So where do I get my drawings ideas? why am I always drawing animals? What’s the obsession and why am I always trying to convert these animals into some kind of crazy creature? These are some of the questions I get when I started to teach concept art to teenagers. They don’t often ask questions but when they do I always seem to get these three big ones.
Why I do it and how it started:
I grew up watching a lot of nature documentaries and I loved to draw using my own drawings ideas as a way to relax. What I always struggled with when I first started out was combining the two.
When I started my art GCSE I found myself being asked to draw “natural forms and structures” although I now see the relevance in this to practice line-work and using various media. I didn’t when I was starting out and so I neglected my artwork becoming frustrated with the fact I had to draw yet another stick but this one was in ink where the one I drew before was in pencil. This focus on objects I didn’t find interesting prevented me from doing an A level in art and I actually didn’t pick up a pencil (or in this case a graphics tablet) again until I started university.
I remember the first project we did we were encouraged drawing ideas to be unique and different in university, this was for games design. Designing my own creations for a game! I was ecstatic. I had no idea what I wanted to draw and I remember discussing it with lecturers at the time. They asked me what I was interested in and I said nature, wildlife and documentaries. So I was told to research and design and just enjoy drawing with a focus on this area. I came up with a flat, awful drawing but what I found was that everyone loved it. Not for the artistic skill (At this point there was none) but instead for its design!
I have been taking this on more and more, not just in my freelance work but when I teach, because I slowly realised at university and now in my career that fantasy, not just in video games but legends, folklore and myths far back in history comes from the natural world and its a great place to design what I call a mental gallery.
The idea behind it:
I can explain this theory best with my favourite example I use for my students. We all know the legend of the Cyclops. The cyclops were big, one eyed men with tusks. They were giant with a huge lidless eye in the centre of their skulls. Its hard to understand where the idea came from. I can’t imagine it being conjured from thin air virtually nothing is!
However if we consider the fact that the ancient Greeks probably didn’t know what the anatomy of an elephant was as an example and that travellers and merchants coming across an elephant corpse would see a large pile of huge bones and a skull with a huge circle area in the centre (The area where the trunk protrudes). The travelling merchants could invent wonderful stories about giant one eyed human without ever having to see one. The world was therefore gifted with the legend of the Cyclops. This is the same process artists use to come up with drawings ideas.
So with this wonderful story I began to investigate in my own work Myths, Legends and Folklore. After reading about them I tried to come up with a series of designs based on what we see in the areas they originate. This is why I draw animals, by knowing how they work anatomically, how they hunt, stand, sleep and move. We can better design fantasy creatures when we work on commissions. This blog post on my drawings ideas has been more of a story than a lesson. I felt it was important to explain why I draw, what I draw and when I produce work what do I aim to achieve. Everyone starts somewhere and It’s important to know that, whatever the level you begin at is.