Taking Liberties

I just finished this small commission piece. It’s about 3” x 4.5” with colored pencil line-work and watercolor using natural pigments. Because of its size it was fairly quick to produce. There was, however, one problem that cropped up (and this is something I’ve had to struggle with before). If you draw a deer in any way realistically, whether it be male or female, it will look like a doofus.

Think about it. The head is too small for the body and the ears are too big for the body, let alone the head. And if it’s a stag, the antlers get stacked on top like some sort of forest-roaming Carmen Miranda. I’m surprised there aren’t more cases of hikers being harassed by surly stags as they must all suffer migraines.

Their necks are long and thick and appear to be glued onto a body thinner at the chest than the rump. They have no shoulders to speak of. Their legs are too spindly to support their weight and they are all knock-kneed.

Just to be clear, it’s not the animal I have issues with. It’s drawing the animal that drives me crazy. So I decided I must take liberties when drawing deer to make them look cool. For this piece it wasn’t too bad. I was able to ignore the toothpick legs. I wanted to anthropomorphize the stag anyway, so I didn’t need to render the eyes accurately. The head is a tiny bit larger than my reference photo and the antlers are skewed to surround the sun. And I made his ears smaller. With a little tilt to his head, he almost looks suave.

Hopefully he still looks like a stag.