The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

I can’t remember if I’ve ever been to a true zoo at any point in my childhood.  So the trip our group took to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was a pleasant surprise!  The idea was to go in, get a bunch of useful drawings and use those to produce a poster design for the zoo.  With that in mind I knew the animals would be the key and that environment would be less important.  Strong and complete looking drawings would allow me the most flexibility in creating something striking and simple.  I also knew I wanted to play up the strengths of my sketchbooks paper this time out.

At first I just walked around the zoo taking photos, learning where things, and taking mental notes of what animals I really wanted to take the time to get down on paper.  Then I found my way into the primates are and was instantly taken in by the chimpanzees.  Most were just lounging around and resting, but some were up and playing.  I started sketching and caught the interest of what seemed to be a younger of the group.  She was really interested in seeing what I was doing so I took a few minutes to show her my sketchbook.  She actually looked through page to page with a great amount of focus as I flipped through it.  I couldn’t help but smile and be inspired further to put more of their actions onto my page.

In another section of the primates area were a duo of really beautiful monkeys.  But after a quick sit to sketch one (who liked to move around!) I made my way back out into the cold to catch some different animals.  The cheetah’s were separated and they were pacing almost non-stop.  I did however catch one of the two in an odd moment of pause as she (I assumed) took a rest.

The elephants were out in their pens after their meals and weren’t up to much.  I watched for a little while to see which would be standing still for the longest, but the one I picked ended up moving ever so slightly forward as I was drawing and just kept turning more and more!  Living things don’t care that you are trying to draw them, so get their form down quick and efficiently!  Thankfully for me, I’ve been using the white charcoal to lay in with a quick sketch that I can then tighten up with the ink.

When I heard about the zoo trip, I made it a point to find out if they had penguins.  They are easily one of my favorite animals and any chance I get to see them in person always leads to a big wide smile on my face!  I happened upon the penguin area as they were being fed, so lots of the little guys to pick from to draw.  Seagulls were creeping in trying to steal food and were continually shooed away by the handlers.  Also, penguins are apparently amazed by what’s happening in a box on it’s side.  Seeing 7-10 penguins peer into an empty box can only make you laugh.

Because of the cold, I had to make my way back into the primate area.  It was mercifully climate controlled and most of our group ended up in there to get out of the numbing cold.  The sifaka lemurs were sitting still for long stretches and I took some time to put down a larger drawing than the other stuff I’d done to that point.  This drawing came together from the start and I was very happy with it by the time it was finished.  As you can see at the top of this post, this drawing was the winner in the end for use in the poster design.  A little digital editing went in that only added the poster elements and color, the drawing really carried the entire piece.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a lion’s gaze on you, but it’s not a great feeling.  Even with the likely 20 foot wall between us, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was enough!  He was lounging in the sun and looking around and would on occasion look in my direction.  They are awe inspiring in every way.  I’m really glad I had a chance to see him framed so perfectly by the sunlight coming down behind him.

On the way out to meet back up with our group, I took some time to do a quick sketch of the rhino as he wandered around looking for some food.  For most of the day they laid out and rested.  Of course, when I make my way by, they just had to be up and moving!  The white charcoal saved the day again though and let me lay in my shapes quickly and efficiently.  Lines were worked in to help tighten the final look.

On the whole, my day at the zoo was a complete success from start to finish.  I had a great, if cold, time and came away with a lot of useful drawings.  If you get a chance some day, hopefully a warmer one, you should head out and check it out!


4 thoughts on “The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

  1. Great sketches all round!

    It’s easy to forget how difficult it is to get the lines right and looking natural on wild life sketches when they are moving around but you have dome a great job here.

    Love the final poster too (as you know!)

    • Thanks Andy! Thankfully the method I’m using for laying down the lines works nicely for subjects like this. It’s easy to keep the under-drawing nice and light with the white charcoal.

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