Several Species of Small Furry Animals

A guinea pig and a baby bunny exchange a little kiss.

It’s been a very busy and productive few weeks. I’ve been learning new skills and exploring new media and graphics software, and it’s been a lot of fun.

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time doing is drawing small furry animals. I’ve been happily posting the results on Facebook, and it’s been both funny and sweet how much more attention my little critter sketches have been getting, compared to other things I post there. Everyone loves cute furry animals, apparently. Either that or they’re humoring me. In any case, for those of you who have taken the time to click “like” on Facebook, thank you — that little bit of encouragement means more than I can express. For my friends here on WordPress who haven’t seen these before, I hope you enjoy them as well.

A speckled fawn bunny crouches, watching you carefully.

I spend a lot of time watching my pets adoringly, so it’s no surprise I draw a lot of cats and rabbits. But it’s been a long time since I’ve devoted my attention to rodents. Part of what has been so much fun about doodling rats in particular has been reconnecting with my younger self a bit. I have always been critter-obsessed. Other people gush over the fingers and toes of human infants. I look at the delicate, finely articulated, satiny pink paws of a hooded rat and melt. How is it their paws look so much like hands? And those tiny little ears! Those noses! When I was eleven, I adopted a pet rat at summer camp, and then went on a fairly complex public relations campaign on behalf of domestic rats everywhere. I created a survey, collected data, got out my soapbox and sang the praises of rats to everyone within earshot, whether they were listening or not. I was on a mission.

A blue hooded rat watches you attentively!

In keeping my focus just on rabbits and rodents, I’ve found myself experimenting with drawing them different ways. Usually I work slowly and carefully, and I learn a lot from thoughtful attention to detail. But other times I just try to draw as quickly as I can, and often those are the sketches I like best. They are usually more obviously flawed in some ways, but they also have an off-handed elegance to their lines that I have a hard time doing on purpose. It’s like my hands know what to do, and can do it better when my brain stops trying so hard. It seems to be about motion, especially — things I draw slowly and carefully have a stillness to them, like this black hooded rat:

A sketch of a black hooded rat.

— she seems caught in a moment of ratty reflection, poised, nose scenting the air. My speed drawings are sloppier, like this rat:

A sketch of a grey rat standing on her hind legs, nose twitching.

…but they also have a sense of movement and immediacy that I don’t know how to create otherwise.

I’ve also had a number of days of feeling completely useless and unproductive, and drawing pictures of pocket pets has completely counteracted this. There have been crappy days where everything is a struggle, I’ve been chasing my own tail, and nothing seems any further along for my efforts — but hey, look at this cute bunny! All is well. I’ve accomplished something.

Digital watercolor and colored pencil sketch of a fawn rex rabbit.

I’m learning that a good part of general well-being is finding and celebrating the small triumphs wherever you can. Making room for creative silliness is a huge part of this for me. It may be odd that sketching a guinea pig can make me feel a whole lot better about my day:

Guinea Pig

…but if it works (and it does), it’s worth remembering for the next time I’m having one of those days that needs improving.

What are your small triumphs? What do you do to turn your day around and feel good after a day of unsatisfactory striving?

4 thoughts on “Several Species of Small Furry Animals

  1. Your pocket pet drawings rock!

    When I am feeling blue and inadequate, I look for someone I can help. Or I do something unsolicited for someone that I think they will enjoy. Gets me through my days!

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    1. Wow, that is a really beautiful take on things – that when your day isn’t going well, you let go of it and try to improve someone else’s. That’s well worth remembering, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that this is your approach! 🙂 I think it always helps, when I’m in a mood, to do something that takes me out of myself a bit. Focusing on someone else is a great way to do this. It’s good to remind oneself that one’s own personal problems are just one teeny tiny corner of the universe, and just not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

      Thanks also for the compliment! That means a lot, coming from you!

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  2. Your furry cuties are adorable!! I especially love the first one. Too cute!

    Ah I’ve plenty of days where I feel useless or down and it’s not aimed at having a artist block. I often have too many ideas and then I feel I don’t have enough time to do all I want and then…I’m stressed as I can’t seem to focus or make a difference for myself. I always listen to music. Sometimes doodling helps. Other times I bake or I ramble with a few friends. Making someone else smile is a big help as well as it feels that I actually did something that matters. I’m known for randomly sending out small gifts, haha. I haven’t done this as often anymore though. I need to change this. Oh! I often stare at Studio Ghibli as the world of Miyazaki is absolutely magical for me. 🙂

    It takes a lot of energy to keep on drawing and creating and to share this with others. So I fully believe that you always have to focus on things that make you happy. People will sense this energy in your artwork as well. 🙂

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  3. Thank you, TJ! Thanks also for the tip about Studio Ghibli – I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t heard of it, but I just Googled it and it looks like they’ve got some wonderful animated films. I copied down the list and put it on my “to watch” list. Do you have a favorite, or a suggestion for what I should watch first?

    I feel like the thing about energy is…well, two things. First, it’s a bit like a fish pond. You need to keep stocking the pond with fish if you expect to keep fishing. In order to keep being creative oneself, it’s really important to surround yourself with creativity and inspiration. If you don’t put stuff in, you run dry pretty fast. On the other hand, surround yourself with people and things that give you joy and inspiration, and you will be inspired to create things that give other people joy and inspiration, and they will be inspired to create as well. Google+ feels like that to me right now – a giant feedback loop of amazing artists all inspiring each other to create more amazing art.

    I feel like the critical thing here is to both take in, and to give back. And also to avoid or at least limit the people or things that are only draining to you in life. Sometimes life just *is* hard and draining, and it’s important to be present for that too, of course. That’s where surrounding oneself with even more creativity and joy comes in handy, in whatever form that takes.

    Looking at your artwork, TJ, always makes me feel joyful. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world!

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