Did you know there’s a Natural History Museum in Portland? Much to my surprise there is, at Portland State University!  Fellow artist Patrick Dolan told me about it, so off I went with students in the Mentored Drawing Studio on a field trip. 

What I find neat about drawing animals is that you not only learn about anatomy, they’re challenging to draw too!  Organizing the complexity of a skeleton into it’s most basic forms and drawing it in a way that’s relational while capturing gesture is great drawing practice.

I may be nerding out because I teach artistic anatomy but at the same time I think any artist can benefit from anatomy studies. If you stop for a moment, and look under the hood, there’s so much design involved!  There’s quite a variety in the collection including an orangutang, black bear, grey whale and a cheetah - not exactly your usual subject matter to draw!  Info and a self guided tour below:


Cheetah by EF

Another drawing hideaway that’s nearby and worthy of mention is in the Masonic Building at the Portland Art Museum. The first and second floor house greco-roman and 19th century sculpture that are cast from originals by artisans of the era. 

At one time these casts had their own dedicated space in the museum as a way to bring European sculpture to life in Portland. For many years most of the collection was forgotten and buried in the museum's basement so it’s nice to see that some are on public view again.  

My favorite is “ The Wrestlers “, a dynamic sculpture that's in front of the museum library on the 2nd floor.  Bring along a sketchbook on your next visit to the museum - they really are of great quality and are nice to study and draw from.

What are some of your favorite drawing hideaways and why? Feel free to share in the comments section below.