Research Before Drawing

I routinely conduct research about whatever it is I plan to draw, to be able to correctly illustrate things. Searching for the general facts, like sizes, colors, friends & enemies and next finding good photography. First, I envision the character realistically. Next, heavily simplifying the lines. Next, the challenge becomes giving them some human capabilities while retaining realistically identifiable specie characteristics. Here are some sketch examples.

rhino research sketch 4 rhino research sketch 6 rhino research sketh 7

I had no idea!

When I did the research on rhinos I found that I was totally oblivious to their plight. I had no idea that they were so close to extinction. The White Rhino is one of 5 quickly disappearing species of Africa, and Eurasia. Rhinos live in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannah, shrub lands, forests and deserts. Unfortunately, with numbers dropping so drastically, many remain only in wildlife reserves now. The main factors driving the rhino population to extinction:

  • increasing human population creating less and less habitat for them
  • wars and militia massacres
  • greedy poachers

rhino research sketch 5Poachers kill approximately 3 rhinos each day to sell their horns for highly inflated profits. Poachers are the worst threats, very much like drug smugglers or cartels. Honestly, money is most important thing to them. Insidious criminals with no conscience.

Research the Horns

rhino research sketch 8Poached rhino horns are purchased by two major markets in the world. The Chinese and Vietnamese mistakenly believe that magical medicinal properties exist in rhino horn. Not true. Rhino horns are made of “Keratin” which, is what human fingernails and hair are comprised of. If, Keratin is a magical medicine, we don’t have to kill the rhino’s for it. Honestly, anyone needing “keratin” can simply chew on their own fingernails or hair and get the same results.

This horrific act of killing rhinos and harvesting their horns, makes me ashamed to be a member of humanity. I wish it would stop.

Pen & Ink Characters

Pen & Ink is fun

Insects in pen & ink
insects with pen & ink pens

I was looking for an pen & ink character project to work on, flipping through a stack of unfinished or abandoned projects that I am gradually completing, as time allows. Suddenly, I found a old cute rhino character, a male baby on a mission. Looking at this sketch, my artist brain immediately kicked into high gear thinking random thoughts;

  • Maybe a female baby rhino would be better…
  • She could wear a ribbon in her hair or maybe even a ruffled skirt…
  • Hey, there is room for improvement with what she is doing here…
  • It is kind of boring, sweating in the heat all by herself…
  • I could add another character for her to talk to…
  • Hey, the environment needs to change here…
  • I know, I’ll add radical thorns on a cactus plane…
  • Maybe erase this over here.

Before I knew it, a whole new scene and character had emerged. Now, that is something worth inking and

I was ready to go.

Riva the Rhino is hot! She asks, “Where is the water?”

“Turn around, it is back that way,” says the caterpillar on the cactus.

Riva the Rhino
16″w x 10″h pen & ink on 140lb wc paper. A baby rhino is asking a caterpillar in a cactus plant where the water is at.

Next, I found myself looking for “R” names for a girl. She is a rhino so she needs a R name for sure.  I found a perfect name, “Riva” which means “regain strength” in Latin. Riva the Rhino. The rhino population needs to regain it’s strength in numbers really bad. Check out my next post to see what I learned from researching rhinos.

I think Riva the Rhino, could be a real interesting character for an ongoing comic strip or children’s book. What do you think?