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Making monsters

Is creature concept design more than just skin deep? Grant Hillier shows how to create creatures with personality...

For me, creature design is a form of visual storytelling. Creatures must suggest a personality, convey a mood and say something of the world that they’re from. All this is derived from the creature’s appearance. Alluding to all this in a visual form – one moment captured in a painting – is our challenge as concept artists. Not just to define a creature’s anatomy, but to sell the concept as a living reality in some other world or dimension.
So, what’s my process for tackling creature design? When I’m not given
a project brief, sometimes I take inspiration from literature and legends. Storytelling is one of our oldest forms of entertainment; I love delving into its dark history. For this project I created a story inspired by a doodle in my sketchbook (inspiration can often come from anywhere). The sketch looked like a lumbering form carrying something. I decided to ‘reinvent’ a familiar creature of legend – a forest troll. I wanted it to carry a dead fairy (which means I also had to reinvent that creature).
Being big and stupid, the troll lashed out to grab the pretty fairy, attracted by its magical light. However, the big troll, not realising it’s own terrible strength, crushed and killed the beautiful creature. As the troll released it’s vice-like grip, the fairy’s magical light began to fade, but the troll didn’t realise what it had done. It is this moment I want to capture. Now having my inspiration, I set to work on an original troll design.

From issue 16.

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