Wolf in Acrylic
Interview with Jenny Heidewald
Wolves and Wild Dogsby Jenny Heidewald
The eerie, mournful cry of the wolf has caused shivers down the back of many a human being, and there is a long history of a love hate relationship between our kinds. As humans went from being hunters to herders, the wolf and the human went from kindred spirits to enemies. Even as this happened, the wolf was kept close to the human heart, in the form of the domesticated dog, which helped protect livestock from its wild brethren. Through exhaustive DNA testing it was found that the domesticated dog is a direct descendant of the wolf; an estimation is that the domestic dog family split off from the wolf family around 100,000 years ago. It is amazing that all the different breeds of dog come from one common ancestor, but with between 12,000 to 14,000 years since the start of human intervention with selective breeding, it isn't terribly surprising.
The wolf has a strong place in human mythos, and in the modern world we still use sayings like "wolf down your food", or "a wolf in sheep's clothing". A "lone wolf" is someone who tends to avoid society. A man who seduces women is sometimes called a wolf, and then there is the famous "wolf-whistle", which is said to date back to a Roman festival.
In the sky near Scorpio and Centaurus lies the constellation Lupus, the Wolf; defined by the Greeks, it is one of the oldest named constellations. In 1006 AD the earliest known recorded observation of a super nova was in this constellation, near the star Beta lupi. The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, was known as the "Celestial Wolf" in China; the Pawnee, known as the "Wolf People" by neighbor tribes, called the star "Fools-the-Wolf", or just "Wolf Star".
There are many tales of infants being adopted or suckled by wolves, the best known being Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who founded the city of Rome. The ancient Greeks associated their god Apollo with the wolf, sometimes referring to him as wolf-Apollo. Greek myth says that a wolf came to Leto when she was pregnant and transferred its spirit to the unborn child.
In the 1600's the belief in werewolves, people that change into wolves when the moon is full, was the cause of the execution of hundreds of people. In France, the number of cases was especially high, and the belief in the "loup-garou" lingered past the end of the 1600's. The wolf is also featured in many tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, different Aesop's tales, and is in many creation tales of the Native Americans.
In Norse mythology Fenrir the wolf is the son of Loki, whom the gods were afraid of due to dire prophecies. They made three fetters, and tricked the wolf into being bound by them one at a time, by saying how much fame he would get when he broke them. The wolf broke the first two easily, the third was a deceptive silken cord forged by the dwarves. The wolf was skeptical, saying that there wouldn't be very much glory achieved from breaking such a small thing. In the end he agreed to be bound on the condition that one of the gods place their hand into his mouth; Tyr bravely stuck his hand into the giant wolf's mouth. Fenrir, after struggling to free himself from the frail looking silk they'd bound about his legs, knew that he had been tricked, and bit Tyr's hand off. The wolf was bound to the spot until Ragnarök, when he fulfilled the prophecy of being Odin's downfall.
Skoll and Hati, the offspring of Fenrir, each chased the sun and moon respectively in order to devour them; eclipses happened when the wolves came close to succeeding in their goal. Odin also had two wolf companions, Geri (Hungry) and Freki (Ravenous), to which he fed his food, since the god did not eat, only drank.
Other wild dogs are also popular in myth and legend. The Japanese have the kitsune, the mischievous, tricky spirit fox, which can have a multitude of tails. The coyote is the main character of many Native American tales, also a trickster, who tends to get tricked himself as often. Another popular coyote is the modern Looney Toons cartoon character, Wile E. Coyote. The ancient Egyptians had a jackal headed god named Anubis, who was their god of mummification and death.
The Different Species of Wild Dogs
The wolf belongs to the order Canidae, which includes thirty six species. The different species are Canis, which includes wolves, jackals, coyote, dingo, the New Guinea singing dog and the domestic dog. Foxes are included in the Vulpes genus, the red fox being the best known. The gray fox (the only wild dog that can climb trees), and island fox, are in the Uroyyon genus; fennec, bat eared fox, and the arctic fox each have their own genus. Six of the seven foxes in South America belong to the genus Dusicyon; the seventh fox, the crab-eating zorro (zorro being the word for fox in South America) and the bush dog, each have their own genus and species. The last few categories of Canidae include the Asiatic wild dog (also known as dhole), the African wild dog, and the maned wolf (which, despite its name and looks, is not closely related to the wolf or fox) and, last but not least, the raccoon dog. Many of these species break down into different subspecies.
The largest member of the Canidae family is the gray wolf, Canis lupis, and the smallest is the fennec fox Vulpes zerda, which is about one foot tall and five pounds. Hyenas are a separate species, Hyaenidae, and, appearances aside, are related to the cat or mongoose.
The gray wolf is a social animal. A pack consists of one breeding pair, called the alpha wolves, and whatever relatives or young they might have. All the pack members help take care of any pups, and the pack hierarchy is well defined. Wolf puppies are born with blue eyes, which gradually change to their final eye color, which is usually an amber and brown or gold. There are cases of gray, brown, yellow or green, while a wolf with blue eyes is likely a hybrid rather than a full-blooded wolf.
The wolf's coat comes in many color variations, with some wolves changing color from winter to summer, or from black to white as it ages. Colors include black, white, gray, brown, and tan, with various mixes of colors commonly creating a salt and pepper look; they may or may not have markings, and their underside is a lighter color in general. The wolf stands between twenty-six to thirty-eight inches at the shoulder, and are between sixty and eighty inches long, including the tail. They can weigh between forty and one hundred seventy pounds, the highest and lowest of the scale being extreme. The female of the species is a bit smaller and lighter than the male. The feet of a wolf are big, the forefeet, from four and a half to five inches long, are larger than the hind paws, and the claws do not retract. The forepaw has five toes, one of these being a dewclaw that does not touch the ground and is located on the inside of the leg; the hind paws only have four toes.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a predator that has actually expanded its territory in North America since the intrusion of human development. The coyote has a slenderer muzzle than their larger cousin the wolf, and large, rather pointed, ears. Their coat consists of a multitude of colors, which include gray, black, reddish brown, tan, and white or cream; the bushy tail is tipped with black. A coyote can weigh between twenty-five and forty pounds, is from forty to fifty inches nose to tip of tail, and about twenty-four inches high at the shoulder. Coyotes tend to hunt together in the summer and go their separate ways in the winter, or stay together as couples.
The fox has a slender muzzle, and the ear size depends on species. The desert dwelling kit fox has large ears, while the arctic fox's are smaller. A fox's pupil is like those of cats, in that when it contracts in bright light it turns into a vertical slit rather than a circle (with the exception of the Corsac fox, Vulpes corsac). The full-grown fox usually weighs about fifteen pounds, is around sixteen inches at the shoulder, and forty four to sixty nine inches long. They are usually solitary hunters, but can also hunt in mated pairs.
The red fox generally has three fur colors: red, cross (a dark dorsal stripe down its back and across the shoulders, making the shape of a cross) and black. Within these colors are more variations. The red can be very pale, which is called amber, and some black foxes turn silvery in the winter and are called silver foxes. The red fox generally has a much defined color scheme. The white, red and black tends to have a crisper definition than wolf or coyote. The underside of the fox is white, the upper side red, with black on the backs of its ears and on its legs, while the tip of the bushy tail is white.
The arctic fox is specially adapted to the cold northern climate where it lives. In the summer, the arctic wolf has a shorter coat, brown on the top with white underbelly. Nearing winter it grows a lush white or, more rarely, bluish gray coat. The ears are smaller in order to conserve body heat, and its paws are thickly covered with hair, top and bottom. These foxes often follow polar bears around to feed on the kills.
Drawing Members of the Canidae Family
This is just one way to begin drawing wolves and other wild dogs; once you become proficient at rendering the proportions, you can skip the more detailed blocking in. It also helps to use a lot of reference, and draw the animal in many different poses.
To draw the head in a front view, start with a circle, and draw a crosshair across the middle. For a profile, draw a circle, a rectangle for the muzzle, and a rounded triangle for the ear (see below for profile steps).
The wolf has a broader head than the coyote and fox. They also have strong jaws and a bigger muzzle. The eyes are around a nose width apart, and the outside of the muzzle marks the outside of the eye. The coyote and fox's muzzle are slender, with a smaller nose; also, the coyote and fox's eyes are larger in relation to their head than the wolf. The coyote is almost like a combo of a wolf and fox. The mouth on the profile ends just about at the eye, when the mouth is open it extends farther back.
The ears are generally large and rather pointed, it helps to think of them as cones rather than triangles, and they are never droopy like some domesticated dogs ears are. At the tip a wolf's ear is rounder and shorter, the coyote's and fox's are pointier. The ear has a little pocket on the outside, in the front view notice that the ear is high above the eye.
The eyes of canids are rimmed in black and have an almond shape to them; the white of the eye usually doesn't show unless the animal is glancing to the side. Remember that the pupil of a wolf or coyote is round, while the pupil of a fox is elliptical, and turns into a vertical sliver when exposed to bright light.
The nose extends slightly towards the mouth, and there is a slight indentation in the middle, which in turn extends to, and becomes a part in, the top lip. The nose is moist; to give it that look, leave white highlights in the black.
The coloration of a gray wolf's face usually includes white around the eyes, with gray on the nose, and a white neck. The coyote is a mix of tan and white, tan/brown on top of the muzzle, with white around the eyes, under the muzzle, and darker markings under the eyes on the cheeks, and around in the ruff. The red fox has dark whiskers, and has red fur around the eyes and the top of the muzzle; on the lower part of the muzzle, it has white fur. The back of the top of its ears are black.
Don't be afraid to change things if it doesn't look right. I adjusted the wolf and coyote's features a little bit in Photoshop after inking.
In the picture below, I altered the dip in the skull above the eyes. It isn't as profound as in the first two steps, and foxes have an even flatter skull than wolves and coyotes. Don't be ashamed of mistakes; we all make them. A key aspect to drawing is learning from them.
Start out by marking lines for the length of the body. It is about four and a half head lengths, the tail a head and a half as well, when down the tail reaches about the middle of the hock. The front legs are about as long as the chest and both of these dimensions are a bit longer than a head. The head is a little bit shorter than it is long, including the ear, and the eye is on the halfway mark lengthwise.
These dimensions are flexible, individual animals, like humans, have different proportions within their species.
Once the head length is decided and lines marked, block in the main areas of the body, head, chest, and hindquarters. If you are depicting a front view, remember that wild dogs have narrow but deep chests. The back is relatively straight, and the neck ruff is thickly furred. The hind leg extends quite a ways behind the rump, and the hock is low.
Next, I ink in the outside lines of the wolf, as well as the eyes and ear. Be sure to show the dark of the carpal pad, which is higher than the dewclaw, it is where the "wrist" joint is located.
From here it is just a matter of filling in details, the markings of the wolf; in this case it is the traditional gray wolf markings. There is a dark patch of fur on the tail, which marks a scent gland, and the tip of the tail is black. Fur is rendered in a sketchy way; it tends to clump together making 'v' like forms. Remember that the fur of a wild dog changes with the seasons; the summer coat being thinner, the animal looks sleeker, while the winter coat bulks the animal up hiding more of the structure.
Here are the coyote and fox, with his hind legs farther under him; the fox looks about ready to take off.
In these enlightened times, even though there are still people who fear and hate the wolves, the wolf is making a comeback. There have been many projects to reintroduce populations to the wild at such places as national parks, and though there have been some setbacks, the gray wolf population is alive and thriving. The main issue is having enough wild space for the wolves to roam and hunt so that they do not have negative interactions with humans. While still not out of the woods, the howls of these beautiful animals now echo in places where they haven't been heard in years.
The photos in this article are from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, and are public domain.
Deviant Art is full of great resources for drawing wild dogs, here is a list of
wolf tutorial search results.
Wolf Tutorial - Page 1 and 2, by *ProfelisAurata. There are eleven pages of wolf tutorials by ProfelisAurata, be sure to check them out.
Fox Tutorial, by Culpeo-Fox
Website on anatomy and habits:
Running With the Wolves
Art "How To" Books:
Drawing Wildlife, by J.C. Amberlyn
Drawing America's Wildlife, second edition, by Doug Lindstrand
Drawing Mammals, by Doug Lindstrand
How to draw Animals, by Jack Hamm
Painting the Drama of Wildlife Step by Step, by Terry Isaac
Foxes, Wolves, & Wild Dogs of the World, by David Alderton
Spirit of the Wild Dog: The World of Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, Jackals and Dingoes, by Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan
The Wild Dogs in Life and Legend, by Maxwell Riddle
Wild Dogs: The Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes of North America, by Erwin A. Bauer
Wild Dogs (Zoobooks Series), by Timothy Levi Biel
Wolves: A Wildlife Handbook (Johnson Nature Series), by Kim Long
Wolf: Legend, Enemy, Icon, by Rebecca L. Grambo
Seasons of the Coyote: The Legend and Lore of an American Icon, edited by Philip L. Harrison
The World of the Fox by Rebecca Grambo
How to Spot a Fox, by J. David Henry
Arctic Fox, by Garry Hamilton
Foxes: Living on the Edge, by J. David Henry
Red Fox: The Catlike Canine, by J. David Henry
Jenny Heidewald is one of those self-taught artists that has been drawing since she was little; she remembers the exact moment she decided that she wanted to be an artist. Interestingly enough, it was while watching her mom draw the hand of God reaching from the clouds to His followers. Jenny was floored, it seemed to be magic, an image appearing out of nowhere. She thought, "I want
to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.
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