One of the most important parts of my illustration process is reference.
Whether its searching images on Google or pulling out of of my (many) wildlife reference books, I start every project, illustration, or visual development project with reference. This semester I have an illustration course that will require a bat character that is both realistic and appealing to children. That night, I went home and looked up photos of Brown Bats and Long-Eared Bats, two relatively common and even humorous species that I thought children might find approachable and cute.
If you follow my work at all, you may know that this time last year I started (and did NOT finish) a project on Australian mammals and marsupials, the first portion of which were bats. You can find these in my Illustration portfolio, here. With that background experience in mind, I decided I would warm myself back up with the following sketches.
These drawings may look detailed because of my inability to leave anything half-done, but I did make and effort to keep them quick and simple- just 5 to 7 minutes each. They're not huge, just five inches in width at most, but it was enough to get the basic shapes down into my head. I do think I have much more to learn about the wing anatomy and shape while flying, so that may be a good focus for another day.
Whether your a novice artist or an experienced illustrator, beginning with reference drawing may save you loads of time and frustration, and help start you off fresh and ready to tackle your work. It applies to graphic design, traditional painters, sculptors, and writers, too. Give yourself a boost and start working from reference!