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?