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Drawing a Lion

July 22, 2010


by Dennis Clark

What materials are used in this drawing?

What paper is used? Medium thickness smooth cartridge paper
What pencils were used? Graphite, 2H, B, 3B, and 6B
What eraser was used? Soft White Plastic


This was a quick sketch, as it were, to keep myself busy during a gap in a pencil Portrait Seminar I conducted recently. While the students were concentrating on the project and keeping themselves busy I made good use of the intervals of spare time. Below is the photograph I worked from :


Transfering to Paper


I used the grid method to enlarge the lion to the correct size. I always do my drawing on a separate paper the same size as the final drawing. I then transfer the drawing onto the final paper. This way I don’t have to erase any construction or grid lines afterwards.



I always draw and/or paint the eyes first before I really do anything else on the subject. Even if the eyes need a touch-up later I MUST be satisfied that the eyes show the character and mood of the subject. It is of no use if the subject is beautifully rendered and the eyes are “dead” . If I cannot get the eyes to look the way I want it to be I will scrap the drawing and begin a new one.

Initial Shapes


I suggest you start with the eyes and then progress to the nose area and then the mouth area. This is the most important area of the drawing. These must match up and dove-tail into each other and form a unit . These must depict the proportions and character of the subject. It must be a recognisable semblance. Spend as much time as necessary in this area before moving on.


Next start to define some of the other distinctive shapes like the ears.


Some basic shading is added to give moulding to the face, don ‘ t overdo it at this stage. The mane is also started to give shape to the face.

TIP: Leave the very darks until the very last.

Lower Mane


Because this area will be very dark, notice the rough shading in before completing this area.

Upper Mane


Define the mane with fast flowing strokes. Be careful and do not cover up the areas that indicate the highlights of the hairs.

Forehead & Nose


The eye area with extra shading applied. Notice the sensitive light shading and the directions of the strokes to indicate the slopes and different planes of the face surface.



The two dots indicate the max length I want the whiskers to be. With a very sharp craft knife cut a very thin slit (opening) at a slight curve. This thin slit is placed over the areas where I want the whiskers to be. We call this an erasing shield.


Now carefully and gently, with an eraser, erase along the length of the slit enough to clean a strip on the drawing. Don’ t erase across the slit. If you do you will tear the erasing shield. In order to give this white stripe volume on the drawing, carefully, with a sharp pencil, underline the white strip to give it a shadow line. With this same shield you can even erase out shorter whiskers.

Completing the Drawing

Next shade in the body of the lion to complete this drawing.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Don’t forget to post a pic of your lion on the FORUM, we love to see how your art is improving.

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