When I started sketching in zoos in the mid 90s I drew as accurately as I could - I wanted realistic results. Here's a sketchbook page from the Cologne Zoo in Germany in the summer of 1997.
And I would do very realistic finished work. This is a pastel from 2008.You can tell it's a zoo elephant from the tusks - they're short to protect the other elephants and their handlers.
At the beginning of 2010 I started painting with acrylic. And instead of drawing every eyelash (a friend once commented on seeing too much hyper-realistic art that drew every detail) I painted very abstractly. It affected my sketching and what I wanted the results to be. I went to the zoo for days in a row in the summer of 2010 to draw the elephants. I have pages and pages in my sketchbook that look like this:
Gesture after gesture - I started a new drawing each time the elephant moved. It felt funny to be drawing so loosely - and I didn't feel as comfortable having other zoo visitors look over my shoulder.
For the first time I used my sketches instead of photos to do finished artwork. I did several wall sized acrylic paintings from these summer sketches.