Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How to Draw Animals (1930) (dessinoprimaire.blogspot.com)
595 points by hardmaru on June 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments

The site is in French. It's possibly "blog spam" in that it points to another French site as the original source:


On both sites, the images can be clicked to enlarge them. You probably don't need to know any French to figure that out, but I thought I would mention it in case it was helpful to someone.


This info is from the top of the article:

sur le site de l'Agence Eureka = from the site Agence Eureka

(cliquez sur les images pour les agrandir) = click on the images to enlarge

Per another comment here, there is an English language blog it points to and Wikimedia at the bottom of the page. The other French site appears to be the original source, not Wikimedia nor the English language site.

It also says "Images on Flicker" and links to this, which some people might like better:


not blog spam. it's a teacher collecting in one place resources for drawing/doing art for primary school level. She has her personal blog linked as the first link.

And the URL means "draw in elementary school" in French.

In phonetic French.

That helped me - cheers man!

Doreen is a woman!

If you, like I did, wish to have all the pages as a single pdf, I grabbed them all and made one [1].

(I just googled and found a simple site to share it on, so if it doesn't work or you have a better suggestion let me know.)

[1] https://docdro.id/FFIBIrU

Thanks for doing this.

It's a pretty big file, so I compressed it down to 11mb:


Thanks for posting this. On the last pages it is said to be licensed under Creative Comments Share alike. I'd assume that the content might still be copyright protected by the original creator? So I don't think that anyone can relicense it as simple as that.

I don't have a moral problem appropriating content that has been published 90 years ago. I don't think it is appropriate to assign it a Commons license though.

The cc-by-sa note in the pdf is presumably because that is the copyright listed on Commons and Flickr.

However, the original work appears to be in the public domain. R & L Lambry were a father (Léon) and son (Robert) who died in 1940 and 1934, respectively. French copyright, as in all of the EU, lasts for the life of the author + 70 years.

I found this fairly interesting bibliography of the Lambrys: http://nouvellesuzette.canalblog.com/archives/2010/05/13/179...

And confirmed with this information from the French national library:




Correct. Since i got the files from wikimedia, I wanted to adhere to their license claim and give attribution. I was pretty sure it's P.D. but didn't know if the scans themselves might have a copy right in some jurisdiction.

Brilliant, thank you.

Couldn’t help but remember Picasso’s bull.


Also teaches you about how hard abstraction is. You really really need to understand the subject and the underlying dynamics to simplify.

Many artists aren't trying to simplify an final subject. If anything, they come from the opposite direction - they don't worry at all about the final object - just look at it. Look at its lines. Mark out the major shapes. And there you have your abstraction. Now if you want to finish it, keep adding the next layer of detail. Mark out the smaller shapes. Mark out lines and endpoints. Start filling in some shading. Then add some texture.

In other words, you start from a simple abstract and fill in. And most of the 'how to draw' sketches from the original post do exactly that.

It's interesting to compare how theatre went from scripted shows to improv. Soon painters will ask audience members to draw some random shape for them to start.

I love doing this when doodling. I can start with nothing, but often it is more interesting to start with a scribble!

I have observed the same (abstracting the essentials) in some of young children's drawings. They seem to be adept in identifying the essential elements from the details.

This article has links to original blog post in English[0] + media folder on Wikimedia Commons[1].

Think, link to Wikimedia Commons is better as source for images.

In same time, Daddy Types has more info about other editions:

> Lambry's instructions were originally made for l'Echo du Noel in the 1920's and 30's, a weekly Catholic children's paper published by Maison de la Bonne Presse until 1936. [Bonne Presse was owned by Bayard, which is in turn owned by the Augustines. These images come from an unsold set of 51 editions of l'Echo du Noel from 1931 on eBay.fr[2].]

> A Spanish translation [Los Animals tul cual] came out in 1941, but so far the earliest French edition of Les Animaux tel qu'ils sont I've found mentioned is from 1949. [The authors are listed as R. y L. Lambry, so someone--a brother or wife, perhaps--is getting shortchanged on her credit for the book. Desole', madame.] The 1959 edition[3] has a whopping 200 pages and promises to teach this "reputedly difficult subject [sujet réputé difficile]" in just 95 simple lessons. Et voila!

Funny, I has similar 50-page book «Noah, teach us how to draw animals»[4] (Moscow: 1990, 1992) by Zheli Terez(?) in Russian (rus. Желли Терез. Ной, научи нас рисовать животных - М.: Рудомино, Цицеро 1990; Деймос, 1992. - 50 с.), but not sure what used as source for this book.

[0] http://daddytypes.com/2009/05/13/how_to_draw_animals_the_rob...

[1] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Les_Animaux_tels...

[2] http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/709-53476-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2...

[3] http://www.livre-rare-book.com/Matieres/pd/8375.html

[4] https://www.liveinternet.ru/users/ksu11111/post414036566/

We play a great party game called 'Six Second Animals.' The caller names an animal and counts down from 6. Other players draw the animal. The caller picks a favorite and that drawer becomes caller.

Neat! check out Google's Quick Draw [1] where you need to draw a given object in 20 seconds and a neural network will recognize what you're drawing.

[1] https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com/

That's the sad and alone version of the game.

I mean it literally asks you to draw the thing to be recognized.

It would be more impressive if you were to draw freely and the neural network would recognize whatever you drew.

That game wouldn't generate labeled training data for their machine vision algorithms, which I'm sure is the whole point.

While I was really astonished that it recognized some things that I wouldn't even recognize myself, the neural network failed to recognize my computer, sad...

Simple and fun!

I don't know about you, but I hate this cerebral type drawing, where you take a subject, analyse, restructure and reduce it into some components, etc. It's no fun and uses faculties that I want to rest when drawing. If I draw like this, what happens in my head is pretty much the same as when I work. I'd definitely not teach kids to draw this way. If anyone is interested in alternatives, check out Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards [0][1]. First edition came out quite a long time ago, and it has some popular neuroscience sprinkled in there from that time, but if you get through that, the actual learning material is very good. You'll be surprised how effective it is.

[0] https://www.drawright.com/ [1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/1585429201

> I'd definitely not teach kids to draw this way.

Seconded. Drawing from life is orders of magnitude easier than illustration. You can learn to draw your own hands quite realistically in a matter of hours, from a baseline of nothing. Learning to draw a realistic human hand from memory takes years of study and practice; you need to memorise every bone, muscle and tendon, you need to understand the elasticity of skin, you need a deep intuitive understanding of perspective. If you're drawing from life, you're just transcribing lines, shapes and shading - it's basically tracing with your eyes.

Our visual memory is really very poor, because it's evolutionarily tuned to remember rough silhouettes and distinguishing characteristics rather than a complete and detailed image. People who can remember images in photographic detail are invariably autistic and invariably have serious difficulties in coping with normal life - the highly lossy compression most of us apply to sensory information is an essential survival skill.

Most professional artists can't draw purely from imagination - it's a highly specialised skill reserved for expert illustrators. They rely on reference photographs, models, mannequins, preparatory sketches and all sorts of other visual aids. Why would we try to teach children a skill that most working artists think is beyond their ability?

That's a good take on drawing from nature. My focal point on this subject is how good it feels. When you get over that bump, which like you say takes little time, you become so relaxed. I actually don't care about the drawings I make, it's the state of mind that I get from doing it that I like.

"That bump" I mention is something like changing gears in your head to see the pixels on the screen, instead of the text, windows, and other things that the pixels "make up", to use an analogy. It's actually hard to even describe this phenomenon; I guess that says something about how foreign it is to us. It's a bit like, when someone is talking, being able to distinguish the pure sounds you hear, and the interpretations you (involuntarily) attach to those sounds. When drawing in the "naturalistic" way, you want to suspend the interpretation or symbolisation of what you see.

The first time you make the shift, to me it feels like "wow, I don't know this feeling, it's great". Then you have to redo it every time you sit down to draw, and usually multiple times in the midst of a session too, because you loose focus and fall back to the symbolistic-perception mode.

I disagree, this is how I learned by myself (no book, no adults) and it was so much fun! The book just makes a system of it: you identify basic shapes to create an envelope then enjoy tracing beautiful lines.

People used to say I have "a gift", that was annoying. So many times I offered to teach anybody (using a similar method as the book) but no one ever accepted. "See? It's not a gift, some people just want to put the hours".

Well, I've put in the hours also- in a past life I studied art and traditional animation (hand-drawn) so I've learned a thing or two about framing. It has its place in a production setting where the emphasis is on finishing a drawing within a deadline, but as a teaching tool to show kids how to draw I'd really question its use.

For me the goal of teaching kids to draw should be to allow them to "unlock" their ability to communicate their experience of the world using form and colour. They should be shown the cave art from Lasceaux and Altamira, and inspired to look for their own internal representation of what their eyes can see and the ways to reproduce it on paper (or whatever medium). Not to follow closely someone else's set of lines.

So what if a kid learns to draw the same pretty butterfly, and only that one pretty buttefly, again and again and again, for ever? What has she achieved?

Here, this is the kind of art that should be taught to kids:


That's a cynical way of putting it. This kind of approach, repeated over many permutations until I have various arrangements of shapes available in muscle memory, makes for good mileage, relative to many other ways that one could practice drawing. It isn't the "only" technique, it just presents one more option.

And it is difficult to get beyond "trace these shapes" and start using abstractions of structure and proportion as a way of seeing. It's the same barrier that happens in gaining technique on a musical instrument: you can pick out some notes at the beginning, but if you want to feel really comfortable and have the fluidity to sight read or improvise, you have to start drilling scales. But once you have those skills available and try to compose, the problem is with having a stagnant reportoire, and then music theory drills gradually become more important.

But most kids do get stuck after learning a few songs.

Sorry if my post comes across as cynical. I didn't mean it that way.

I see the book more as a method than as a recipe collection. In my case it wasn't animals, it was spaceships and then motorbikes, lots of motorbikes.

As for the expression based goal, I'm sceptical, also from experience... not mine obviously, but close.

Well, I personally like the approach of the article because it allows one to first get the pose correct, and all the proportions, before filling in the details (which can save a lot of work and especially frustration).

Also, if you want to draw convincing animations, then I think that a structural approach is absolutely necessary.

The question for me is whether someone who has learned to draw some animal in this way will then be able to draw the same animal in a different pose, from a different angle, in a different style, etc.

My intution is that- no. These sort of techniques literally teach you were to place your lines. And that's the lines of a set of very specific drawings, and only those drawings, ever. It's like the difference between learning a lookup table relating numbers from 1 to n to their sums, versus learning an algorithm to sum arbitrary numbers. The kinds of learning become equivalent as the size of the lookup table approaches infinity... but since here we're talking about images of complex forms it would really have to approach infinity before it's very useful at all.

I'm also a bit concerned that this is meant to be used to teach primary school students how to draw animals. Does this sort of instruction really serve to help a child understand how to represent an animal?

And, I guess, is it really a good idea to take human beings at the very time in their lives when their relation with the world is at its most fluid and try to teach them that, no, you don't need imagination to be creative, there's this one simple trick that you can use to always get the adults to pat you on your head and say how talented you are?

I hope you see the irony in this comment!

Because I'm coming off as cerebral myself? Haha I didn't see the conflict there when I posted, but thanks for pointing it out, and that's kind of my point: I need something to offset it, and drawing can be that thing, but it entirely depends on how you do it.

I see what you mean, you want your drawing approach to be more free-form because it lets you "take a load off" the constant categorising and logic and so on. On the other hand though, tips like those in the link could help someone to just start drawing, and might lead to making creative adjustments to those forms (like encouraging your children to try making a monster version of a deer, for example).

There's also this other dimension to it that is often overlooked, and it's behind my saying "I wouldn't teach this". The analysis and reduction based method relies on your ability to digest what you see mentally and that has limitations. For example, if you asked a child to draw a rough sea, hair on somebody's head, the clouds, the forest or whatever, he would become frustrated with the sheer complexity and probably degrade to what we call "child's drawing", which is a misnomer, since most adults draw this way. Child's drawing is when you draw symbolistically: this is a head, these are lips, this is a tree, this is a bush, etc. On the other hand, if you "draw what you see" which is another horrible term, coined by me this time, you're not bothered by complexity, you celebrate and marvel at it, in a frictionless way. Again, I'm recommending that book I linked, great stuff.

Reminds me of Ed Emberly books and the “draw 50” series of books I checked out of the school library as a kid. Draw a few shapes, fill in the blanks and details, erase your marks...

Or traced the second to last drawing and then fill it in by hand. I was a good “drawer” but you need a lot more practice to learn about perspective, shadows, and all the stuff that makes your drawings look good

Some would say that is not how you draw a (live) butterfly: http://emilydamstra.com/news/please-enough-dead-butterflies/

This was very insightful. I never thought about what the natural wing position of a butterfly is like.

Note that the works seem to be in the Public Domain, since the author died in 1934 and the copyright law is 70 years after death in France. However, there is a co-author but no information is available on her/him which might extend the copyright duration.

Another argument for public domain is someone translated it to English and plans to sell it (at least on Amazon): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Draw-Animal-Book-Step-Step/dp/16315...

Here are my personal top 5 drawings for lazy daddies:


There’s a lot of “draw the rest of the fucking owl” here. For actual step by step instructions for drawing dunces, look at Ed Emberley.

Thanks a lot to whoever posted this. I have recently started my new "(at least) one drawing every day" stint and I am currently working on animals (even if I tend to copy from photos) so this is very interesting to me.


I showed this to my girlfriend who is an artist, and she basically scoffed and said, "I'm not really into that. I was taught to draw what I see."

As in, don't even THINK about drawing those circles.

In my naive way I guess she has to abstract too, maybe unconsciously to keep proportions for example.

For someone learning to draw without much talent, me, it is hard to know what is important and what to focus on. To me it seems like thats what these circles and lines are there for. Look at what is important and what proportions they have.

What does she do when she needs to draw something from imagination?

Drawing like most things, you get better by training. Once you can do basic shapes and features you can also start to free draw which is fun and also still useful in this age as you can make decent looking illustrations in order to explain stuff.

It was a simple book like this that I had as a boy that got me into drawing.

It taught me to see the simpler shapes that things are composed of — start there and build up.

It also caused me to begin to think about proportion when drawing — so that an animals head is properly proportioned to their body, etc.

If I were granted a wish it would be that schools had the budget to create books like this and outright give them to students to take home.

I think this is actually the best book for learning to draw animals. I've had a copy for over 30 years, and I still like to go back to it sometimes.


this is cool, i'm about to be doodling some animals

The fundamental issue that is hardly addressed in drawing by shape recognition is that it gets the proportion right but fails to teach the inherent "3D" structure of the animal.

The litmus test for drawing is to ask someone to draw an animal. If they can, great. Follow up and see if that draw the same thing but now in isometric view or from an arbitrary viewpoint/perspective. Imagine if you have a camera with various lenses (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 90mm, etc) which describe the amount of foreshortening you need to compensate. Now imagine taking that camera and point it to the object (animal in this case) and taking pictures from many different angles and distances. You simply cannot draw these if you haven't internalized the 3D form.

Check out Aaron Blaise (Lion King fame) who has a YT channel. His drawing skills are "3D" so to speak. He truly understands not just static anatomy, but the kinematics of how animals move and which muscles are involved. It is not by chance you get to work as an animator at Disney.

This guide fails (like 99% of the drawing guides, I've bought many books on drawing and they all sorta suck) to teach structure. It does well in teaching proportions (relative size of parts of an animal) but that's not all you need to draw. You NEED to know anatomy; even if you know anatomy, then you need to be able to internalize the 3D structure of the skeleton, muscular volume, understand foreshortening, line quality, overlap, chiascuro or shading, etc. I have mad respect for caricature artists, because they know all this and then have the license to exaggerate and modify the form.

Drawing is fucking hard, like insanely hard. I have spent more than 10 years in learning how to draw. It sounds like gatekeeping but honestly, I spent a whole year trying to draw basic shapes, doing coil exercises (See Sycra on YT), rotating objects, drawing architecture and basic geometrical scenes, etc. I would say getting an engineering degree (I have BS and MS) is wayyyy easier than learning to draw. It is one of the most difficult things I've pursued and the joy of sketching wherever I go is amazing. I still have ways to go, and I'd love to post a link to some of my drawings but I'd like to keep my account anonymous.

Also, you know why organic chemistry students have real models of molecules? Because they need to know the 3D form. Same with physicians who play around with 3D models and do real dissections.

Edit: Here is a sample of my early drawings (I did reverse google search and nothing showed up :-) ): https://i.imgur.com/e4GgxFA.jpg

This is peak Hacker News. Here we have a children’s book about drawing cats using circles. You’re critiquing it for failing to teach how to internalize the 3-d structure of skeletons.

It does the old 'now draw the rest of the f'ing Owl' meme, which can only hurt the kid's self-esteem when their drawings don't match the end result (reflects my personal experience when I used 'how to draw animals' books as a kid).

Use this if you just want to draw some random things for fun, but stay clear if you want to learn to draw (or want your kid to). It's an 'activity book,' not a how to draw book.

And I think that causes the contention; not that it's a kids book, but that it pretends to provide useful education. It doesn't, it'll create frustration if you think it'll actually help you draw animals better.

You just put a glacier on top of the HN peak.

I was gifted an anatomy drawing class with live models (kind of by mistake) and decided to jump into it. I never doodled or tried to draw, basically ever in my life, and I was amazed at the complexity and challenge of it.

My first drawings were laughably bad, trying to do 50 things at once during a 10 minute drawing - they ended up worse than a bad stick figure. And I kept expecting to turn the corner and suddenly do things well, but it really is a long road. At first I thought my biggest challenge was simply how to make effective marks with a pencil, but so much more is what you said - understanding of the 3D form, the skeleton and musculature, not to mention unraveling and rebuilding all the mental shortcuts our brain takes when constructing an image from a picture. I really love nerding out on reductive drawings now, especially ones that convey a ton of info with minimal marks. It is still like magic to me, but I am excited to keep learning.

Anyone in the Bay Area interested, the class I took was from this awesome charcoal artist who is starting teaching from his own studio in SF: https://www.instagram.com/jacobdoodles/

Not everybody need to be able to draw things anatomically correct.

This guide IMHO serves perfectly as a material to teach children drawing as a recreational activity. There's almost no explanations, only directions. There's no exact proportion either, you choose what look good to you.

That's a fair point, I went off of on a tangential rant then :-) What I said bothers me deeply about drawing resources in general and I hope I can shed some light. I also draw recreationally, if I were to follow this guide, my animals would look horrible and rigid. Have you tried following this guide?

It's not a learning material though, that's the point. It's an activity book, like dot to dot. Keep it in that context and all good

Yes, you are gatekeeping. My kid asked me to draw a boar and it turned into a dolphin with legs. This is just what I need :)

Well you might as well just show your kid the picture in the book then...

You will have many more memorable an enjoyable moments with your kid if you make more walking dolphins rather than just copy pictures :)

When drawing or making things for your kids the drawing or model is the least important thing in the entire process. It's the act and the engagement itself that is the most prized. It works in reverse too.

Exactly, it encourages curiosity and conversation.

Drawing is really interesting in how directly and obviously it makes people feel like a amateur when otherwise experienced and knowledgeable in many areas, and how people generally expect they should be better than they are at it because it 'seems' easy.

Drawing IS easy with a little practice and a few tricks. Same way as playing on a guitar is easy with a little practice and a few tricks. Of course you won't become a next Antoine Dufour unless you train hard from year 3 but who the hell cares. Tricks are enough for the rest of us.

Don't worry I'm not that good at copying, it will still be ugly. But I definetly want to upgrade my animal drawing skills to the next level... from zero to one :)

This is something the tutorials at https://drawabox.com focus on.

This is amazing. Thank you.

Eh, depends what you're drawing. If you're doing anything except animation, or like, cartoons, you can just be really good at drawing by eye and that's enough.

Anatomy can distract you from what's actually going into your eyes. If you're doing oil painting, for instance, I think you'd be better off doing a bunch of interesting (glossy, translucent, refracting, etc) object studies.

I don't disagree with what you are saying, though I do think it's a little harsh for what's seems to be just a book to get kids going when they want to draw animals. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and I think this is just one of many ways to pick up drawing.

That said, I'm honestly interested in any suggestions for books or online courses that you would recommend for someone who wants to improve their drawing skills. As a kid I got a lot of feedback from various people that I had a talent for drawing, and I remember my drawings were in fact quite good compared to everyone else, but sadly I never invested more into this and forgot about it in favor of playing with computers ;-). Until a while ago, when I wanted to pick up drawing using my iPad Pro + pencil + ProCreate. I really want to invest more time in drawing and make a hobby out of it, but I have no idea where to start except trying to copy other illustrations. When I try to draw from imagination I'm so disappointed with the results and my total lack of direction how to improve, that I quickly give up. I would really love to find some good drawing books, online courses or other source material that structures the learning process in a way that can give some positive reinforcement, but so far I have not been able to filter out the right source material from the vast supply of 'this is how you should learn to draw' resources.

> I would really love to find some good drawing books, online courses or other source material that structures the learning process in a way that can give some positive reinforcement

That seems to be the problem with learning to draw from imagination - it's just very hard and slow process, and the positive reinforcement is stretched over months or years of training.

When I was six I learned that variables are little boxes, strings are made of bunting and there was some kind of octopus called INKEY$ that grabbed keys from the keyboard.

I think the most important thing to learn is enthusiasm, if you've not got that then proper methods are of no use. This book looks like it'll be great tool for nurturing that.

Did you by any chance read "Figure Drawing" by Andrew Loomis? He focuses a lot on anatomy in this book. It may be to your liking.

It reminds me of Ed Emberley. Or Trogdor.

"S, more different S... Close it up real good for his head, then, using consummate V's, give him teeth, spinities, and angry eyebrows."

I really like the handwriting. Both serious and playful.

It's an art-deco style, which is what the late 20s were made of. The entire book oozes that look.

What I like about it is that it's obviously drawn by an actual person.

The owl is on page 29.

"Basic Bean Bodies".

Link? This sounds like it could be interesting.

Old Kliban cartoon.

Drawing, like m

This is what HN was invented for. Fuck the Silicon Valley venture capital narcissistic shite, let’s just share worthwhile things like this.

You know, I was just thinking that HN is truly the last site on the web left where something cool like this would be at the top of a list, like something Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web would have on it.

I'm so glad we still have this place.

I’ve been here for a while and I am seeing it erode slowly.

Everything is eroding slowly.

You've been keeping the whole site together for years

Best moderator ever.

> a while

3 months is not enough to go by.

I have been lurking here without an account.

This is literally a meme [1].

[1] https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/how-to-draw-an-owl

True, the peacock example is very like the owl meme


Not really. If you get the basic shapes and angles down, drawing the plumes is easy. Just try it! A funny thing about drawing is that some things which look simple is hard, and some things which looks impressive is really easy. Shapes, proportions, movement and perspective is generally hard. Textures, patterns, tones and shadows is relatively easy since you are just "filling in".

In the owl meme, some of the hard things (like getting the perspective and angles of the eyes and face correct) is glossed over.

Not really, this one has small progressions between each steps, and seems like a cool reference, while you're link is just a joke?

The peacock though is pretty close to the meme..

True, but presumably once the reader has worked their way up to this part of the book, they'd have built up the needed skills for drawing this one.

Not really, that's the point of the meme: you just follow explicit steps and then have to make a logical leap in understanding the actual subject. It's a fail at all levels when the author adds detail from their own knowledge/experience the student is unaware of. Frustration will follow...

Books like these are what the meme is based on.

Yes, but this at least tells you how to draw the rest of the fking owl. https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3649/3523029611_12c3a0c9f2_m...

I think the difference between that meme and these instructions is that a novice could actually follow these instructions and get better at drawing.

Yes, but p29 gives you all the intermediate steps :)

As per usual there is a subreddit for this /r/restofthefuckingowl

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact