Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois





Photo courtesy of Maslowski and Goddfaster, 1967

Scientific Illustration: Draw a Least Weasel

Carolyn Nixon


Scientific illustration is a form of art where the artist draws the subject to accurately represent it.  One of the most difficult and most important steps in a scientific illustration is getting the correct shape of the subject.  One trick used by many illustrators, including the famous wildlife illustrator John James Audubon, is to draw with a grid.  Try to draw the least weasel shown here.

You will need a pencil, a ruler, and a letter-sized piece of paper.  Turn your paper so that it is wider than long.  Using your ruler, lightly draw a grid that has 1-inch squares.  The grid should be 8 squares wide and 4 squares high.

Mark the general proportions of the weasel by putting short guide lines in each square, marking where the outline of the weasel crosses the grid and where it turns or angles within the grid.

Look at the weasel photograph and determine if there are any common shapes within the shape of the weasel.  These shapes can include circles, rectangles, or triangles.  If you see these shapes, lightly sketch them into the grid.  Draw any connecting lines to complete the shape of the weasel.

Fill in the eye with your pencil, making it dark by pressing harder.  Make sure you leave some white highlights in the eye so that it will look alive.  To make the weasel look furry, sketch short lines around the edges of the outline, making sure that the lines go in the direction of the fur.

To finish the drawing, fill in the areas of fur with short lines, again, in the direction of the fur.  Use few lines in areas where the fur is white and more lines where it is dark.  In darker areas of the fur, you can also press harder with your pencil to make slightly darker lines.  Notice that the fur is longer on the tail.  Make your lines longer here.  As a final detail, draw the whiskers. 

Congratulations!  You have drawn a least weasel.  You can use these same methods to draw any plant or animal.  You can also draw your grid on a separate piece of paper.  Make sure it is dark.  Then tape a thin piece of paper over the grid.  You should be able to see the grid through the top piece of paper.  When you are finished drawing your subject, you can remove the grid.

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