Feeding the beast

Thought I’d write another little post with a bit more information about how I like to work. I always find it interesting reading about how other people approach their work and the thinking behind it!

Hound illustration by Lara Crow

This beast image was an editorial illustration. I often work on these and when I do, the article’s Editor will always give me some suggestions on what they had in mind and what the gist of the article is. We usually then have a brief chat about different ideas and directions. I suggest options and they let me know which one sounds best to them!

I also always ask the Editor for the tone of the piece- I’d hate to approach the subject in a cheery or jokey manner if that would seem too flippant for the article, likewise I don’t always want to draw something too serious or macabre if that wouldn’t suit the tone either. It can be a tricky balance sometimes.

With this particular article, the Editor told me that the subject we were talking about was the absolute worst. All thoughts of a funny fat beast being fed cake were quickly abandoned in favour of a more frightening, hopefully more thoughtful interpretation of the brief. I wanted to get across a primal, instinctive sort of gnawing drive. The gaping maw of a beast seemed to tie into both that hunger and also a nightmarish side that I thought would be interesting.

houndsI started out with some research, looking up photos of wolves and bears snarling and yawning. Mainly to try to get an idea of how their jaws fit together, where the teeth and gums show and where they are hidden by lips or fur.

Although I liked the bulkiness of bears, I decided wolves were closer to what I wanted- being a sharper shape and having a stronger association (at least in my mind!) with folklore and ideas of hunger and nightmares.

Then I started scribbling. Here are a few of the sketches. In good old green biro again! I was starting to stylise the hounds at this point, so there are some longer faces and exaggerated gapes.

hound-sketchObviously this is no great revelation or anything, but I find sketching things the best way to understand, just looking at something don’t seem to cut it as well for me. I think perhaps my brain does some sneaky colouring in around the edges when I’m just looking and sort of glosses over anything confusing!

I liked the sketch on the left a lot, but it didn’t seem hungry enough and looked a little too worried. More like a gasp than a gape! It seemed better for the beast to be looking up, so it was all teeth and mouth.

Using my sketch as a guide, I roughed in the dark lines in Photoshop. I often do quite restrained and smooth linework but this time I was trying to keep it all a lot looser and scruffier (turns out that’s a lot easier when you’re drawing a hairy beast!).


I played around with various backgrounds, but in the end decided keeping it quite simple and having the beast appear from the gloom suited the feel I was going for. But it still needed a little something to lift it.

The spark of light from the eye seemed to be what I was after- though I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to do it! Sometimes just playing around with stuff gives you a new idea.

scary-model Working on this beast was really satisfying and I hope to do some more soon. Who knows, maybe there’s a series or a story in there somewhere…

Luckily I have this excellent (and most terrifying) beastie to draw when I feel inspired. Here she is pulling her best Hound of the Baskervilles face.

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