This post is going to refer purely to my inspiration sources for creatures, I will be making a separate blog post/s on artists that inspire me and that have inspired me over the years. This one is to show how I accumulate different ideas for my beasties.
Ever since I was very little I have absolutely loved nature documentaries. I grew up in the country and we had cats and dogs and later on horses. I love animals and the more I adventure deeper into Strangehollow, the more I realise that this imagined world is very much grounded in nature than it is in a fantasy world. While my art isn't realistic, I want to be able to give that feeling of something that could exist in our world. And like with the natural world around us, some of these creatures might look beautiful or even cute to us, but could hide deadly poisons in their skin or have insatiable carnivorous appetites! Recently someone on instagram said to me that my creatures felt like they might look cute sometimes but that they were wild animals and I loved that comparison!
I have a tendency to be attracted to the same shapes over and over again (as can happen, getting too comfortable!), so a good way to try to snap out of that, I find, is to have a good old explore on Pinterest for wildlife photos (as well as rewatching some of my favourite Attenborough documentaries. I've discovered some creatures on there that I never even knew existed and it's just an endless stream of visual seeds to grow into new creatures and beings for Strangehollow. I will spend a bit of time sketching animals I like the look of in the hopes that they will get lodged into the library of shapes in my brain and then appear in paint in the form of a new being.
'The Call', the painting at the top of this blog, has been an idea germinating in my mind for a few years now. I loved the idea of a unicorn calling for a mate and had seen all these beautiful wildlife images of Stags in rutting season, steamy breath coming from their mouths as they roar from the sides of mountains. One of my patrons said that she thought this would sound like an Elk 'bugle', something I had never heard of (the bugle, I had heard of Elk!), and wow, it is not the sound I would expect from a beast that looked so very similar to a Red Stag.
Here is a small clip I found on YouTube:
It's so musical! I imagine my unicorn to sound like a mixture of this with a dash of horse whinny in there too.
The inspiration for my unicorn was mostly from red stag images and a little equine influence as well. I didn't want that U shaped neck like you get with deer so I toned that down a lot. Here is my ref sheet that I had on hand when I was sketching the image:
I am sure most of you are familiar with Pinterest as a platform, but if not, it does this wonderful thing where if you have collected a few pictures on a board, like I have here with inspiration for Strangehollow:
Then when you scroll to the bottom of this board, Pinterest will suggest other things which are similar to those that I've selected that I might not have seen. I then go down this glorious rabbit hole of new creatures! Some I might save for their markings, others for how they are shown in a tree, and others for their strange physical features that I can then borrow and use to frankenstein my own new creature out of them! The same happens with anything I search, for instance colour and texture is one of my favourite boards I have created and I keep this at hand for the skin of dragons or other beasts!
Aside from visual inspiration one of the most powerful idea-generating things for me is the written word. It can be a silly made up name for a creature, like 'Darkling Glib' that Kat Cardy (colourful animal artist and patron of mine) so brilliantly suggested (along with some other fantastic name ideas which will be appearing in the new book) and it IMMEDIATELY gave me a visual in my head. This then became a sketch:
And then from this sketch I created the painting freehand (although I now wish I had transferred the sketch as some of it's sinister quality was lost in the painting (I had to post the gif version of course):
More often than not I will be inspired by a phrase or paragraph or name more than I will something visual. I will be making another post about this as I think it is a really fun subject!
Everything I look at and watch will seep into my mind-bank of images and shapes and continue to influence the creatures I make, I can't wait to see what new critters appear over the next few months!