|©Nicola L Robinson|
Monsters fascinate me. Particularly the scary kind with big teeth and claws who lie waiting under the bed or in the attic and haunt childhood nightmares. They've always been part of my universe and as an illustrator they still make up a decent chunk of my creative work.
With Halloween almost upon us, I've been invited by the lovely SCBWI Words and Pictures blog to share some thoughts (by no means definitive) from an illustrator's perspective about these compelling creatures and consider what makes a monster, and a few guidelines for drawing your own...
|Frankenstein - Nicola L Robinson|
'Monster' is defined by the Dictionary as - 'A large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature.' A Middle English word from old French 'monstre' and Latin 'monstrum' derived from the root 'monere' meaning, appropriately, 'to warn'.
|Behemoth and Leviathan - William Blake|
Monsters are commonly ugly, which is a little unfair, but generally the uglier the monster's appearance, the more monstrous he/she is perceived to be. Particularly ugly monsters include demons, man eating ogres and big smelly trolls...
|Billy Goats Gruff - Nicola L Robinson|
Monsters invoke fear and sometimes represent it too. If something out there is supposedly big, powerful, dangerous and has a mouth large enough to eat you, it's probably a good idea to be afraid of it. It is no accident that many monster characteristics are closely linked to our innate phobias, both environmental - darkness, deep water, fire... and in appearance - snakes, poisonous spiders, bats etc...
|The Gnarled Monster - Gustave Doré|
A good example is the Chimera, having the head and body of a male lion, with an extra head of a goat midway along its spine and a snake as a tail.
|The Chimaera - Ulisse Aldrovandi|
Mythological monsters are often human formed, usually with beastlike modifications, for example Medusa the Gorgon with her hair of snakes, the mermaid with her scaly fish tail, the Minotaur with the head of a bull and the giant figure of the Cyclops, man shaped in form but with a single eye in the centre of his forehead.
|Cyclops - Nicola L Robinson|
|The Jabberwock - John Tenniel|
Obviously it goes without saying that monstrous things don't necessarily come monster shaped and sometimes the most monstrous monster doesn't have big teeth or breathe fire at all.
Drawing MonstersThere are no rules when it comes to drawing monsters, However here are a few guidelines which you may wish to consider -
|Monster - Nicola L Robinson|
1 - Start with an animal, a dangerous one is good, but if you make it big enough and with enough teeth even a guinea pig can be monstrous. You don't need to use the whole animal, but it can be a useful starting point to develop the monster's overall body shape. Experiment.
2 - Accessorise. Borrow a set of antlers, pair of fangs and a hairy mane, or whatever takes your fancy. Try to blend the elements together rather than applying monster taxidermy and sticking an extra head into the middle of the back ala Chimera.
3 - Texture. By combining hairy manes with a scaly belly, slimy tongue and feathery wings you can add more interest and texture to your monster.
4 - Like creating a character, adding a back-story can help flesh your monster out and make him or her even more monstrous, elevating him from just a big hairy shape with lots of teeth to something a little more sophisticated. Consider things like - where does the monster live? What does he eat? Does he have any special powers? Etc and adjust his appearance accordingly. For example a pond monster might have gills like a shark and spiky fins, or a cave dwelling monster might have very tiny eyes, or none at all, compensating with his particularly keen sense of smell.
5 - Exaggeration. Think big, think extreme, think monstrous!
I hope this helps a little in your monster making, and continues to keep the traditional monster species very much alive. They may well be out there somewhere, perhaps closer than you think.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
|Monster Listening Party - Nicola L Robinson|
Monsters, Inc - An Interview with Ray Harryhausen
The Lure of Horror - Christian Jarrett, The Psychologist
Nicola's website - www.nlrobinson.co.uk
Nicola's blog - http://nlrobinsonart.blogspot.co.uk
Nicola on twitter - @NLRobinsonart
Nicola's shop - www.teethandclaws.co.uk