My zebra drawing from a few months ago came about because I had a large piece of gray matboard floating around and didn't know what to do with it. It was square, 32"x32", and I cut an inch off each side to make sure the edges were neat (it was in the closet for a few years, after all). After completing that drawing, I decided I'd like to do a series of drawings of large African mammals in the same format. What I didn't know was how hard that would prove to be.
Working in a rectangular format is easier, or at least I'm used to it. But the square, while the same principles of composition apply, makes it much harder to emphasize one direction over the other. For the elephant drawing, I had stuck in my mind a line of the pachyderms along a river's edge, a composition that would have worked on a horizontal rectangle, but I could not get it into a square. Add to that the roundness of elephants, and I was stuck.
So finally, a few days ago I abandoned the river idea and focused on the square. How could I arrange two or more elephants interestingly in such a shape? Referring back to my copy of Design and Composition, I found my solution: the diamond. With one elephant at each vertex, I finally had the layout I was looking for.
Now all I needed were the reference photos. I went back over my stash and found one from a royalty-free, copyright-free book I have and the rest from a friend who graciously gave me his safari photos to use (thank you, Kevin!). I put the five photos (including the infant) into Gimp and played around with positioning until I came up with this collage. I was able to transfer the design to my matboard fairly easily using careful measurements, something I don't normally do with smaller drawings.
The only problem with my references is that they do not have consistent lighting. I may have to use some of my other photos to help, or I may have to do some creative guesswork. Ultimately, the final drawing will look a little different from this image, but this is the process one must go through to get a good composition.
I will certainly be posting my progress on this drawing over the next several weeks, so keep checking in to see how it's going!