Field Trip! Drawing Animals at the Zoo

Editor’s Note: We know you love Lee Hammond and her books on how to draw. To give back, today we’re giving you the chance to WIN* a copy of Lee’s Lifelike Drawing in Colored Pencil AND Lifelike Drawing. Simply read Lee’s newest guest blog post here and then share a comment below and tell us where your favorite zoo is, and what you’d enjoy drawing there. Good luck! ~Cherie

It’s “FUN ART,” not fine art…

I recently started a new adventure, expanding my art and teaching career. For years, I have taught realistic drawing and painting, showing people how to create framable fine art pieces. There are few things more rewarding than creating a true work of art, and seeing it framed on the wall.

But, not all art has to be so complicated and not all art has to be framed and hung. Art doesn’t have to be so serious! Sometimes, art should just be fun!

Drawing animals at the zoo | Lee Hammond,

A fun drawing of a giraffe. I teach the students how to see proportions, and capture shape. Click here to check out my drawing books at North Light Shop.

I have started teaching at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, here in Naples, Florida. On Saturday mornings, I guide a group of students through the magnificent zoo grounds, and show them how to quick sketch, just for fun.

I realize that many have some strong opinions about zoos in general. While I totally disagree with roadside zoos and inadequate care for animals, I believe the large state or federally funded zoos have an important place in our world. Many do not realize that they provide much-needed research to keep our earth’s species safe. Developing new medications, offering safe places for injured animals that cannot be returned to the wild and studying the evolution of the species is critical. The larger zoos do a great job of offering sanctuary to animals, in the most natural setting as possible.

For instance, we have a panther at the Naples Zoo that was shot in the face. He was blinded, and found living off of road kill since he could no longer see to hunt. He now is happy and healthy, living out his years in safety.

Drawing plants at the zoo | Lee Hammond,

This drawing is what I call “stylized.” It’s more animated than a realistic rendering.

To help people understand the zoo’s importance, I have a zoo employee assigned to me as I teach. Rolando helps me keep my group together, since it’s hard to head-count all of the time in that type of environment. Rolando has worked there for 16 years, and he can answer all of the questions about what people are seeing at the zoo.He has created many of the natural enclosures that the animals live in. He’s also an artist, so he sketches right along with us. I give the students info about drawing techniques, and he gives them info about the animals and plant life.

I alternate two different classes. One is about drawing flowers and nature. Florida is full of beautiful plant life, and the zoo grounds are filled with palm trees, ferns and foliage. Some have gorgeous, huge leaves.

The students carry a small sketchbook and a mechanical pencil. I show them how to realistically and quickly sketch the characteristics of different plants and trees as we walk around enjoying the environment. At the end of the tour, we go to a picnic area, where I share colored pencils and markers to add color to our sketches. None of it is serious art, it’s just “fun art.”

The other class is about animal drawing. I show them how to draw the animals, even when they’re moving. We often take a reference photo of the animal with our cell phones to finish the drawing later. As we walk from one exhibit to another, Rolando gives them the history of all the animals. It’s such a fun and curious adventure.

In memory of Harambe | Lee Hammond,

All zoos have a kindred spirit with one another. When something happens to an animal, we all feel it. Now that I am connected with the Naples zoo, I created a drawing of Harambe, the gorilla who was killed recently. This drawing is a gift from myself, and the Naples Zoo, to the Cincinnati Zoo. Through my art, we can show our condolences and compassion and link ourselves together in our love of animals.

What I found by teaching these classes is that we remember things so much more when we draw from life. When we’re drawing, all five of our senses are fully involved. It commits our experience to memory, much more that just looking at things or taking a photograph. When I look at the sketches we have created now, I can remember everything, right down to what we were talking about at the time.

I’m looking forward to this new aspect of my teaching, and sharing with people my love of art, flowers and animals. It is so much fun.

The other neat aspect of this is that it requires no experience. Anyone can do it, and many who have signed up have never drawn before. This is a great way to introduce someone to art and drawing, because the end result has no expectations as with more formal art classes. Many have avoided formal art classes in the past, due to feeling artistically challenged. But in these classes they’re having fun doing “FUN ART,” where there is no fear of failure. But, should a new love of art be born, they can then sign up for my art workshops to hone their skills even further.

There are a thousand different ways to create and teach art. I full intend to create some more, so stay tuned!
Happy drawing…

*Open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen August 31, 2016.

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

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15 thoughts on “Field Trip! Drawing Animals at the Zoo

  1. jonesy1260

    First, let me say that I am impressed with what u are doing for these animals. Being the animal, and art lover that I am, I always want as much info as possible about them, and it moves me that art, and animal preservation are being melded together in this way. Nature is so spectacular.
    I have only been to the zoo in St Louis, MO. I have taken my kids, and we attend events. The lions have always given me the biggest thrill. They are so majestic, and elusive. I want to learn how to draw them, in a realistic way. This giveaway is a godsend.

  2. Bleumoon

    As a lifelong resident of San Diego, I have always loved The Wild Animal Park, the open space zoo for African and Asian animals. I would like to give drawing the Tigers there a try.

  3. mjmarmo

    Love that giraffe!! One of my favorite zoos is in Phoenix where we got to feed the giraffes!! Our zoo in Grand Rapids, MI is small but also very nice. I would love to win a copy of this book!

  4. elishacripe

    I love drawing animals, especially in colored pencil. I would love to be able to take a class with you and am hoping to make that happen very soon.

  5. Jill

    Lee you never cease to amaze me. You always take art to new levels. Would love to join you someday at your new outside zoo studio. You are such an inspiration and I am grateful for all you have taught me. My favorite zoo is the Philadelphia Zoo. I would draw the white tigers or the man that plays the drums just outside the gates.

  6. Jodispc

    I have learned a lot from Lee online. However, distance keeps us apart as far as taking classes in person goes. I really like the idea of sketching while at the zoo. Our favorite local zoo is actually a private one called Animal Adventure Park It is more of a petting zoo. The work that has gone into this place puts our city zoo to shame. The last time we were there, we got some good photos. I think one our daughter took of a close up of two donkeys might well become a future drawing. We have never tried drawing while we are there… time to plan another trip with that in mind.

  7. acbloom

    I met lee hammond in 2008. I drove from columbus, ohio to Kansas city. For one of her workshops. Long drive but so worth it. Lee Hammond is an amazing artist ..a fabulous teacher. I thought I could never draw realistic dog pirtraits. She showed me I was wrong. Today, she teaches in naples, fl and I live in miami. I make the 1 hr and 45 min drive once a week. I have learned so much from this amazing artist .. check out her workshops and instructional books. Let me add that I am now learning how to draw peoople.. my subject pride and joy. My daughter. . Thank you, Lee

  8. Bernadette Renee

    What a beautiful way to explore and discover the creative spirit we all possess. Sharing your gift in such a way to connect to the world we share and care for will be a lasting memory and will touch so many people. I share your belief in the fact we connect with all our senses when we let go and engage with our creative being. I love the Toledo Zoo, it is a smaller setting, but full of wonder and discovery. I have a photo of my little grand daughter and one of the gorillas studying each other….I plan to bring this to life with my pencils……..

  9. Laura R

    Beautiful and for such a good cause. I recently watched the PBS documentary on Koko the gorilla and the people who care for her. It is a lifetime commitment.