A black piece of paper with drawings of a cougar’s face on it, sitting on a green surface

Cougar sketches

Drawing has always been something I’ve approached with a great deal of unearned confidence. Each time I sit down to sketch I feel sure I’ll be able to capture the subject with a few strokes of a pen, but the end results never seem that different from the drawings I made as a child.

That was again the case when I set out to sketch a cougar’s head in late 2016. Feast your eyes on this rubbish…

Sketches of a cougar’s face


Things didn’t improve with practice, so I decided to trace the outline of the cat’s head directly from the reference photo I was using, then shade and detail it by hand.

A picnic bench in the woods with a laptop and drawing supplies on it

Here are five variations I came up with. If you view them full size you’ll be able to see the small differences between each one.

Five sketches of a cougar’s face

I’m pretty pleased with them. Once I had that traced outline established it was fun to think of different ways to render the dark of the eyes, or the shape of the nose, or the topology of the head. I can see why artists like to produce studies of the subject they’re going to work on. It forces you re-examine something you think you already understand.

And speaking of my subject, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that cougars (also known as mountain lions, pumas, red tigers, catamounts, and Florida panthers) are (a) utterly beautiful, and (b) threatened by loss of habitat and human hunters. Only one in five cubs survive to adulthood, and 4,000 of those adults are shot and killed in the US and Canada each year.

If you can afford to help them in any way then organizations like Mountain Lion Federation (running since 1986), Bay Area Puma Project, Save LA Cougars, or Panthera would love to hear from you.