Using photos / pictures as reference is very useful to learn about anatomy, the differences of species / breeds / body shapes, fur, details, animal behaviour, etc.). While photos are good, it's also much recommended to look at videos or live animals to understand how a body moves. Collect and use those references and save them into a folder (it saves time to already have a nice selection at hand when you need it).
If you're saving artwork of other artists as reference or inspiration, that's fine. Just make sure you're not just copying someone else's artwork. There's sometimes a fine line between inspiration, and copying.
If you're looking for poses, these the posable figures made by S.H. Figuarts are a nice little helper. You can play with them to get ideas for a pose (one figure or several ones for interacting), or use them as help to get perpective or lighting right.
There is a male and a female version, both coming with a selection of hands (different poses) and accessories (sword, weapon, laptop, phone, pen...), as well as a nice box to store the little items in. There are a lot of more figures (different versions and colors) too.
The box (where you can store the hands and items in) is, at the same time, the stand base for the triple jointed arm, which you can use for holding up your figurine for different poses (flying, jumping, etc.). Playing around with these models has been a lot of fun and practice.
UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE DOINGThe most important thing is to understand what you're doing. Don't try to blindly redraw (trace) pictures without understanding what you're drawing. You don't need to be a medical anatomy expert, but for the beginning you should learn about the basic skeleton (and muscles) and how a body works. In order to draw a character moving or posing right, you need to know where the joints are. The better you understand something, the better you will be able to reproduce / draw it, also in different poses.
HOW TO STARTYou may have the urge to get a result as fast as possible, but if you rush at the beginning, you will regret it at the end when you've put much work into details/coloring, but didn't take the time to get the anatomy look right first. Take your time to make your sketch look right, even if this means that you'll sleep a night over it (especially if you've been working on a sketch for a long time, this sometimes helps to discover mistakes when looking at the picture with a fresh, resetted view the next day).
When drawing a character, I usually start with very simple basic shapes (circles, lines) to construct a character and define the pose. This little "wire skeleton" in my head helps me to find a pose. For the head circle, I add a cross which defines in which direction the character will be looking into. Often I do several of those rough sketches, to warm up, and to find the pose that I want. When my rough construction looks good to me, I continue giving the forms some more detail. Only when I am content with the basic construction, I start adding details, fur, etc.
PLAN YOUR COMPOSITIONEspecially when you have to work with a limited space (e.g. in a sketchbook), it's recommended to sketch a very simple construction of the drawing (for example just lines and circles), to position the characters on the picture. That way you can find out at the beginning if it will fit on the limited space, before putting too much detailed work into it, as it is very frustrating when you start a nice sketch and then realize that the paper is actually too small. When sketching digitally, this is not so much of a problem as you can simply move or scale your drawing.
CONCEPT SKETCHESWhen doing bigger pictures (more detailed/complex, with background, etc.), I don't just simply start somewhere, but I usually do little concept sketches first. That way you can define the composition, positions in the picture, light sources and shadows, what's in the background, the basic color scheme, etc. Usually I am doing this digitally and often change a lot until I am happy with the layout. Once I am happy, I start doing the actual sketch and coloring and use my concept sketch as reference.
HOW TO DETECT MISTAKES - BREAKS AND THE MIRROR TRICKEspecially when you're working on a picture for a longer time, you may start getting "blind" to mistakes. So when sketching, it's recommended to take a break once in a while (give your eyes and brain some rest, maybe sleep a night over it), and then get back to your picture - you will suddenly notice mistakes that you haven't seen before. But not only for sketching, also when coloring it's useful to take breaks.
Another very useful trick you can use right away to figure out anatomical mistakes is looking at your picture mirrored - either in a mirror, holding it against a window or putting it on a light table (depending on how heavy the paper is), or if you're working digitally, just flip the picture horizontally. You will be surprised how a picture that looked alright suddenly shows anatomical mistakes when you flip/mirror it.
TUTORIALS AND BOOKSThere are very nice drawing books and online tutorials, explaining step by step how to draw (anatomy, perspectives, proportions, light/shadows, digital drawing techniques, working with water colors, etc.). Even if you're an experienced artist, you never stop learning, there is always room for improvement. I have also listed a few useful links and book recommendations here, as well as some own tutorials.
INVISIBLE LINESPictures have "invisible lines" - parts that are fully or partially hidden behind other things or characters (like in this example, the tail behind the fox). So when you construct a character by drawing rough/simple shapes, don't hesitate to scribble these hidden lines as well (or at least draw them in your head without actually drawing the outlines) - even if they're erased again in the final picture. If you simply add outlines somewhere without checking where they come from, your picture might look off (like wrong proportions, body parts just attached somewhere or broken bones).
PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILSTake a look at details and understand the differences between species/breeds when drawing animals. A cheetah's anatomy looks totally different to a tiger's, a snow leopard is not just a regular leopard with grey fur, a fox does not look like a wolf, canine paws do not look the same like feline paws. Especially when drawing in a realistic style, it is very important to pay attention to these details.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONSI am a big fan of facial expressions to bring a character to life, to express feelings, to show emotions or the nature of a character. Of course there are styles where this is not as important/intense (like realistic animal portraits), but especially for toony pictures, this is essential. It's a matter of style, so it's totally up to you how realistic, natural or exaggerated you like to draw an expression. Also here, use references - or even more simple: take a look at yourself in the mirror. Make different faces, watch your expressions, how does your mouth move, how does the shape of the eyes change when looking angry, happy, sad... be your own model to understand facial expressions.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK / ADVICEDon't hesitate to ask for feedback. Show your sketch to other artists, let them give you critique, advice, maybe some redlines. Ask for honest feedback, it doesn't help you if a friend doesn't want to be "mean" and only tells you nice things (although he knows there are things wrong with the picture). When you're in the position to give somebody feedback, try to give constructive critique. "It looks off" doesn't really help when the artist doesn't know what.
Don't be disappointed if an artist doesn't have time for giving you detailed feedback (many of them are very busy). It may help to ask for a specific feedback, for example it will be easier for an artist to answer the question "could you please tell me if the anatomy looks right?" rather than "can you teach me how to draw?" or "what do you think?"
YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING - LOOK AT YOUR PROGRESSThere is always room for improvement, even for experienced artists. When looking back at older art, you should be able to see a progress. If you look back at older art and don't see any improvement, there's something wrong. Keep your old pictures and look at them once in a while, seeing your improvements can be quite motivating (and entertaining as well). It's also fun to redraw an old picture in your current style and skills to see the improvement.
Constructing a bodyHuman body
For constructing a human (or anthro) body, there is a simple rule to get the right proportions: You can divide the body into 8 segments, starting with the head, down to the feet (some people also use only 7 segments, but the one with 8 works better for me). Of course not all bodies have exactly the same proportions, but it's a rough, helpful guide.
Although the basic skeleton of mammals is the same, every animal has a different body appearance. The proportion/size of the bones varies, depending on the species/breed. For being able to draw these bodies properly, you need to know and understand the anatomy as well as the particular proportions.
Anthropomorphic animals are fantasy creatures (animals with human characteristics / walking upright on 2 legs). As they are fictional, there is not really a 'right' or 'wrong' how to draw them (like plentigrade (walking on plain feet like a human) or digitigrade legs (walking on toe tips / like an animal), if they look more like a human or more like an animal) - but the anatomy should be correct.
Tips about the right material / equipmentReal media - Choose the right drawing material. Like using the right kind of ink for outlining or the right type of paper for water colors or markers to avoid bleeding or wrinkling, etc. I have listed information about different real media drawing material here.
Digital art - If you draw digitally, I very much recommend getting a graphic tablet. What different tablets there are and what may be the right one for you, you can look up here in the graphic tablets section. If you're looking for good drawing programs, you can look them up here.
PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISEEverybody started small, even your biggest role models. Keep yourself motivated to draw regularly, but don't put too much pressure on yourself. It goes without saying that motivation and inspiration will make it much easier to practise regularly, that's why I added a separate section for motivation. Creativity is like a muscle, it needs and wants to be trained. If you're doing several sketches in a row, you may notice that it will get smoother and easier from sketch to sketch.