty certain that this is a leopard :0)

  6. John, you are a formidable character when you have a pencil in your hand. In your case, I feel the pencil is mightier than the paintbrush!
    I think it's OK to do the whiskers in black - white would not have shown up well in this instance - even a white whisker would have a shadow side to it.

  7. Thank you Frank. I think I need to do another painting though. I think you'll agree that much of what we do is affected by our confidence, and as I work more with pencil, so my confidence with painting is fading - not that I ever had a great deal. LOL.


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