So, last Friday, the Illustration Friday word came up - "monster." My imagination leapt off the starting blocks... and immediately slammed face down into the track, nose bloody, swearing profusely. TOO! MANY! POSSIBILITIES! WAY TOO MANY! WUHH! GOHHHH! NYYYAAAARRRGH!
I floundered and flapped, on paper at least, unable to find a focus. I needed to find a way to whittle down the bazillion possibilities, set some limits for my imagination to bounce off, so I pulled out J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (which I only learned today is going to be turned into a film trilogy... not bad for a wee slip of a paperback, but there's plenty of material there and it's scripted by the maestro herself).
I wanted to avoid any of the creatures actually shown in the films, eventually settling on a dragon which hasn't yet been depicted by infinitely more talented artists on a film production - the Hebridean Black dragon, quite possibly named after a black pudding.
The Hebridean Black is a dragon native to the Hebrides Islands of Scotland.
It has dark rough scales, ridges along its back, and a tail tipped with an arrow-shaped spike. The Hebridean Black has brilliant purple eyes and can grow to be up to thirty feet long. Its favourite food is deer, although it has been known to carry off cows.
The Hebridean Black is more aggressive than the other dragon native to the British Isles, the Common Welsh Green, and thus requires a territory of as much as one hundred square miles each. The MacFusty clan take responsibility for the dragons, and have done for centuries. (via Harry Potter Wiki)
Hebrides? Sold! I've only really drawn a dragon once before, a fair few years back, but if I ever want to become an illustrator before toppling off this mortal coil I'll need to be a dab hand at fantasy standards like that. I quickly settled on the image of a dragon perched high on the Cuillins, bashing through a load of photo research (initial plans to do a Norman Wilkinsonesque landscape with dragons fell through, though I'm still taken with the thought) until the Inaccessible Pinnacle became the obvious choice - not least because the Gaelic name is the incredibly dragonish Sgùrr Dearg. For dragon inspiration, I went straight to the work of John Howe, Alan Lee and Bob Eggleton, with the understanding my creation wouldn't be fit to breath the same sulpherous air as their wondrous horned beasts.
All sorts of thumbnails were scribbled out on paper before moving to the Mac. The last few illustrations have been drawn on Mischief, but this time I went straight to Corel Painter. Using a scan of one thumbnail that chimed, I roughed out the following:
Much gnashing of teeth followed as I tried my damnedest to make the neck work, because good god it certainly doesn't above, but I liked the rest of it. My commutes on Monday and Tuesday had my fingers jabbing away at the iPod screen scribbling away on Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile, initially to solve the neck conundrum, then to lay down a general colour scheme for the finished piece:
Then I imported the above into Painter and worked a whole bunch of layers on top, still retaining quite a roughness. As with the last few Illustration Fridays, it's an image that I feel deserves a much better finish than what I can give it, but alas I lack both time and skill, particularly in digital painting. But the more I do of these, the better I'll (hopefully!) get at such things, or so I tell myself when I'm tempted to delete hours of work unseen and tit about on Twitter instead. I like to think that there'll come a time in the future when I can revisit these illustrations and give them the finish they deserve, with textures, richer colours and a whole lot more oomph. The pages of ImagineFX remain a long, long way away, but a boy can dream. Even a 38 year old one.
Anyway, here it is. Hope you like it.