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Sketchbook Sundays used to be a regular event here at Mars Will Send No More, but then I got into writing fiction. Recently, I’ve missed drawing, and I always wanted to be better at drawing animals. So I picked up a few inexpensive books by Lee J. Ames. Each page has a different animal to draw, guiding you through the process in six stages, from outlining the basic shapes to the final shading and detail. It’s a bit limited by only having one pose per animal, so it isn’t like a master class in anatomy. But it’s fun to learn some of the basics and quickly produce a decent sketch.

When I was a kid, I used to get these books from the library, but I could never get the proportions right. Results were disastrous and crushed my youthful aspirations of illustrating comics. Decades later, I better understand what Ames is trying to tell me about basic underlying shapes, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to be loose and even sloppy in the early stages — kind of like pounding out a rough draft of a scene without worrying about whether it’s perfect. Later, you come back and revise, smooth out the rough edges, and put the final editorial polish to it.

Anyway, I practiced on a bunch of sharks and cats lately. Birds and bugs are next in line.

Collector’s Guide: There’s a whole series of Lee J. Ames books in paperback and Kindle edition that cost around $10 each.