A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Clara Vulliamy: How to draw an anthropomorphic animal

Anthropomorphic animal characters populate children’s books in droves. Why this is so is a subject for another day – today is all about a sharpened pencil and breathing life into the line on the page.

This is how to draw Dixie O’Day’s best pal Percy. Whether you are small or not so small – have a go, and do please tweet me your masterpieces!

Start with the ears, nice and perky. I use a very soft pencil (this is an 8B graphite stick).


Then add a plump face, without worrying about symmetry.


Position the features high up for emotions in the upper register, like happiness or surprise…


or lower down for anxiety or caution…


Profiles are perfect for snoutiness, and communicating with other characters of course.


When it comes to an anthropomorphic body, I try not to think too much about what’s going on under the clothes – it would be an intrusion after all. And personally I’m not a fan of tails coming out of the back of trousers (to me it has a feel of the real animal only just contained, longing to be free – and besides where do they find a tailor to sew the special holes required?).
Instead I go for stout and exaggerated proportions,


and try to get them up on their (little) feet and moving as soon as possible. Again, exaggeration is the key: I look at people in action and make each moment simply more so.


The final detail, left until last, like the dot on an exclamation mark, is an eyebrow.


Right up off the face in moments of great feeling, which in truth is Percy’s usual state of mind.

claraPortraitClara Vulliamy
I was born in London, daughter of author illustrator Shirley Hughes and architect John Vulliamy. My first experience of making pictures was being allowed to use up my Mum’s paints at the end of the day, which was like scraping the icing out of the bowl after baking.
I studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art, The Ruskin and The Royal Academy. After graduating I began illustrating in newspapers and magazines, and doing a weekly cartoon in The Guardian. I started writing and illustrating children’s books when I had a family of my own, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve made around 30 books, including The Bear with Sticky Paws, Lucky Wish Mouse and Martha and the Bunny Brothers.
I live in Twickenham with my husband, our two grown-up children and a gang of cheeky guinea pigs.


This entry was posted on July 15, 2015 by .

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