This last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to the Wildlife Waystation. The Waystation is a 160-acre private animal sanctuary located in the Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles, California. They're home to over 400 wild and exotic animals comprising over 100 different species. It's an amazing place. A friend and colleague of mine has been working with the Waystation for years, taking his classes to draw the animals and to help with raising money for the facility. I was lucky enough to be invited along on one of the summer trips outside of his usual class group with a list of incredible artists.
The day was amazing. The volunteers and staff took us through the entire facility and let us draw the animals. The Waystation is unique in that the animals are viewable from a very close distance. Of course, the handlers are extremely aware of the animal's comfort and our safety. We were very careful to make sure the animals weren't bothered or stressed by us. Many of the animals are comfortable with human visitors as most are rescues from illegal and legal owners, research facilities and sideshows. I was extremely impressed with the way the caretakers knew each and every animal's name, likes and dislikes, comfort level, who could be seen and who couldn't. It was an incredible place. If you'd like to learn more about the Waystation and their mission or to donate to support the animals, visit wildlifewaystation.org
There are no photos allowed by visitors of the Waystation so I can only show you the drawings I was able to capture during my time there. These were all sketched with a Blackwing pencil on Strathmore sketch paper. Some of these drawings will be given to the Waystation for them to sell in their Visitor Center. Proceeds will go to help the animals of the park and maintain the facility.
Animal drawing is extremely important in creature design. Learning animal anatomy should always be paramount but viewing and seeing how animals move and behave in person can give you a unique and informed perspective when designing your creatures.
When drawing from life, aim to visit animals that are used to having visitors or humans close by. Support facilities with good practices and conservation missions.