Answer Allison replies
If you’re extrapolating an animal’s characteristics out to that of a fantasy creature, it’s good to know something of the animal’s anatomy, its environment, how it moves and what the disposition might be.
I begin with a rough body shape and then work out a close-up of the head to set the tone of the creature. This not only helps me come up with a solid silhouette and flow, but also enables me to decide what cohesive elements I’m going to use throughout. I use the Lasso tool to lay out where markings are going to be, and to define key shapes amid busy patterns to help balance the design.
Remember that form and function are 1 intertwined. I ask myself questions as I work and look for answers in real animals so that I can include more interesting elements into the creation. I don’t just throw legs on a snake to make a dragon: there’s snake, monitor lizard and crested gecko in there.
Disposition is also integral to honing in on the body language that will bring your creature to life. A tense, slightly hunched and low to the ground animal could be ready to pounce or about to retreat depending on limb position, body angle and facial expression. A confident animal may be the opposite. Once you know what your creature is feeling, you can work out the best way to express that.
I try to replicate the feel of the original inspiration animal through pattern, anatomy choices, pose and personality. Nail down your silhouette and shape and a rough colour pass prior to any real rendering, so you don’t wind up doing needless work.