Illustrator Owen Davey shares his tips for crafting incredible animals
Owen Davey is an award-winning Illustrator, living & working in Leicester, UK. He is primary illustrator for TwoDots which has been #1 in over 70 countries, as well as the illustrator of iPad App of the Year 2015 game, The Robot Factory.
His ongoing collaboration with Flying Eye Books has led to best selling titles: Mad About Monkeys, Smart About Sharks and Crazy About Cats. His work has been published in every continent except Antarctica, including picture books in UK, America, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, China, Sweden, Russia & South Korea. The latest in Owen Davey’s animal series Bonkers About Beetles explores the wonderful world of these six-legged creatures.
Describe your working process – Which digital tools and techniques do you use when creating /building animals and their facial expressions? Describe one or two and how they can be used:
When illustrating animals I always sketch them out first. I like to try and think in shapes as I work. To try and simplify down their essential features whilst I draw them. It makes it much easier for when I move into the digital phase, working with Photoshop to render them.
I collect reference of poses from similar shaped animals to help me get exactly what I want from the creature I’m illustrating.
Do you draw from life or reference materials? Which technique works best for you?
I pretty much always work from a collection of reference materials. Never work from one, because you may stumble into copyright issues, or at a more basic level, have accidentally chosen a weird-looking animal that is not representative of it’s species in terms of colouration or something. I tend to collect visual reference from documentaries, films, books and the internet. Sometimes I collect reference of poses from similar shaped animals to help me get exactly what I want from the creature I’m illustrating.
What are the main challenges involved with drawing animals realistically?
Getting their essence down on paper and not making them lifeless. Sometimes when I try to represent them too accurately they become a bit soulless. It’s only when I add in some of my own designed visual language that they start to take on a life of their own.
It’s only when I add in some of my own designed visual language that they start to take on a life of their own.
Do you have any advice for illustrators who are interested in drawing animals using handmade techniques and tools?
I always draw animals with shapes and try to think of their body or head shapes as a whole before I get into the nitty gritty details. Once you have the overarching shape of them pinned down, the rest comes much easier, and you don’t end up with a strange skew-whiff version of the creature.
This interview was originally featured in How to draw animals: 55 brilliant tips published by Digital Arts and written by Lisa Hassell.