Friday, 5 February 2016

How To Draw: Sperm Whales

There was sad news yesterday about a sperm whale being stranded and later dying at Hunstanton, just two miles from where another was beached on January 22nd. This now adds a total of 6 of these whales found dead along both sides of The Wash, 4 in Lincolnshire and the 2 at Hunstanton, and 29 across the coastline of Northern Europe. All of them males. Apparently, at this time of year, male sperm whales gather to hunt off Norway. These are predators that dive to great depths where they search for squid and fish. Unfortunately, these 29 whales have gotten themselves lost down the North Sea, which is far too shallow for them to hunt in and they ended up dying of thirst (they get the water they need from the prey they eat), leading them to strand on the beaches of Europe and the UK. You can read more by clicking here.

I didn't want to go see such a magnificent creature in such a way (plus dead whales tend to smell extremely bad!), so instead I have decided to do a How To Draw for sperm whales as a tribute to the dead whales.

Stage One
To draw a sperm whale, draw a cigar shape for the body and split it up into three circles/ovals inside it and a triangle for the tail.

Stage Two
Now you need to join the shapes up and reshape the whale's outline. The head is large and round and the back is humped all the way down to the tail. I have improved the position of the tail flukes, which has a kink in the middle that divides the flukes. Draw two flippers, an eye and a jaw with teeth. Shade in the underside of the whale, including the whole of the tail and the edge of the head. Shade heavily on the inside of the mouth, but leave the edge of the mouth white.

Stage Three
Redraw the outline in pen. Then, carefully shade in the whale. When you shade in with your pen, do small sections of the whale at a time. With each section, I mositen my finger slightly and smudged the ink gently. Compact the lines of ink for darker shades and less so with lighter areas to get the same results as I have when I smudge the ink. The body of a sperm whale is full of scars and scratches from battles with giant squid, just a simple flick of the pen can create these blemishes.

Stage Four

Colour in your whale to finish it off. I used a grey pencil crayon to go over the pen and I then shade over the whale and its surroundings blue for the sea water.

Stage One

Whales are famous for their breaches (jumping out of the sea) and like most whales, sperm whales do occasionally breach too. To draw a breaching sperm whale, create the same shapes as before, but the tail is not needed as it is underwater. Shade in the sea. Create shapes for areas of water spray or droplets.

Stage Two

Reshape and shade in your whale. Leave areas of light reflection and water spray white. The water dripping off the whale are created with simple lines.

Stage Three

I shade in the whale again with my pen. Be careful not to go over the water spray or any droplets. Shade lightly over the areas of light reflection on the whale's body. 

Stage Four

Finally, colour in your whale. The whale is grey and the sea, of course, is blue. The spray is a very light shading of blue. You can highlight scratches, etc with a pen.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tribute and I hope that no more sperm whales strand themselves this year. It is a very sad thing to happen to such an amazing animal. I would rather see them in the open ocean where they belong than on a beach in Europe. Until next time, good luck with your drawings!


  1. I always enjoy your drawing tutorials. Drawing isn't my strongpoint - my field sketches work for me, but probably wouldn't be recognisable to anyone else, so it's good to get tips. It is very worrying that so many marine mammals have been stranded this year and I hope we'll learn something from it about how to better protect them in future.

    1. There has been a whale reported at Mundesley in Norfolk today. So far it hasn't stranded, let's hope he survives.