The Wildlife Drawings
of Kevin Hayler
Discovering the Natural World. A Wildlife Art Collection
Hi, and welcome to my portfolio!
Every drawing you see here was originally hand-drawn by me, using nothing more than pencils and paper. This simple medium has allowed me to see the world and discover some of the most amazing animals on the planet.
I thought it might be good to answer some of the questions I most often hear and showcase my collection of wildlife art at the same time.
The following drawings were all published as open-edition fine art prints at various times over the last 20 years.
Why Draw in Black and White and Not Color?
These are 5 compelling reasons why I prefer to draw:
- Graphite pencils are lightweight which means I can go anywhere with the minimum kit
- I can buy new supplies anywhere in the world
- I can stop and start at will, there’s no drying time
- I’m pretty good at drawing
- And I’m colorblind!
You play the hand you’re dealt with, right?
Further Reading: How To Be a Colorblind Artist (I’ll Show You How I do It)
Why Drawings of Wildlife?
Like most wildlife artists, I’ve had a love for the natural world for as long as I can remember and while I’ve dabbled in other more commercial subjects in the past, I’ve always found myself drawn back to doing what I love most, drawing wildlife.
Charismatic animals have universal appeal and that allows me to sell my wildlife art prints for a living, and travel overseas to see these animals in their natural habitats. It’s win-win.
Read this post: How to Start Drawing Wildlife and Become a Wildlife Artist
Do You Only Draw Wildlife?
Not really, I draw animals with an emphasis on wildlife. Every now and then I come across an animal that so delights me I can’t resist the temptation to draw it.
Case in point the donkey foal below. I saw it in a village in Ethiopia. I was there to find Ethiopian wolves, would you believe, and I stumbled across this youngster in a local village. It was too adorable to ignore, so I photographed it.
I saw the wolves eventually, but they were too far away to get a good picture, so I drew the donkey instead!
How Do You Make Enough Money Selling Wildlife Art?
I sell my wildlife prints to tourists from a market stall. My work is seasonal by design. I pour myself into my art during the summer months, allowing me to earn enough to travel all winter long.
I sell both open-edition and limited-edition prints for a living. I will occasionally sell an original drawing too, and that is a fantastic bonus. I use those random sales to buy my flights.
When I have a profitable year I can treat myself to some place special. I had one very successful year and went to the Galapagos Islands!
In quiet years I can afford South Asia. India is still rich in wildlife and has some of the best national parks in the world. Recently I have spent more time in Indonesia, another budget choice in South East Asia, with some of the best diving in the world.
I make it work. I do it all, from photographing my subjects and planning my artwork, to drawing, publishing, and selling them. When the season is over. I pack up and head off to the winter sun looking for more wildlife to draw next summer.
I use the tax system to write off my profits and still manage to put money in the bank every year.
Read how to do the same thing: How Do Wildlife Artists Make a Living?
How Do You Choose Your Wildlife Subjects?
It’s a calculated guess really with some minor market research. We all know the most obvious animals everyone loves. Most people have a favorite animal, right? I instinctively knew that elephants and big cats would be popular, for example.
Having traded for so long, I have the experience to make more informed decisions. Iconic animals are the easiest to sell. Wildlife charities publicize and fundraise for charismatic animals because everyone loves them.
I have to make popular wildlife to make a living. They subsidize my less-commercial work. I don’t sell many crocodiles I can tell you that.
Are you a wildlife artist too? This is your shortcut: 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers (Use These Subjects to Make Money)
Sometimes I set myself the mission of finding a particular wild animal, usually an endangered species, somewhere in the world, at other times I will visit a region and leave it to serendipity. It depends on my budget for the trip.
If I can’t find the right wildlife subject in the wild, I can always visit a zoo or orphanage. I’m an opportunist.
I dig deeper in this post: Where to Find Wildlife Subjects to Draw, Paint, and Photograph
What Makes a Successful Wildlife Pencil Drawing?
That’s a tough one to answer because when you work to a formula it tends to backfire. It certainly helps to have an affinity with the subject. If you have a passion it shines through but that alone will not sell your work.
I have discovered that along with your choice of subject, eye contact is probably the most important selling factor.
In any portrait, whether human or animal, the eyes are everything. Getting the eyes just right is essential. The eyes are the focal point that can make or break a drawing. They hold emotion, express character, and draw the viewer into the world of the subject.
Pull the Emotional Heartstrings
Another way to attract buyers is to draw mother and baby animals.
Before you run away screaming in despair, hear me out. You can make perfectly good animal drawings that evoke positive emotions without being sentimental. It’s how you tackle the subject that matters.
I have drawn plenty of kittens in my life and it’s not selling out. I draw realistically and people react normally, with a gentle smile. Had I drawn my subjects as wide-eyed caricatures or cartoon versions, then I agree it would be a different story.
It also matters where your art is being sold. If you sell your wildlife pencil drawings in real life, in my case, face to face from a market stall, the public can see the finer details and you are able to point things out they might otherwise have missed.
The same drawing, presented online, might never sell at all. No one registers on subtlety and nuance when they scroll through an image feed. It’s not the same thing.
Have a Story Behind Each Piece
It’s much easier to sell art with a backstory. Mine are mostly tied to my personal experiences during my travels. Whether it’s an encounter with a zebra foal in Africa or a cage-diving with great white sharks, each piece offers a glimpse into a larger story
Stories are the bedrock of selling and having a compelling narrative helps to draw people into your world and be a part of it.
Your Art Size is Important
Size is also a factor. It is easier to grab attention with large black-and-white art and people are prepared to spend much more. The public equates size and value. You’d think that quality would be the sole determining factor but sadly that’s not the case.
Unfortunately, large art is hard to display, difficult to persuade a customer to carry, and expensive to ship. I sell my art on A3 paper stock, that’s 420mm x 297mm (16.53″ x 11.69″). That hits the right balance for me. Not tiny, but large enough to get people to take notice, carry home, or send in a postal tube.
This post covers the topic: What Size Art Sells Best? Prints and Frame Sizes
How Do You Draw Such Fine Detail?
It has happened incidentally. At first, I was content to draw in a sketchier style. I was less interested in detail and more interested in form and composition.
It’s because I was drawing and selling at the same time that my mindset began to change.
I soon realized that I could attract more attention and comments if I drew insane detail. It became a sales hook and I was incentivized to take longer and longer on my drawings.
I used a magnifying glass to see the minutiae.
Over the years, it got more extreme until there were days when I might only draw a square inch all day!
Every time I reached a new level of realism, the goalpost moved and I wasn’t happy unless I surpassed it. I became an obsessive perfectionist.
I’ve consciously tried to back away from that habit and now I try to draw with more expression. It’s hard to change.
Is Wildlife Pencil Art Popular?
Black and white art in general will always be a niche, and color always dominates the art market. Wildlife art is a niche within that niche. You can see how it limits your audience.
Thankfully, it’s broad enough to maintain enough sales. Sometimes it’s better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. If you see what I mean?
There are plusses. One of the advantages of black-and-white art is its timeless quality. It complements any color scheme, is easy to frame, and never goes out of fashion. These are great selling points.
How Do You Make an Original Pencil Drawing?
I’ve been using the grid drawing method for over 20 years to earn a living. This technique involves placing a grid over a reference photo and a corresponding grid over the drawing paper.
The grid helps break down the image into smaller, more manageable sections, making it easier to reproduce the image with accurate proportions. It serves as a guide to help me see and reproduce the image with greater accuracy.
Why I Use a Grid
I use grids to improve the accuracy of my drawings, especially when I’m aiming for realistic outcomes. However, I also acknowledge that relying solely on grids can limit my artistic style and expression.
The grid method speeds up my work to some extent and almost guarantees that my drawing will be successful. This is crucial for me because I draw for a living, and time is money.
I draw while I’m at work selling outside in front of people. It’s for that reason I like to draw the outline at home first so I have something to show right from the beginning.
I start with the eyes and when I get that right I know I’m on safe ground to continue.
Read this for my drawing method: Is Drawing a Grid Cheating? – Do Real Artists Use Grids?
What Makes Your Wildlife Artwork Different?
Authenticity, I think. I live the life I talk about, and each drawing is based on my own photographs and experiences.
I like to think that I capture the character of my subjects. It’s not enough to draw photographically, that’s a skill that, while rare, is not unique to me. Instead, I try to convey the personality of the animal and express it in my own compositional style.
Everything you see, I saw myself or contrived using my own references to create a more interesting composition.
I’m completely self-taught and my approach to wildlife art is both practical and methodical. I like to sell my work. I don’t get possessive, I’m more than happy to let them go. I want people to hang my pictures on their walls.
I never see parting with a drawing as a loss because my best drawing is always the next one.
This will interest you: Why Artists Change Style: Should You?
What Do You Think?
This is only part of my wildlife art collection. There are many more., but now you have scrolled through these wildlife drawings you may have noticed that some are far more sophisticated than others.
There is a noticeable difference between my early and later works. That’s what happens when you draw regularly. I’ve refined and honed my skills. Are they better as a result? Well that’s for you to say, it’s all subjective.
It is certainly a fact that one of my earliest drawings remains my bestseller. Which one? “Jumbo Family” My mother and baby Asian elephants.
This is how I made a living for over 20 years. You can too, simply copy what I did – No hidden secrets
If You Want to Sell Your Art
Check this out!
Psst…it’s only $12.99!
Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy