I have been trying to develop my own method to draw kittens because in my next film, a kitten is going to be a co-lead actor. So, he is different from other extra cats who basically won’t show their faces in closeup. Much more details are to be drawn with this kitten., but this has been very, very difficult for me.
I first found some reference photos of kittens which I thought would fit for the role of this particular kitten in the film. The problem is, the kittens in the selected photos were so different in their face outlines, shapes of the eyes, the distance between each face parts. So no matter how precisely I replicated the kittens in the photos, it did not directly lead to the establishment of my own way to draw “my” kitten for my film. I was almost to give up on my initial goal and I started thinking about an alternative approach. As I know the scenes where this particular kitten shows, I can prepare the required kitten drawings by finding and referencing appropriate photos for each one of these scenes. Technically, this is a much easier and quicker way if all I want is to complete this particular film. Honestly, though, I was pretty reluctant to take this approach because :
A) it is too inflexible. Once I decide to change the scenes, I have to start from photos searching all over again.
B) I was not completely sure yet whether it was really “impossible” for me to develop a way which is natural and comfortable for me to draw lovely kittens.
I suspected if it might be just a question of time spent and numbers of the tries I made to achieve this goal. Given that it was 14 August I first tried drawing a kitten seriously, I could not possibly say that I invested good enough time in developing my method to draw kittens!
So I decided not to take the alternative approach at this point of time and chose to go on with my initial goal.
While I was producing lots of unsuccessful kitten drawings, I gradually felt that the occasions where I felt unsure or uneasy with my drawings were getting lesser. And then one day it somehow occurred to me to draw a kitten without looking at any reference photos because I had a feeling that the pressure kept me from arriving at where I wanted to be; the pressure that my drawings had to be more or less close to reference photos to achieve a certain level of realism. I am not a rigid believer of super-realism but rather think that artists need to acquire good enough skills to utilize realism to make their works convincing. And that level of realism can be achieved without relying on photos. What I was doing was not portrait drawing but rather character development. After I drew kittens so many times, I should have grasped the most of the points to cover to draw a kitten in a convincing way. So I decided to start drawing kittens without looking at any photos.
At my first attempt, I had a good feeling. I had long been struggling with the facial contour of kittens, but by trying to draw the line so that it would overlap the shape of a kitten face in my mind well enough, I was able to achieve something like the one on the left:
Well, just look at what terrible things I was doing only a couple of days prior to this…
These trial-and-errors show how unclear my vision was for what I wanted as the final results. I tried to forget about the images of the photos and replace them with the vision of the complete works I wanted.
This effort finally worked, and the sense of freedom I got was just indescribable. I tried drawing a kitten with the same approach over and over with a slight modification for each of them in order to make my method more solid.
This has been a really rewarding learning journey. While you are working on a skills development and yet to acquire your methodology for success, you tend to be fed up with your own low productivity.
But once you got it, you can create anything you want, go wherever you want as your imagination spreads and soars.
This is the real reward for your training and persistence; the sense of freedom and release to create what you envision.