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Art Masterclass   

                       April 2010

Each month presents a feature from either The Artist or its sister publication, Leisure Painter.     

Art masterclass          

From The Artist, the monthly magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters, giving practical instruction in painting and drawing in watercolour, pastels and oils, as well as news of art events, exhibitions and competitions open to leisure artists;  





This Month:

How to draw a cat

A step-by-step demonstration using coloured pencils.

Cat Portrait






Cat Portrait by Susie Hodge


The secret to depicting cats is to be aware of certain cat characteristics before you make any marks. Once you are familiar with these elements you will be able to make convincing drawings of cats in all sorts of poses.

Start with a cat’s face. All cats’ faces can be built up with simple geometric shapes that form the underlying structure, with simple coloured pencil marks to develop the look of fur. Most objects can be broken down into simple shapes. If you look for these shapes in everything you draw, you will make the actual drawing much easier and once you are comfortable with the basic shapes of cats’ heads, their eyes, whiskers, ears and mouths, markings as well as long and short fur follow on quite logically.

Begin carefully, comparing proportions and distances as you go. Focus on these objective aspects rather than your subjective idea of what a cat looks like. For example, check distances between mouth and ears and angles of eyes; compare the size of the mouth with the size of the nose and ears – see everything as comparative shapes.

As you begin to draw, use a soft pencil with light pressure and erase earlier guidelines once you are ready to move on to the next stage. By using soft coloured pencils, you can create the appearance of fur, shine and solidity, depending on the point of your pencil, the way you apply the colour and where you make the marks.

Have a go at drawing this cat’s portrait. Once you’ve followed the instructions, you should be more confident to branch out and add a cat’s body or move the head to a different pose.

You will need…

  • Good quality paper, such as 130gsm cartridge paper.
  • A soft graphite pencil, for example 2B Caran D’Ache Supracolor Soft coloured pencils in light ochre, brown ochre, umber, black, grey, light olive and salmon pink.
  • For optional burnishing, you will also need white.
  • Eraser (battery operated eraser pens are effective for lifting highlights)
  • Pencil sharpener or craft knife.


stage 1Stage 1

Holding your pencil about 2-3cm back from the tip, draw a medium-sized oval or circle for the head. Within that, draw a smaller oval or circle, slightly emerging from the edge of the larger circle. This marks the basic snout shape.

Stage 2

At the top of the head oval, draw two diamonds – or V shapes above and below. Join the inner lines to the top of the smaller oval.

stage 3

Stage 3

Across the two diamond shapes, draw two small circles for eyes. Within the snout circle, draw a Y with a W shape at the bottom.



stage 4


Stage 4

Shape these circles into almond cats’ eye shapes by drawing curved lines over them as you see here. Also mark in the small leaf shapes to make the pupil of the eye. The nose becomes more nose-like with some curved lines and the ears begin to become more like cats’ ears with a couple of extra lines. Using your rubber, erase the guidelines as you see here.

Stage 5


Stage 5

Now you have the essential simple guidelines, you can shape the cat’s head more convincingly. Starting with the ears, shape around the triangular lines, adding slight curves on both sides. Add whiskers and erase guidelines carefully on the forehead and around the chin.


stage 6Stage 6

Once you have ‘cleaned up’ the guidelines with an eraser, you can begin using the coloured pencils and build up the impression of fur. Start with Supracolor light ochre and, keeping a sharp point, scribble short light marks in the direction of fur growth. For instance, the fur on the nose is very short and grows downwards, while the fur on the forehead grows up and over the head and the fur on the cheeks grows horizontally and is longer. Gently shade a little light ochre inside the eye around the pupil.

stage 7

Stage 7

Using black and umber – and keeping them very sharp – shape carefully around the eyes and in the pupil; note the highlight is left white. Scribble little lines in the direction of fur growth to create the look of tabby markings. Apply short grey lines downwardly under the mouth to form the chin fur. Use grey at the top of the eye and around the nose to build up tones. Add more strokes on the darker toned areas and fewer strokes where there are highlights.

stage 8Stage 8

To build up a realistic cat portrait, now all you need is patience and sharp coloured pencils! It takes time to scribble on the markings. You do not need to worry about every hair or each individual marking, but only apply general shapes and marks. Lightly colour in over the nose with the salmon pink and shade the eye area with light olive, making sure that you layer to make darker green arcs within the eyes to make them appear spherical. Build up tones by layering dark colours over each other in darker toned areas and leaving the whiteness of the paper showing through for highlights.


This demonstration continues in Start Art 4 with further tips and techniques for drawing a cat's fur.




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