Sketching at the Cincinnati Zoo

Drawing animals from life is a great way to learn. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens has a variety of animals to draw from and a pleasant grounds to walk around. This Wednesday I spent the morning sketching with many talented illustrators from the local area through an event hosted by the Cincinnati Illustrators Group. Afterward we enjoyed Vietnamese cuisine at Pho Lang Thang in Findlay Market.

After lunch I wanted to get in some more sketching so I returned to the zoo, beginning my studies with the Reptile House. One of the zookeepers was showing visitors a Yellow Rat Snake, and I had the privilege of "posing as a tree" for the snake to feel comfortable around.

My sketches began with the Chinese Alligators whose habitat can be seen in the middle of the Reptile House (the space surrounded by a circular railing in the photo of me with the Yellow Rat Snake). I began with these interesting creatures because they don't really move around a lot, and you can really get into studying their visual form and detailed texture.

With animals that move around more, I found myself doing series of sketches portraying the various positions. Some of these aren't flattering, but they're good practice nonetheless (for instance: a back view of an elephant).

The owl in the top left is a Spectacled Owl and a personal favorite of mine. They're located by an entrance, so the owl would often turn its head to see who was coming in, which offered me a chance to create a few studies at different angles. To the right of the owl sketches is a lemur, and I kid you not, the cartoon-like physique is what they actually look like when seated (such funny and cute creatures). Several animals were found sleeping, like the Crocodile Monitor, Aardvark, and Polar Bear, which offered me more time to get a likeness.

My brother and his wife got me a satchel bag for Christmas to put my sketchbook and drawing tools in, and I'm already thoroughly enjoying it! In the past I've used a backpack or a nylon stuff sack, but the satchel is the perfect solution for sketching in practicality and aesthetics. The strap slings across the torso, so that the bag can be swung around to the front to access supplies. I love it! Thanks to the satchel bag, I'm looking forward even more to my next sketch outing.