I always try to give myself challenges when drawing to try and improve myself. One of these was drawing snakes.

I first tried drawing the heads from memory which produced OK drawings, but I knew I could do better, so I sculpted a little snake head.

Clay sculpt of snake head

Here’s a look before and after on how it affected my drawings. They are much more solid. Although less cartoony.

The body presented another challenge, especially in perspective. Here you can see how I layered each “level” snake. So the process is as follows:

  1. Rough sketch on the grid
  2. Draw each “level” of the snake on it’s own layer. in a different colour.
  3. Draw an evenly spaced grid atop the snakes body.
  4. I finalized the drawing on top of this grid. Refining it over 2-3 layers. Basically, I trace the shape, remove the grid. Put that new layer at 30% opacity and draw on top of it. I repeat the process until satisfied.

The scales presented another challenge. I had my model for the head, but I wasn’t going to make a little snake for each panel! so I made 2 other grid on top of the cleaned snake body. In red is the base grid I drew first and the blue the scales. One of the advantages of working digitally is that it’s very easy to use multiple colours. To do this traditionally you could use transparent paper, but it’s more time consuming. Some people assume drawing digitally is easy. It’s not, at least not the way I do it. But it is much faster. I have to make the most of the little time I have to draw. This is a good example of why. Getting back to the scales, I didn’t want to go overkill and draw scales exactly like in real life so I simplified quite a bit. Along the top half of the snake body I drew 5 lines. On top of that I drew in blue a grid of the scales.

It’s a little tricky to get your head around how the scales connect together. I looked at a lot of snake pictures and drew many sketches. On important thing to realize is that the scales are tear shaped and rest like bricks to top of each other. Each new scale will start at half of the bottom one. Also depending on where the shadow comes from, one side of the scale will appear ticker.

That’s about it. Any questions? If you have a subject you’d like me to cover here, let me know. I’ll do my best to make it happen.

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