Artist's Hacks #1

Generally speaking I tend to start a drawing or painting with the eyes of the subject because they carry so much of the spirit and personality of the animal. 

If I get them wrong (heaven forbid!) then I haven't wasted too much time.

Artist's Hacks #2

The finished effect of your illustration will be greatly impacted by the medium you use and the paper you choose. 

Most of my art is created using finely sharpened Pastel pencils for the subject and Pan Pastels for backgrounds and underpainting. I also use acrylics but more often Chroma Colour which gives the translucency of watercolour with the fastness of acrylics.

I frequently use Pastelmat paper because of its tooth which enables me to layer the pastels. I also use Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper with Polychromos pencils.

Artist's Hacks #3

Don't be put off by thinking about the illustration as a whole when in fact its a series of sections and layers.

I tend to sketch out a layout first and work methodically from one element outwards or from one side to the other (often left to right to minimise the risk of smudging).

Understanding the animal's anatomy and muscle groups helps but a great deal can also be gleaned from a high quality reference photo.