Cre­ate orig­i­nal fan­tasy beasts

Il­lus­tra­tor Emily Hare passes on her key ad­vice that will help you de­sign and paint orig­i­nal fan­tasy crea­tures, us­ing pen­cil and wa­ter­colours

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Emily Hare re­veals how to de­sign and paint your own orig­i­nal fan­tasy crea­tures.

There are many ways to ap­proach crea­ture de­sign and ideation, and it all de­pends on what you want your end re­sult to be. Re­cently, I’ve had a lean­ing to­wards more hu­mor­ous beast­ies, as op­posed to the darker and more grue­some kind.

How­ever, this doesn’t mean that I won’t look to the nat­u­ral world for in­spi­ra­tion (for in­deed, this can help me come up with some odd-look­ing crea­tures), and one of the best places to spark off ideas is with a Google search. Try ex­plor­ing deep sea fish, un­usual birds and bizarre in­sects!

I al­ways have in mind where this beast’s habi­tat might be, what it might eat, whether it’s noc­tur­nal, and prey or preda­tor. All these things will in­flu­ence the fi­nal de­sign.

For in­stance, if you had a large her­biv­o­rous an­i­mal, ask your­self what does it eat? Who hunts it? If it has nat­u­ral preda­tors then what – if any­thing – has it evolved to pro­tect it­self? Speed? Ar­mour? Poi­son? All these ques­tions should go through your mind at some point. They’ll en­sure your crea­ture feels like it might ex­ist in real life, and that’s when the magic starts to hap­pen…

1 brain­storm­ing!

Get those ideas down on pa­per. Usu­ally it’ll take me a while to cre­ate any shapes that I like, or even any­thing that I’d want to take fur­ther. Some­times they ap­pear fully formed and oth­ers will never make it into a paint­ing. I use my heavy blunt me­chan­i­cal pen­cil to make loose de­signs and then re­fine them with a sharper point. For these thumb­nails my thought process was ‘en­chanted for­est’ – and any­thing that popped into my head that may ex­ist in such a place was ex­tracted from my brain.

2 de­sign with logic in mind

This is a tar­lak, one of the in­hab­i­tants of the world that I cre­ated for my up­com­ing book Strange­hol­low. This bristly, hairy chap has been in­flu­enced by warthogs and wild boar. I wanted a for­est-dwelling veg­e­tar­ian that was pig-like and used his tusks to dig the ground for de­li­cious root veg­eta­bles of some kind. He also needed to be able to look after him­self if he was at­tacked by one of the lo­cal preda­tors. His tusks would make for­mi­da­ble weapons against even the most per­sis­tent of car­ni­vores.

3 de­pict­ing the fine de­tails

Once I’ve sketched the de­sign in wa­ter­colour (more on this over­leaf) I make a pass with a darker wash and fig­ure out which ar­eas I want lighter and darker. With wa­ter­colour you need to work from light to dark. The process is time con­sum­ing, but well worth it for the fi­nal re­sult. I’m a big fan of de­tail so I use very fine brushes for this. It also en­ables you to go steady with the value range, which in this in­stance I hadn’t de­cided on un­til I started the paint­ing.

4 mix ‘n’ match with care

To help fill my brain with fu­ture crea­ture ideas, I’ll spend a lot of time watch­ing na­ture pro­grammes and look­ing through wildlife pho­tos on Pin­ter­est or gen­eral Google searches. There’s noth­ing quite so strange as the nat­u­ral world and you can com­bine as­pects of dif­fer­ent crea­tures to make a com­pletely new one. But try to avoid mak­ing a chimera, which is to take the body of one an­i­mal and the legs of an­other and the head of yet an­other: it doesn’t re­ally feel like it’s some­thing that could ex­ist. In­stead, imag­ine what would hap­pen if two of those crea­tures had ba­bies. What would they look like?

With wa­ter­colour, work from light to dark. Time con­sum­ing, but worth it

6 Is it a Plant? an­i­mal? Both?

An­other fun way to make some­thing new is to com­bine flora and fauna. For this crag­gle (a can­ni­bal­is­tic fairy cater­pil­lar) I wanted a crea­ture that could hide in plain sight to am­bush his prey. His prey, the wif­fle, are fond of psy­che­delic mush­rooms, so the crag­gle hides among these mush­rooms, and is able to do so be­cause there are fungi­like growths on its back. The wif­fles don’t have a chance! Have fun with think­ing up what it is that your crea­ture eats, whether it’s preda­tor or prey. These con­cepts will help you to imag­ine your crea­tures liv­ing in the real world.

7 take the ran­dom ap­proach

Throw out all your plans. This is an­other valid way of com­ing up with an in­ter­est­ing crea­ture. Even­tu­ally you’ll start to see some­thing ap­pear among these shapes and you can then start to re­fine it. For this piece I started by soak­ing the il­lus­tra­tion board (Strath­more 500 wet me­dia board). I did this by us­ing a mist­ing spray bot­tle filled with wa­ter. I then mixed some paints and started drop­ping the colour onto the pa­per. This made for some won­der­ful ac­ci­den­tal shapes, as we’ll see…

8 in­ter­est­ing shapes

For my mag­i­cal be­ing here, I saw a face, so I started to build on that. I used the in­ter­est­ing shapes that the wa­ter­colour made as it dried (a very handy tip is to have a small hair dryer at your desk so you can speed up the dry­ing of each wash). Once I’d started pick­ing out a nose and some eyes (plus an ex­tra one!), I could con­tinue work­ing around the paint­ing and fur­ther de­velop the face more. The great thing about us­ing wa­ter­colour paint, par­tic­u­larly into wet pa­per, is that it’s very un­pre­dictable. It’s the per­fect setup for gen­er­at­ing those happy ac­ci­dents.

9 the eyes have it

I chose a con­trast­ing colour for the eyes of my green man so that they in­stantly pop out from the greens and pur­ples. Eyes are pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant thing to bring a crea­ture or strange be­ing to life. The fi­nal dots of wa­tery re­flec­tion in them can make or break a paint­ing. Make sure you study lots of pic­tures of eyes – con­sider find­ing some eyes that don’t be­long in a hu­man face and put them there, such as the eyes of an oc­to­pus! These are the things which can cre­ate an un­usual, orig­i­nal crea­ture.

10 here be drag­ons

Drag­ons. Who doesn’t love them? I like the idea of a dragon that’s evolved to live in forests and so has de­vel­oped growths that look like branches – the ideal cam­ou­flage for an am­bush preda­tor! For in­spi­ra­tion for drag­ons you can look at all kinds of crea­tures. The usual ones to study would be ko­modo drag­ons, croc­o­diles and other lizards, but check out less-ob­vi­ous crea­tures that will leave you with an un­con­ven­tional dragon, which hope­fully will have more va­ri­ety. Birds are great for that dead-eyed, car­niv­o­rous stare – even a chicken has that…

The great thing about us­ing wa­ter­colour, par­tic­u­larly into wet pa­per, is that it’s very un­pre­dictable

11 mam­malian fea­tures

An­other way to make your drag­ons more in­ter­est­ing is to take as­pects of mam­mals and other toothy crea­tures and add those to your dragon. For this red beast I used in­spi­ra­tion from an­i­mals with tusks, wild boar and par­tic­u­larly the crush­ing jaws of a hip­popota­mus. I used to live near a nat­u­ral his­tory mu­seum in Brighton that was filled with the most amaz­ing an­i­mal skele­tons. If you have any­thing like that near where you live, take some time to go there with your sketch­book to gain in­spi­ra­tion for your crea­tures. The hip­popota­mus skull was par­tic­u­larly amaz­ing to see and def­i­nitely in­flu­enced this dragon.

12 tech­niques to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing-look­ing skin

Have fun with pat­terns and shapes to give the im­pres­sion of scales or knob­bly tex­tured skin. I used ref­er­ence from the mouths of lizards and also croc­o­diles for this dragon’s jaw and then mixed it up a bit. Fur­ther­more, don’t hold back on splash­ing paint around and let­ting it dry in var­i­ous tex­tures. Then use the pat­terns from those dried splodges to guide where you might make marks. I like to keep things fairly or­ganic look­ing, and try to steer clear of clas­sic dragon pro­files. Here, I wanted this guy to have a big, blunt nose, I’d imag­ine he could fit quite the meal in­side those jaws!

The rig­ger is a won­der­ful brush for keep­ing con­trol of fine lines and they hold a fair amount of pig­ment

13 big eyes are short­hand for ‘cute’

For cre­at­ing some­thing su­per cute, I al­ways go for big eyes be­cause they’re a sure-fire way of con­vey­ing the ‘awwww’ fac­tor. This lit­tle chap was in­spired by squir­rels and pugs. His snub nose and big wide eyes give the im­pres­sion that per­haps he’s not too bright, and most def­i­nitely a lit­tle highly strung, too. I used a fine rig­ger brush to cre­ate the very fine long hairs all over him. The rig­ger is a won­der­ful brush for keep­ing con­trol of fine lines and they hold a fair amount of pig­ment, which is al­ways use­ful. The brush’s name comes from the brushes that were cre­ated to paint the rig­ging on paint­ings of tall ships.

14 paint­ing shiny eyes

The eyes have it. Glossy eyes are es­sen­tial, es­pe­cially in a mam­mal. Once I’m ready to add high­lights to an eye I bring out the Acryla gouache. This medium is per­ma­nent and be­haves much like acrylic, ex­cept it dries com­pletely matte – just like wa­ter­colour. I use this all the time for high­lights in my paint­ings, and it can be mixed with wa­ter­colour to tint it (or you can buy other colours in the same medium too, of course). As well as the main high­light on the eye, I al­ways add tiny spots of light around the lids of the eye to give the im­pres­sion of wet­ness.

15 what’s the story?

Cre­ate a story. If you’re not sure where to start, think of the story be­hind the crea­ture. I cre­ated this dragon who eats dead trees. I started with the idea that he would go around eat­ing the dead wood in the for­est, then I thought, well, what hap­pens when he’s eaten it all? He then hi­ber­nates! Sleep­ing for years at a time while grasses and plants and small trees grow all over him, cam­ou­flag­ing him while he’s away in dream­land.

16 re­mem­ber to bring the fun

Add hu­mour. When I was de­sign­ing my brownie, I imag­ined them as very an­noy­ing lit­tle be­ings who try to dis­tract you as you’re walk­ing through the for­est, in or­der to lead you off the safe path to where they can rob you of all your be­long­ings. I imag­ined them leap­ing about, maybe yelling com­pli­ments (of a sort) to you as you went on your way through the for­est. This is the crea­ture that ap­peared as a re­sult! If in doubt, adding a nude pink bot­tom is highly amus­ing.

Fan­tas­tic beasts

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