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Drawing at the zoo

How to sketch in a semi-crowded space.

The more you draw in public, the easier it gets. The distractions help me drown out my noisy inner critic and keep drawing!

First things first

Get your hand moving by drawing as you walk. I do this by drawing trees as I move around the habitats, then adding animals later. This helps me focus on fun and learning instead of accuracy.

giraffe illustration by beth spencer
I drew the trees and fence on my walk to the giraffe habitat. In case you were wondering, I am not sponsored by Karin Brush Pens or any brand for that matter!

Wander around

Just draw whatever interests you instead of trying to make a pretty illustration. I’m a big fan of starting lots of drawings and finishing them later, like in the video here and this one. I rarely ever finish a drawing on location, and you don’t have to either.

Here’s what I sketched on location:

messy sketchbook sketch
Isn’t it pretty?

I snapped this photo to show you, and because they’re just so majestic!

From left clockwise: Akeela, Jameela, and Thabo at Memphis Zoo.

The fun continued at home, which you can watch in the video!

Scouting a location

Instead of obscuring myself, I approach exhibits like 4-year-old Beth probably would. I want the best view! When I see an interesting gorilla interaction or fun tiger pose, I quickly sketch it and move on so others can enjoy them too.

Now that spring has sprung, my treasured zoo drawing dates will be filled with herds of humans. A mass of noisy people surrounding you when you’re trying to draw a hippo can be overwhelming, but embracing that discomfort will grow your confidence!

If you’re uneasy about speaking to strangers who may ask to see your work, have a few reactions at the ready:

  • “This work is top secret.”

  • Pretend not to hear them.

  • Smile, nod, and keep drawing.

  • If you’re feeling up to it, show them!

More good news

Take comfort in the fact that people usually don’t notice at all! They’re busy looking at animals, their kids, or their phones. Lots of folks might think you’re a staff member taking notes. A lady asked me where the nearest bathroom was last week!

Materials & Mentions

Next week:

We’re drawing with the amazing

and I can’t wait!

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Introvert Drawing Club
Drawing in Public
Sharing the excitement of drawing everywhere we go.
Beth Spencer