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Creature Anatomy Workshop

Joel Carlo explores different creatures’ anatomies and how they have been integrated to create some of the most popular beasts of myth and folklore.

Real animals have always played an important part in shaping history’s most famous mythological beasts, and the philosophy behind mixing real animal anatomies to create fantasy creatures is fascinating. While these creatures have taken the roles of either heroes or villains, it’s their distinct anatomies that have helped define not only how they look, but also how they are perceived. A Minotaur is a classic example of this, taking on the characteristics of both a man and a bull. While a bull can be both physically powerful and dangerous, it’s only when you add the intelligence and cunning of a man that it becomes an incredibly ominous being. It’s this very relationship between physical and psychological characteristics, and the merging of animals’ defining attributes, that have made for some of the most extraordinary creatures ever imagined.
Although a set of defined guidelines has never truly existed, most mythological creatures have been created by piecing together particular animals’ recognisable traits. The traits chosen play important roles not only in the creature’s overall appearance, but also define its capabilities and environment.
Aquatic creatures typically take on fishy or amphibian-like characteristics, while land creatures take on the characteristics found in birds or mammals. It could be said that it would make little sense to add a fish tail to a bird as it would probably serve no purpose, but then again, we are creating fantasy creatures.
If you have a healthy imagination, there’s no limit to the number of conceivable variations; however, I tend to believe some care should be taken when combining anatomies in order to add to a creature’s overall cohesiveness. So, how do we go about understanding which anatomies and characteristics work best in order to create a fantasy creature? Let’s start by taking a look at their biology and environment.

From issue 12. Please note that there are no support files for this workshop.


Click here to download the full workshop for free (PDF)
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