Specializing in the portrayal of animals, the animal illustrator focuses on the anatomy, habits, and characteristics of animals.
While many use a representational style of rendering animals, others crossover as children's book illustrators like Helen Beatrix Potter, natural scientist and conservationist, known for her children's book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Zoological atlases abound with illustrations of horses, birds, and fish, many dating back a couple of hundred years. In 1844, The Atlas of Zooolgie, with illustrations produced by artists who each specialized in drawing a specific species of animal, is a fine example, with plate after plate of glorious creatures in all their splendor.
The smart animal illustrator is a specialist who has studied his subject well: Charles Church or Mark Upton, racehorses; C.J. Brown, livestock, or Steven Jay Sanford, birds. Most animal illustrators work in paint; watercolor, oil or any medium that can be reworked over time, though some use graphite and colored pencil.
Many animal illustrators have a background in animal husbandry; are naturalists, or conservationists.
They study their subjects with intensity to create lifelike renderings of feathers and fins. The sheen of a stallion's coat, the filament on the gill of a fish, the contours and colors of a European goldfinch, the plumage and tail feathers of a pastel-colored parakeet: nothing escapes the keen eye of the animal illustrator.