How to design a unique species
Ilya Golitsyn encourages you to ask “why”, as he shares his process for designing and illustrating amphibian humanoids for a video game
Ilya Golitsyn encourages you to ask “why?”
close your eyes and imagine a post-apocalypse world where only humans survived, and because of the natural selection humanoids evolved to fill all the biosphere’s habitat. The closest thing to this happened when dinosaurs died, leaving a whole new world for the surviving mammals to conquer.
Now what if the same extinction event happens again, and only sapiens survive, but degrade just enough to start the adaptation process without all the fancy tools they have nowadays? In the course of, let’s say, a million years we’ll have new fauna, derived from the homo sapiens. The world of flying, ground digging, hunting and swimming humanoids.
The reason why I’ve spent so much time describing this world is because the setting is crucial when you have to create any design in an imaginative environment, especially if it’s a creature or character concept. It makes the design so much richer when the finished visual doesn’t only answers “what” and “how”, but also “why”. In case of creature design, “why” will help to apply anatomy knowledge when designing species that fit certain conditions.
This workshop’s task is to create a design of one of the species that could inhabit this world, focusing on aquatic humanoids as a theme. These shouldn’t be fish-men or mermaids, but rather humans that evolved into the new homo amphibian. Throughout the workshop I’ll show you a bit of my thought process and decision making, as well as the digital painting techniques I use. The result will be an illustration presenting homo amphibians in their natural habitat.
1 Research and idea
I start with rough sketches of the creature’s head. I decide I’d like these guys to be partially a land species, like otters or fur seals. These animals breathe once in a while with their nose just above the surface water. That helps me come up with the idea of raising the nose to eye level. Out of several designs I pick the ones that are a bit more human-like.
2 Anatomy design
I draw a quick human skeleton profile and make it semitransparent. On top of it, I line out a new creature’s skeleton, keeping in mind the otter’s and seal’s anatomies: over time these animals have developed more streamlined features and elongated body parts. On the new skeleton I sketch out muscle volumes and adjust it until I’m happy with the result.
Now it’s time to start with the main illustration. I do a couple of rough poses sketches, trying to capture the grace that you can see in the underwater footage of sea mammals. I decide to make multiple figures interacting with each other. It’ll help me to sell the idea of them being still quite social.