Friday, July 17, 2020


I love this drawing by British illustrator Raymond Sheppard (1913-1958) who was famous for his brilliant pictures of birds and animals. 

Sheppard wrote and illustrated several books on how to draw wildlife.  He honed his skills drawing at the London zoo, where his keen powers of observation enabled him to capture the special characteristics of everything from airy feathered creatures to rolls of fat on lumbering ungulates.

Note in the following detail how Sheppard follows the line of this hippo's spine to show us that there is a skeletal structure somewhere within this mountain of lard.  Also observe how that single leg props up his bulk as fat cascades over the top. 

I've never seen a better drawing of a hippopotamus.

In the following detail, we see Sheppard capture that ponderous head pressed against the ground. All the muscle and bone piled up behind him have collapsed in a jumble, giving up trying to keep that head aloft.

Sheppard achieves what photography can't do.  He clearly loved animals, and this love, combined with patience and a keen eye, reveals what's happening both inside and out of this hippo.

In my view, this is what on-the-site, observational drawing is all about.


MORAN said...

Awesome drawing!

Anonymous said...

For a second I thought the drawing was one of Meheut Mathurin's - which I mean as a complement . I was the Al who ordered the Shaeffer book and will not be requesting a refund - great job . William Smith deserves a volume , as do so many . I can't recall you ever commenting on Robert McKinnis , not your cup of tea ? Just curious .

Best , Al McLuckie

chris bennett said...

I've never seen
a better drawing
of a hippopotamus.

There's something about that phrase of yours David... Maybe it should be the title of your memoirs... :)

Anonymous said...

You don't see drawing like this anymore. This is from the days before photo-realism. Beautiful.


kev ferrara said...

Amazing how great drawing makes any subject elegant.

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- Agreed!

Al McLuckie-- I knew Mathurin for his watercolors but was not familiar with his animal sketches until your comment sent me looking for them. Thanks! And special thanks for investing in the Schaeffer book, I appreciate it. I agree with you about William Smith, he is terrific. As for McGinnis... well, I've commented on him here from time to time and I think there is much to admire about his work. However, with the passage of his time his ladies became more and more distorted, and that became more and more of a distraction for me. I won't second guess anyone's taste in feminine pulchritude; there's someone out there for everyone. But I'd look at McGinnis' gaunt, 12 foot tall beauties who looked like they'd just been extruded through a copper wire machine, and wonder if he was illustrating a book about invaders from Mars.

chris bennett-- That thought does not displease me.

David Apatoff said...

JSL-- I agree. Many artists who today have the advantage of a lot of shortcuts and have forgotten the benefits of taking the long way. But it's still there, on the slow road, and you can see it in drawings like this.

kev ferrara-- yessir.

chris bennett said...

David, that puts me in mind of something Kev said a while back. I'll have to paraphrase him and add a little set up of my own because I can't remember his formulation.

Shortcuts are only possible on the surface, but in depth there are none.

Tom said...

Nice! Actual recorded terrain!
Thanks David

Anonymous said...

will you cover illustrators like Kim Jung Gi