Getting the shape of the nose is important. It gives the structure to the whole of the face - not the head, but the face, and the face is key.
This is a giraffe, but it needs to speak out to humans - be something we can recognise a message in. And so we enter the murky realms of anthropomorphism, a realm where the danger and savagery of the natural world is transformed into the - obviously, cute and empathetic world of humanity. Nonsense of course! There is no more violent animal on the planet than humanity, but in order to identify with these animals we need to see our perception of ourselves staring back; so the face is important, because it is in the face that we see most of ourselves:- expressions of the mouth, angles of the eyes and the influence of eyebrows (even where there are none). This is what we believe the animal to be, our own projection of emotions and experiences on that of the natural world.
So here I am. I look at these images of animals at rest, at play, eating, sleeping, even running, and I try to see the story that calls out to me - the story that my imagination gives to this animal. Transforming the animal into the human is not just a trick of line, or enabled by the addition of a hat or scarf, it is in the way in which the animal enters the human imagination and mirrors back what we want to see in ourselves.
For me this is more than just the reference materials I look at, but especially in the animals I come into contact with. My cat has always been a joy to me, purely as an animal that can swear at you with a look. My mythology harks back to Kipling and 'the cat who walks alone', so my cat is wilful, stubborn, and clearly the one in charge of the house. It is not perhaps a startling original mythology - the reams of cards and books will tell you the impression is given to others too. It is, however, a self fulfilling prophecy as now my cat is wilful, stubborn and lets you know when she needs to be fed in no uncertain terms.
The cat eats, sleeps, hunts, feeds and repeats, but that is not enough for me, or for us as a species - we hunger after stories, after meaning, and so my cat is given impulses, desires, thoughts and cunning plans. She becomes deliberately provocative and demanding. So my last picture (and the next) has the cat luxurious in her sleep - but in one I look at her dreams, in the other, her ability to lord it over others.
Thus when I look at an animal to draw, an image to design, I am looking for a story and giving a bit of myself to the stance, the raised eyebrow, or the slack of the jaw. Then there's the ears, just need to droop a bit... no, that's not right - too dog.