There are a lot of shapes in a Doberman’s coat.
In this picture you can see my sketch lines on Nadia’s body. All those strange, abstract-looking shapes. What you’re actually seeing is her anatomy. An artist has to understand anatomy in order to portray it correctly. Otherwise they will interpret the shapes wrongly if they don’t understand what they are seeing. Instead of an elbow joint they may make something that looks like a tumor on her side. Instead of a ribcage they will create stripes on her coat.
I’ve been studying animal anatomy since I was a kid.
I’m indicating the darker spaces between her ribs with black pencil so I can keep track of where I am on her body, as I gradually fill in the whole torso.
On her belly there is an area enclosed by black, with a black “x” on it. That’s to remind me visually that I am going to fill that area in solid black. There are a lot of very, very dark greys (and some very dark browns and blues) that make up the shadowed areas of her coat, besides solid black.
All those abstract shapes make up the anatomy of a dog. I just have to know how to interpret those shapes I see in the reference photo. I have to see the abstract shapes of light and dark and know, “Those black stripes are ribs; her rib cage curves upwards. That’s her elbow joint. That’s her hip joint, where the big muscles of her thigh start. Where her thigh joins her belly is an indentation. Her tail flows out as an extension of her spine, not tacked on like an afterthought.”
Now you can see why I kept the other figures lighter than normal (their darkest areas grey instead of black). Stacked Nadia, done with true black, really pops out.
Here's the photo I’m using for reference. It was hard picking out Nadia’s outlines against all that black clothing. So Katherine sent me other show photos that clearly show her silhouette, to help guide me.
Photo by Tom Weigand, The Winning Image Dog Photography.