How do I paint the pelt of a fantasy beast hanging on a wall?
Regis Sinclair, Canada
Creating a pelt for a fantasy animal is a great exercise for the imagination, and the main thing to consider with this article is that either the overall shape should be reasonably familiar and recognisable, or the texture and patterning should be. If both aspects are too strange and unusual, the viewer may not read the object as a animal pelt.
Even a made-up animal will relate somehow to its environment. So before you tackle the depiction of the dead animal’s pelt, spend a bit of time thinking about where your animal lives. Ask yourself questions such as what’s the sunlight colour, and what climate does it live in? These can give you ideas for details and colouring that have inherent logic.
When a real-life pelt is spread flat on a floor or wall, we can see a rough configuration of the animal’s body. It should probably be symmetrical, with the spine being the centreline of the shape. For my fantasy-based image, I’m going to choose a six-legged, furred beast that has scaled crests going along the spine.
To keep the pelt splayed out flat, I decide to attach it to a hanging wood frame, which helps to give a natural context and provide more visual interest.
As Harvey Dunn put it, I’ll “let the edge carry the form“and immediately convey not only the shape of the animal, but the fur construction as well. This enables me to be more painterly within that shape. I’ll use patterning pulled from real-life reference, but take the opportunity to be creative with the colouring.
To mix in some extra strangeness, I’ll add a large carapace down the spinal ridge. Finally, a strange spear weapon hanging on the frame provides me with a bit more storytelling heft!