Beauty and Animals

Art and beauty. A problematic relationship.


Told again and again that modernism was “ugly”, the modernists defended themselves by arguing that beauty is a superficial, bourgeois value and true art is about ideas, politics, the sublime. At the same time, since the 1970s – since the silver jubilee, exactly 25 years ago, when the Sex Pistols were number one – the anti-art tradition of Dada has been mainstream. In the serious art world of today, all this comes together in a pretentious and totally inaccurate belief that radical modern art has always rejected the beautiful.

Is being beautiful too easy?



A problem that many conceptual artists had with beautiful imagery was that it didn’t ask any questions, and was therefore seen as being dull and unprovocative.


Beauty tends to focus on the best parts of our society. Contemporary art is often about looking at problems and examples of injustice in society.

How the 20th century remapped the position of artists in society. Who were they making work for?

The church? nope


Pope asteroid

The state? Not so much.



The family?


A magazine illustration from circa 1950s. --- Image by © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis

So as all of these institutions were deconstructed and demolished we were left with art which was highly individualistic and trying to operate outside of these hierarchies and systems.

Part 2. Drawing plants and animals.

Now we will extend the skills we worked on in the last lesson and apply them to creating more organic shapes. Remember those planes in space? Of course you do, you made 20 of them. Well, now we’re going to add another element to these and create an ellipse ( that’s a circle in perspective) on our planes. After doing a few of these technical drawings we’ll loosen up and apply them to some drawings of plants and animals.

First lets look at the circle in what is called “planar view”. Here we can see that as we put the circle into perspective we can use the plane, and the cross sections, as guides to help us create a believable circle in space. Take 30 to 45 mintes to draw the two ellipses based on the examples below. It’s a good idea to sketch with pencil on the ellipse on the right. But do these with a felt tip pen or marker so you are forced to commit to the lines which you are drawing. Watch out for making your ellipse look too much like a football, or a UFO. The edges should slowly curve around the space.

Elipses, Lines, and Boxes


Now that we’ve got these out of the way lets loosen up, and apply these same principles to some more organic forms. There’s no need to measure, and be as exact as in the last exercise. Relax, and think about how perspective effects these drawings.

First we begin by drawing a clump of cacti. Then apply the same idea to a squash ( multiple planes in one object)


Cool. Now lets apply some other elements to these ellipses. An agave plant is a great example of how nature produces these types of “perfect” forms. Copy the drawings below quickly. Focus on the concept of how they were created, don’t just copy them. First build up the framework in which they will exist, and then slowly fill in the details.


Drawing Form

Now that we have got a good grasp of line, and the importance of varying our lines in our drawing we are going to continue on to another huge element of drawing/painting. That important element is form. Correctly understanding form will give your paintings/drawings more depth. Traditionally schools have taught students to look for four key forms. These are The Cube, The Cylinder, The Sphere, and variations and combinations of these forms.




Using combinations of these three basic forms can enable to draw virtually anything on the planet. It is no mistake that all of the 3D animation software available on the market utilizes these three forms. So why is this important for drawing and painting? So far we’ve been examining what we can see with our own eyes and trying to duplicate it, however, we must remember that we are trying to render the 3 dimensional world onto a 2 dimensional surface. These common forms are like letters which create words. To put it simply our brains know how to read these forms when we see them.

I want you to start seeing everything as if it were transparent in an attempt to better understand the underlying form which holds it all together. For hundreds of years people in figure drawing classes will often stand up and look at both sides of the model which they are drawing. They do this because they want to see how the whole form works together. The angle from which you look at a subject is important, and as an artist you want to gather as much information as possible about the subject you are drawing. That means thinking about what you can’t see, as well as can see. Keep your edges soft and rounded. We don’t want anyone to get hurt if your creature runs into them.

Drawing #15 Industrial Drawing of an animal

For this drawing I want you to find a picture of an animal, and draw it only using these basic forms. Think of yourself as if you are making a schematic drawing. You want to make a detailed blueprint of this animal because you are going to put it into a rocketship and blast it off to a foreign planet. Where no one knows what a French Bulldog (or the animal of your choice) looks like. 😉

This lesson is especially great for those interested in pursuing a career in 3d animation. Most people don’t realize, but all those characters in all of those big budget animation films start off with a sketch. That’s right. Good old fashioned pen and paper.

You may take up to 2 hours to complete this drawing. Make it as detailed as possible.


Now that you’ve dissected the ellipse from a mechanical perspective it’s time to loosen up and draw some freehand. You won’t be able to measure every time you need to draw an ellipse so it’s important that you start building up some muscle memory and learn to draw ellipses from your head. For this exercise continue to use a marker, or felt tip pen and draw a minimum of 20 ellipses on a page. Paying attention to the orientation of your hand and how you naturally draw, you’ll notice that the minor axis is almost always in alignment with your hand.  Once you’ve completed these draw a road going back into space at least three times and fit a series of ellipses onto the road.

The video below has more detailed instructions on how this is done.



1 drawing of each of the following.








Combine basic forms to build an animal 

Planar and perspective view of ellipse

Page full of freehand ellipses

3 roads in space filled with ellipses. 

Back to: Drawing I