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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > March 19 > Noses, ears and expression

Noses, ears and expression

Ruth Buchanan focuses on how to capture animals’ noses, ears and expressions in the third of her ten-part series on painting and drawing animals
Peer, soft pastel, 101⁄4x141⁄4in (26x36cm)

The siting of ears, noses and eyes is very important when drawing and painting animals. If you get it wrong, especially for commissioned work, it will draw the viewer’s eye for the wrong reasons. For paintings of emotion, atmosphere and narrative, an awareness of all the facial features is key. As humans we tend to read expression of emotion or attitude mainly from the eyes. In the rest of the animal kingdom communication occurs more through body language. The eyes play a part, but in combination with, and subordinate to, the nose, ears and head position.

There are two basic patterns of noses among mammals. Animals such as dogs, cats (and humans) that have their noses on the frontal plane of the face have the nostril openings within the same structure, often with a philtrum (groove between the upper lip and nose) or cleft upper lip. Other species have nostrils more at the side of their faces, such as the black rhino. These animals tend to show more expression through the shape of the nases and the wrinkles (or lack of) in the skin around the nostrils than animals with noses on the frontal plane. A cow has side-placed nostrils, however, these are higher and more forward than a horse or rhinoceros, with the nose structure also forming the upper lip and no philtrum

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About The Artist

Take your drawing and painting to the next level with inspiration, guidance and advice from this month's top contributing artists and tutors. Cover artist, David Parfitt, shares how it's possible to work through a non-productive period to paint your best painting yet. Haidee-Jo Summers invites you to paint everyday, unarranged objects to discover more about design and composition. We also include demonstrations showing how to apply the one-stroke watercolour method, use a variety of techniques to enliven your watercolours, paint silver objects and reflections in acrylics, achieve the texture of rocky landscapes in pastels, use photographs as a memory aid, bring a portrait to life in oils, capture animals' expressions, and much more. Whatever your subject matter or preferred medium, there's something for everyone, and when you've created your best work, enter our 2019 open competition for a chance to see your work exhibited, published in The Artist, and win one of 40 prizes worth over £17,000!