For those of you who are curious, I started this thread for the benefit of bumskee, who asked me to please explain how I do animals.
I intend this to be a full participation thread, so please post your efforts. Don't just say: "I'm having trouble!!!" and don't post anything! I will crit, and I hope others will do so as well. If this thread is pretty far along and you just noticed it, feel free to start at the beginning as it were - I'm here to teach (and learn, hopefully!). If you notice any mistakes that I make, or find something hard to follow, PLEASE TELL ME! I am still learning as well and I would greatly appreciate better artists' critiques and posts!
Now, to drawing! When drawing animals, always always ALWAYS start with anatomy. I can't emphasize that enough. What good is it if your rendering is fabulous but the legs bend the wrong way? Anatomy books on animals are hard to find - at least, I've had a hard time finding them. The absolute best one I know is "The Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists" It covers in detail horses, cows, lions and dogs; and delves a little bit into various other animals. Lacking this, the internet is a great resource. Just google 'squirrel skeleton' and you're sure to find at least one.
Here are some examples of why it's important to start with the bones:
Top one is a lion, bottom a squirrel. If you didn't study the anatomy, you would probably never figure out that a squirrel's shoulder blades don't come down like a cat's, but lie across the back like a human's. Studying real animals is great up to a point, but sooner or later you will have to sit down and draw the bones to figure out WHY a horse's leg bends the way it does.
Once you study the bones from several different angles, you'll feel comfortable enough to start moving parts around. One great exercise I did was to take a horse calender and draw the horses in it as skeletons. It gives you a wonderful feel for how the bones move and twist.
After drawing skeletons of your animal of choice, next you'll do gestures.
Gestures are NOT finished drawings! They are loose, usually light (I did mine intentionally dark so you could see) and can scribble all over the place as you try and figure out placement.
I think this is a good place to stop for now. Okay, everyone's homework is to pick an animal, and draw it's skeleton from a variety of angles. DRAW FROM REF!!! Now is not the time to be inventive. As the old cliche says, first you must know the rules before you can break them! A good variety of angles would be to pick two or more of the following: front, side, rear, and top view if possible. If you can find a view of a skeleton from underneath...gold star!