What’s the secret to sketching animals?

Sketch them while they are sleeping. Actually, this works well for sketching children too.

The key is that your subject stays still so that you have time to observe and draw.  So, if you have a pet, you’re in luck. Whip out your sketchbook and catch those critters while they rest.

Our 14 year-old Boston Terrier, Sidney naps frequently –  the perfect model.

What if you don’t have an obliging pet?

Head to the University of Zurich’s Zoological Museum (est. 1833) and you can get up close and personal with over 1500 animals – stuffed that is. Not moving. Easy to draw.

On display, you’ll find all manner of beasts. From Birds-of-paradise to Swiss Schneehäsli  (not the type found on the slopes of St. Moritz), the collection includes animals native to Switzerland and critters from around the world. You’ll even see dinosaur bones, fossils and lots of bugs.

Sketchers are welcome and the museum provides folding chairs to sit and draw. Just ask at the counter if you can’t find them.

Sketching a native species, the Schneehase.

The museum’s small café is a great place to meet friends and sketch together.

Keep in mind that Wednesday is the busiest day for school tours and is like being stuck with ants partying over a discarded enchilada and a sticky splash of Coca-Cola. If that’s your thing, could be fun. Let’s just say, unless you want to sketch the kids too, I suggest going on another day.

I usually try to do as many sketches as I can and save the painting for when I get home.

Using Caran d’Ache gouache paints and ink to finish the sketch.

Sketching at Zürich’s Zoological Museum is my favourite option when the weather is lousy. Each visit offers endless opportunities to practice, train my observation skills, improve and appreciate nature’s creativity.

Give it a try. You’ll find directions and opening hours here.

Zurich’s best spot for cafe-sketching: Kafi für Dich

With a down-to-earth atmosphere, the largest Spielecke for kids that I’ve ever seen, a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard and long, deep tables – you can easily spend hours absorbed in your sketchbook amongst the locals, the mommies, the students and the business-lunch guests. Quite an eclectic mix.

If you are shy about drawing in public, start with a sketching session at Kafi für Dich – you’ll feel at home! Spreading out  our markers, pencil crayons, sketchbooks and apples didn’t wreak havoc with die Ordnung, confuzzle the other guests or irritate the waitress. In fact, she invited us to come and draw anytime.

As you know, feeding the artist is essential to good sketching (and keeping the waitress happy). So we ordered feta and spinach quiche with salad and homemade ice tea – for under CHF 20. The cheesecake looked mighty fine too, but we lost track of time and had to sprint back to the office.

Sketching the process of eating an apple trains your eye and introduces the basics of storytelling.

You’ll find Kafi für Dich in Kreis 4. A 10 minute walk from Stauffacher, it’s situated right across from the Bäckeranlag at Stauffacherstrasse 141.

Meilen has no umlaut

House in MeilenDespite learning Swiss German, I still can’t describe where I live without evoking squints and blank stares. Why? I live in a town with an umlaut.

Meilen is just down the road from me, refreshingly free of vowels I can’t say and chock full of great spots for sketching.



How do you like them apples?

My grandfather used to finish all of his stories with that line “How do you like them apples?” and I thought of him as I was sketching this juicy “Jonagold” from Stäfa’s orchards.

Read a bit about my story in an interview with Charlie O’Shields at Doodlewash by clicking on the sketch.