I have always believed in thoroughly researching your subject matter. Of course, that’s easily said for me as I am a wildlife artist, and have loved animals from the time I saw my first elephant in the zoo. I have always had a passion for animals, and enjoy reading every last little detail about them.
Just to give you an example, when I lived in Laramie, Wyo., I signed up for a 7 day workshop in Jackson Hole; horse anatomy with Jon Zahoruk. The class was given in a rickety old barn on the 2nd floor. The main floor was reserved for our models. We had several horses that were most accommodating; tweaking ears, picking up feet and feeling all the various muscles. Mr. Zahoruk had created a miniature skelton of a horse that was about 10″ x 16″. Each one of us purchased these miniature skeletons and used them as a model. We were also supplied with an ample amount of red clay, and each day we sculpted and attached each muscle on the skeleton. Every afternoon, we spent time discussing the purpose for each muscle, and how it moved. I remember taking copious notes, and drawing diagrams.
Most North American Big Game animals (particularly the hoofed variety; big horn sheep, elk, moose, antelope, buffalo, etc) have similar structure. The information that I learned at this workshop has proven invaluable to me. When I am painting, or sketching, I feel very comfortable moving the animals legs, ears, and tails. Often, reference photos can be awkward, and being able to accurately move a leg or position is imperative to someone like me who paints exclusively animals. Creating a beautiful wildlife painting involves knowing your animal and accurately portraying them.