Help me de­pict a beast about to pounce


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Bai­ley Davis, Eng­land

An­swer Al­li­son replies

In tack­ling a crouch­ing crea­ture that’s ready to pounce, you need to first know what an­i­mals you’re bas­ing the crea­ture off, un­der­stand what their mus­cle struc­ture is like, and then be aware of the body lan­guage they ex­hibit when they’re on the of­fen­sive. Most of the mus­cles found in hu­mans are also found in other mam­mals – they’re sim­ply shaped a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. Re­mem­ber, form dic­tates func­tion and vice versa. If you un­der­stand com­par­a­tive anatomy it can help if you phys­i­cally act out the pose to see what mus­cles you’re us­ing, so you know what to ac­cen­tu­ate in your piece.

Weight­ing and an­gles are hugely im­por­tant in pos­ing. Ask your­self how heavy is your crea­ture, where is the ten­sion, is it con­cen­trated and fo­cused or a lit­tle spread out? The chimera has the high ground here, so its head is down and for­ward, in­tent on you. Its weight is chan­nelled into its right fore­leg, which is bent to take some weight off the left arm, which is in turn ex­tended. This isn’t an op­ti­mal an­gle for a launch, but in­stead sug­gests that it’s creep­ing for­ward. The left foot (un­seen) steps down to the rock be­hind the body, while the right be­gins to pivot and is ready to step down af­ter. The im­pres­sion is not that it’s go­ing to pounce im­me­di­ately (be­cause the hind legs are the pri­mary drive of the pounce and the weight is spread mo­men­tar­ily at the fore), but that it’s sim­ply mov­ing into po­si­tion to do so, and will launch it­self once it’s there.

I save al­most all of the de­tail for the fi­nal ren­der­ing pass and in­stead en­sure that pose, move­ment and land­marks are taken care of I use a lot of Over­lay, Hard Light and Mul­ti­ply lay­ers to build up light­ing as I go, and work from large to small when I paint. Shapes first, de­tail sec­ond.

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