Above: raccoon page from Animal Faces
I’m an animal fan (to put it mildly). When I came across this book,”Animal Faces by Akira Satoh and Kyoko Toda, I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s such a simple idea; take a bunch of portraits of one kind of animal and put them next to one another. What comes out is something truly amazing: we see how each animal is an individual. Personalities appear. The disparities in their markings or fluffier cheeks make a huge difference when you compare one to the others in her species.
It reminds us of the power of observation. It’s a book about discovery and gently questions you to find subtle distinctions in the 24 portraits of each species. You might assume that tigers are generally all the same, until you really examine their stripes and suddenly an array of patterns stand out.
It brings me back to when I first studied painting many years ago and the teacher really pushed us to spend far more time studying our subject than staring at our own canvases. We were all so worried about the mechanics of painting that we forgot to just spend time truly looking at the model. Taking time to stare deeply at things and to examine all the minutiae that surround us is incredibly important; not only for our craft.
I find this book extremely useful for illustration. It reinforces how one small tweak can bring out a different character, personality or emotion.
What do you like to really stare at? What inspires your illustrations?
Here are a few of my favorite spreads (and species) from Animal Faces: