Sometimes my projects go better than expected (such as my recent colored pencil zebra drawing). Other times, I think a piece is going along splendidly, but somehow in the end the whole thing just ends up being a bit off.

Take for example the giraffe drawing/painting I completed last week. The inspiration came from this darling photo by Gary Jones of a mother giraffe and her baby. I mean, you just can’t help but go, “Awwww” when you see it:

I started by adjusting the photo a little bit to bring Mom’s body (at the right) a tad bit closer to Baby. First, this helped me fit the image into a more standard paper size. And second, I wanted to give the youngster a better frame and make it look more like mom was protecting her baby in a big giraffe-y circle of love.

A couple years ago I did a giraffe in graphite, but I’ve never tried one in colored pencil. Still, after my luck with Mr. Zebra, I figured the  techniques I’d just been having a great time with would translate perfectly to creating the furry texture of the giraffe duo.

Things started out well. Although I had a little trouble getting the dark color on Mom’s horns right, her fur and eye and spots were turning out great.


The trouble began with Baby. He’s a lighter, more orange-y color than Mom, but I didn’t want his color to overwhelm the drawing. I worked in more brown and it didn’t look too bad, but at this point (besides the fact that Baby had no head)I had a feeling this wasn’t coming out right.


But what can you do? The show must go on, right? I finished Baby’s head hoping it might come out as well as Mom’s had. Nope. Baby ended up with a weird expression that looks more like “Leave me alone” than “Oh, I feel so loved and protected.” Sigh.



Besides Baby’s goofy expression, there’s just something not quite right about this whole image. I’m not sure if the background needs darkened, if the empty space above Baby’s head is just too empty, or if maybe I need to play with cropping it a bit, but something is off. Of course, being colored pencil piece, I can’t change things or experiment too much (colored pencil can be difficult to erase), but I feel like (hope) this can be saved.

So, here’s where you get to play artistic advisor!

What do you feel is “off” about this piece? Is there hope for it? Or am I just being too critical of myself? Any suggestions, comments, criticisms will be most welcome.

Thanks everyone and have a great rest of your week. I’ll be back Friday with another installment of The Vacation.


17 thoughts on “Please Help the Not-Quite-Right Giraffe

  1. Hmm. I’m trying to be a tough critic, but i don’t think it’s working. I actually don’t see the “down side” here. I think it looks pretty great – just mama and baby loving each other. But, don’t babies usually have the expression of leave me alone quite often? Haha not usually to the mom though but still

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  2. I will try to be a critic- since I can’t draw dit I have no right to critique others. The baby giraffe does look a bit unloving, can’t figure if it is the mouth or the eyes need to be larger–I think the color shade between the two looks great. The young giraffe does look like a little miffed.

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  3. I think the giraffes look fine. If you had to add/change anything, I would think doing something with the background like adding foliage or something to make the space not so blank. You could not really darken the background or you would lose the colors of the giraffes. Nice work on them!!


    1. I was thinking some foliage might work, but there’s always that fear of adding something and completely ruining the piece…which I have to say I am quite good at doing!


  4. I think you just have a slight touch of Artist Eyes going on here! After repeated scrolling back and forth between the photo and your drawing, I just couldn’t see the glaring mistakes you’re talking about. In fact, your Baby Giraffe actually looks much more appreciative of his mum’s attention than the original! Perhaps a background might be in order if you still feel something’s a bit off… Why not get a couple of colour photocopies of your drawing, then you can experiment without fear of wrecking all your hard work?

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  5. When I first saw the finished baby giraffe’s head, it didn’t look quite right. The head looked to small and the expression was smug. Then I went back and looked at the original photo and the baby giraffe’s head still doesn’t look quite right, with the same smug expression. I think you did another great job!

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  6. I definitely feel that a background would help grind the giraffes; some lovely greens and yellows. I also suggest more contrast; go dark with the tops of their heads and horns, and what about some watercolour washes to make the colours more vibrant?

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    1. Thanks Chloe! I’ve set this piece aside for now, but I’ll definitely work on incorporating your tips when (if 🤔) I come back to it. I love wildlife images with plain backgrounds (either all white or all black), but I think the cream tone of this paper didn’t provide enough contrast…lesson learned!


    1. Don’t worry, I understood what you meant. I’ll probably go back to it, but I’m in a rush to complete enough work for a show in the spring so, unfortunately, there’s not much time for experimenting and “repairs.”


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