Negative Drawing – Tiger’s ear

Alexandra emailed me to ask:

I was wondering if you would be able to give me some tips on a tiger’s ear I am drawing at the moment. The fur is really wiry and thin, and I’ve tried breaking it all down, but am not sure whether I should use the indenting technique or negative technique or both. Do I try and draw individual strands of fur, or not worry about drawing exactly what’s there?

Tiger's ear reference

First, don’t concern yourself with copying the photo. A split second after the photo was taken that area probably changed. Instead get an overall feeling for it, study it until you know it well, and then draw your interpretation.

Indenting works best in areas of high contrast, so you could use it where the hair is in front of the dark depths of the ear. Either use a fine needle or, as this is not white hair, use a hard sharp pencil, such as a 6H or even 8H. But don’t overdo the indenting, because it produces a very mechanical line that does not blend easily into surrounding drawn lines.

Personally, I’d use negative drawing for almost all of this with just a few narrow indented lines where those lines directly cross over others or where the background is dark.

Don’t be daunted by the seemingly complex task – split the job up into many stages, so you can more easily concentrate on each one. Start with the shadows between the hairs so you leave a network of white hairs. The next step is to begin working on those hairs one hair at a time. Tone each down as you think fit, to give it shaping and form, and decide at each junction or crossover if your hair is beneath or in front of the other hairs. Have fun! Seriously, don’t stress about it – take it in easy stages and just watch it grow.

Finally, you can use layers of overall tone if you need to push any areas further back, or lighten with Blu-Tack or a kneadable eraser to bring it forwards.

I hope that helps. It looks like a great project!

You can view Alexandra’s work at: