The Eyes Of A Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion Puma Watercolor Illustration

For our prompt of “Mountains” today, I opted for a portrait of a mountain lion, who goes by many aliases including puma, cougar, and panther. I’ve always been struck by the intense gaze of these creatures and how they seem to be intently viewing everything at once. I can only strive for this level of observation when it comes to making art, but in the end, I think perhaps, this big cat still manages to see things that I miss. It’s likely that an animal who uses primarily instinct has a bit of an advantage over the human animal. We tend to add a touch of rationalization or a preconceived notion to everything we see and this can be good, when it works out, but many times it can lead to us missing out on many things. My approach is to view everything with the eyes of a child. Having never been a mountain lion, this is the closest reference I have. I just hope to have a sense of innocence when I sketch, so it’s as if I’m looking at something for the very first time. My hope is that, in this way, I can just maybe see more of what’s actually there. Little bits of detail I might have overlooked if my adult mind had been in charge at the time.

This is why I’ve adopted a mantra of sketching like a kid again. Not just because it’s super fun, but because I truly believe it helps me create things that have a nice touch of realism in a really short amount of time. It’s my little secret, that’s not remotely secret at all, as I tend to share or, indeed, shout it as much as humanly possible. I truly believe it’s the best skill one can develop, or redevelop, if you want to quickly create surprisingly wonderful things in the moment. Sure, it’s equally the very thing that keeps yours truly sketching with my ridiculously short attention span. In truth, my own approach is something I recommend mostly as a bit of recess, when traditional classes get a bit too challenging or time-consuming. Or, when rules become a bit daunting and you’re feeling the urge to just play with a bit of line and color. A playground, if you will, where you can DO whatever feels right for you in the moment. That’s why when I was asked to do something more instructional, I ended up creating a book of fun activities. I’m working on the next book in the series, which is going to be “Animals,” and am realizing more than ever that I just use a bunch of ingredients that I pull together at random, but never really a single step-by-step approach.

That’s the beautiful thing about honing observational skills. When you look at something with fresh eyes, fresh ideas of how to approach it tend to pop to mind as well. So, I simply take my arsenal of various techniques and methods and apply whichever ones tend to fit in the moment while blending those with a bit of in-the-moment experimentation. I’m a crazy constant inventor-type, but if you find a technique or method that really speaks to your heart, than I say, “DO it often and as much as you can!” That’s why I always promote all of the proper teachers that have inspired me along my journey, as they are fabulous at showing the steps of just how to create something truly beautiful. I, on the other hand, am not an art teacher, but I’m still committed to sharing the bits of wisdom I’ve learned via my Sketching Stuff Activity Books. In truth, much of my approach has been inspired by my husband Philippe who, when finding me struggling with a particular subject once, leaned over and whispered, “just draw what you see.” In my angst of the moment, I wanted to swat him away, but I realize now it was the only sage advice I ever really needed. Looking back, I realize he was just compassionately trying to remind me to always have the eyes of a mountain lion.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Opus (Vivid Pink), Leaf Green, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Mountain Lion Puma Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail
Recommended7 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 2 months ago

    Beaaaaaaaaaaautiful Mountain Lion!!! I have a strong affinity for felines. They are purrrfect lol just like all the rest of the wonderful things in the world right? lol My sister is the one who actually brought it to my attention that i look at things in the way a cat does. Many look by shifting the eyes this way or that way. I move my head this way and that way to get the whole picture. Its a lovely way of viewing the world. Philippe is very wise. Yes draw what you see. Each of us has our own way of interpreting what we see some in lines or shapes, or colors, to name a few. 🙂 Its fun to see where things take us. Happy midweek to you both. 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks, Lisa! 😃💕Felines are indeed fantastic! hehe Yeah, I know, right? Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the greatest! Indeed, we just need to take a moment to actually SEE things and the rest gets much easier after that!

  2. Karen Fortier 2 months ago

    Charlie, your mountain lion does have an intense stare! My response to people who say that they have no talent to DO art is “you just have to learn to really see” and spend time practicing just like any new skill you might pursue. Of course there is the matter of quieting that voice we all have. I just tell mine that I am just playing so there is no reason to be concerned. I look back over the past two years and am pleased that all those brush stokes and pen marks have added up and life is good! How lucky am I to spend most days DOing art!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕Yay to being proud of all those brush strokes! That’s how I always feel as well. Some days are better than others, but the journey is the best part of all! As is DOing art every day of course!

  3. Robert J. Coleman 2 months ago

    Yogi Berra is You can observe a lot by just watching.

    • Robert J. Coleman 2 months ago

      Oops, that one got away from me! I was going to say that I really like that kitty cat but hope he isn’t looking at me! Observation is so basic to sketching and painting too.The wisdom imparted by Philippe, just draw what you see, reminds me of the Yogi Berra line: you can observe a lot by just watching. I heard the line turned around a bit: you can see a lot by just looking – looking being the intense gaze seen in that cat’s eyes, taking in everything. It works!

      • Author
        Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

        Thanks, Bob! 😃💕Hehe… and Yogi Berra! Philippe’s version was simply stating the obvious, but it’s awesome how often the obvious is exactly the bit of real wisdom we need to hear next. It totally works!

  4. Sharon Nolfi 2 months ago

    Your mountain lion is quite handsome, and does, in fact, look like the real animal. Mountain lions live where I live, as they do in all the mountainous areas of L.A. My husband and I have seen one at a distance while hiking near our home. Occasionally one has to be captured by animal control and released farther away from people, as they have attacked joggers. Something I love is that we have “wildlife overpass bridges” on the freeway near our home! They were built because mountain lions do cross freeways in their normal search for prey.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕Oh wow… that’s cool that you get to see mountain lions near you… as long as they are far away of course and not attacking! hehe I’d love to live in California!

  5. Lisa 2 months ago


    We had my book group today, and since it’s August, we had BLT month. Since my tomatoes did rather poorly this year, I had to buy some at the fruit stand. They weren’t as good as mine, but still better than the grocery store. At least everyone liked the book.

    I got a big 2 inch wide paint brush in the mail today. I’m going to have to paint something big!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Lol… yeah, actually, I didn’t add whiskers to this one. 😉 Yay to a successful book club and BLTs! Yum! I yay for your next BIG painting inspired by that brush!

  6. LoriCtoo 2 months ago

    Beautiful cougar! This is probably one of my favorites. I love his expression and coloring.We have cougar sightings around here every once in awhile. A result from over building. :< I find I like to sketch like a child when I am tired, usually before bedtime. I want to sketch, but I am too tired to put any serious effort into it. I find it relaxing.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕Fun that you have cougar sightings, we don’t get them around here. And yay for sketching like a child… I always do that all of the time because I’m always in the state you described! lol

  7. Sandra Gilbert 2 months ago

    Awww, Philippe is wise beyond his years. Personally I go with a quote attributed to Picasso… “I paint things as I think them, not as I see them”. Works well with my painting style.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      That’s awesome, Sandra! 😃💕I love that quote. But yeah, Philippe is actually quite wise, even when he’s just trying to get me to hurry up and finish something! hehe

  8. Margaret Parker Brown 2 months ago

    Beautiful painting of one of my favorite animals. I have heard them,seen one at a distance. They are magnificent ❤️ my husband had one jump over in front of him (about 20 feet away) while he was on a Forest service road. He was on an ATV , it was exciting and scary. Haha a lot of people here either love them or hate them, I personally love them. Great post!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks, Margaret! 😃💕 Yeah, I would be in the love them camp! They’re just such cool creatures. Not sure I’d want to come face to face with one, but at a distance… they’re just awesome! hehe

  9. Mary Roff 2 months ago

    That is one gorgeous cat, Charlie! Looking forward to the new Sketching Stuff book!!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕Glad you liked my cat! And yeah, the next book is going a bit slower as I had to reconsider my idea. Everyone sort of leveled up after the first one, so I’m trying to make the books level up as well. 😊

  10. smzang 2 months ago

    Philippe says, “just draw what you see.”

    it sounds so simple, but as artists of all types search for the perfect, that is the best possible advice. Super!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      I know, right?? 😃💕hehe… when he said it I was SO irritated! Thinking… duh! I’m trying to do that. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t really seeing things at all. Yeah, I married well.

  11. Laura Kate 2 months ago

    “draw what you see” works best if you have trained yourself to really see. You have mastered the art of seeing.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Laura! 😃💕 Actually, I have to credit Philippe with that. He told me that very early on in my journey. It made all the difference in the world!

  12. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 2 months ago

    Beautiful portrait of a mountain lion, Charlie. They roam our California hills but I’ve only caught sight of the ones in zoos, usually rescues. Yes, you captured him in a glorious contemplative pose. Many great artists encouraged folks to develop their inner artistic child. Unfortunately, it’s popular now to teach kids to paint just like famous adult painters, or to copy directed images. The results are “gorgeous” but they all look exactly alike.

    I did teach some art history and plenty about aesthetics to my young students, but my focus was on letting kids find their own art journey. The finished product was secondary. It pleases me that you encourage folks to find their personal path to art, however that experience may play out. And that you follow your own rules.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon for your encouraging words!! 😃💕 YES! I agree! I think the copy approach is not quite as grand as just inviting people to explore their own creativity. I promote a short list of instructors who create both the step-by-step with a sense of openness and exploration. For my own part, I think I’ll just just be the “here’s a bunch of ingredients, so go play” kind of guy! lol

  13. Sandra Strait 1 month ago

    I love the way the colors in your lion are echoed in the sky. I can’t wait for your next book.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕 Glad you liked this! Yeah, I had to rethink the next book after seeing all the awesome things people posted. Working on it now!

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