Need Eval and advice

Would like feedback on what’s good and or needs attention. I also would like advice on how to capture some of the background but not all of it. Yes there is a lot of pencil erasing. I also most tossed this picture but I figured I would follow trough and it would at least next time remind me of things I shouldn’t do. One of my biggest challenge is there so much plant life I didn’t know how to capture it all so I decided to just capture some of it. How would you approach it???


Hi Tom, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful drawing. I think this piece is very lovely, capturing the characteristics of a horse accurately and depicting it using delicate lines and excellent value balance.
As to possible approaches to the background, I recommend that you check some of your fellow artists’ works for reference. As far as I know, we have at least two super stars here at the forum when it comes to animal portraits. You can check Deb’s and Lori’s works posted in this forum to see how they handle the background for animal portraits. Blurring the background like you often see in animal photos is a pretty popular approach, which is helpful to make the focal point stand out. Some examples include Deb’s pastel pencils drawings of Robin Redbreast, and Lori’s pastel drawing of parrot, all of which are marvelous. If you want to choose this approach, you would perhaps need to:

  1. delete the plants parts you’ve included in your current drawing
  2. digitally edit the background part of your photo reference so that you can see how it will look when blurred
  3. draw the background all over again using the edited photo reference

Or you can also skip step 2 & 3 and choose to add a completely different background. You can, for example, draw some flying leaves, flowers swinging in the wind etc. to add a sense of movement to your work. You can even decide to leave the background empty or non-objective as this artwork is basically a portrait, not a landscape including a horse like this one.

That said, I will share with you a completely opposite approach too, which is mine actually.

In this cat&plantlife ballpoint pen drawing, I drew all of these tiny plants very clearly, but made the overall background pretty dark. By so doing, the cat in the middle, despite the fact that it is not so detailed as the surrounding plantlife, ends up shining as the focal point because it is a white cat (Matt mentions this in the critique, at around 8:45 of the video). Right now, your horse is pretty light in the value, so if you are going to maintain the value as it is, darkening the background in some way, not necessarily with plantlife, would be another effective approach to a successful drawing.

Hope this helps a bit, and thank you again for sharing your work ! :cat: :+1: :smiley:

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Maki, thank you for the inspiring words. Your suggestions are thoughts I had but being a new artist I am learning my creativity arrangements. I get stuck in the mind set. I need to draw all that I see but in reality I need to draw what I want to expose.

Your work and the 2 artists you suggested in reviewing their work is where I inspire to be over time. They are just wonderful. Thank you for the feedback. It was well received.



Hey Tom,
Your picture of the horse is really good. I would just make his head a little longer. As for the background, it’s all about values. Tom’s videos on background or: how to draw a tree. Simple but it shows how to use values without drawing every single leaf. But the way you drew horse’s hair you allredy know about values. By the way that was and still is my biggest problem: drawing hair.

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I agree that the length of the nose of the horse needs to be a little longer. When I draw a light colored subject I usually use a much darker background around it, or partially around it. I don’t know it this is graphite pencil but I think you could find something, if you used a pencil, you could use a softer pastel pencil that will allow you to smudge it. I think you need a little more contrast on the horse as well as the rocks. Where the mane is, put a smudge of dark up to it, where there it is darker, leave the white around it. I think this will make it pop and make it have dimention at the same time.


It looks good. Proportions are OK except for muzzle end of snout. The distance between buckles and eyes match about 1.5:1 but the distance from forward bridle to lips is less than 1:1 so it looks a bit off. The eye-side edge of bridle seems halfway between eye and lips in photo, but is most of way to lips in drawing. Overall good with some vertical exaggeration for hair which actually looks better.

A cheap $8 plastic adjustable divider / proportional divider is a wonderful tool to figure out what isn’t right when Finished since it lets you get the extents laid out at the very beginning. I do that and it fixed some of my proportion issues but hasn’t fixed my warping of dimensions and ovals/eyes being off axis/etc. Your Horse eyes have no issues (that I Normally bump into and look for now), just the nose in front of bridle looks too short and vertical is a bit stretched but not too horribly.

For background, can just leave it out and it would stand on its own. Since it is pencil, grey/white is all you have for contrast. Trying to add a background without distracting from the subject hasn’t worked out for me if I hadn’t tired it from the start with that in mind, and colors support another axis of contrast for background much better (colored pencils, markers, or pastels, etc)

Clean erasing - Get some of the brown “Art Gum” erasers that crumble while you erase, they are extremely messy but pull graphite off with just one swipe or two, instead of a smearing kind of erase like the white vinyl erasers (most common and what are in the Tombow Mono zero erasers). The white ones are great for not leaving a mess of crumbs and working pretty good, but the brown “gum crumble” ones really clean things up fast, especially smudges in areas outside of drawn/picture area.

Thank you for the input. The piece has gone thru some changes one of them was the proportional changes you had mentioned. I actually redrew it. I sometimes find it easier to do then erasing and correcting. I don’t do this for a living so all I wasted was a sheet of paper and learned a ton from my mistakes and this group. Your erasers I will check them out.

I agree that the horse head should be longer. For the background, I would do either a blurred form of plant life, but would pay attention to contrast more than background detail. The horse is the focal point and it would be ashame if the background ends up competing for attention rather than helping to focus on the horse.

You are off to a great start!