Saturday, February 28, 2009

The face behind the skull

Recently I began thinking about what Skullface looked like without his skull headdress on. Once I had the basic idea, I sketched out several variations and modifications of it, just as I did for Hawk Girl. He's a very strong-featured Native American guy, deep eye sockets, heavy eyelids, long nose, etc. The ones with the stars next to them are the ones I like the best, while the one with two stars next to it is a combination of the other two.
Once I had a good idea in my mind of what this guy looked like, I went on a search for Indian men with facial features that I could twist for the purposes of evil. The following images proved especially useful.

Eddie Plenty Holes, a Lakota man with an awesome name, photographed around 1899. His features were very close to what I was looking for. I just had to make them more hostile and add a touch of dark amusement.

The strong features, heavy eyelids, and somewhat defiant expression of this young man, photographed by Edward S. Curtis, also proved useful.

This Masai man also had elements of the facial features I was going for, as well as an amused (and even ambiguously malevolent) facial expression. Unfortunately, this image has been sitting in my reference folder since forever ago, so I don't know where it came from, or who to credit it to.

Lastly, unrelated to the rest of this blog post, there will be no Creature Feature this week. It's Saturday, the day when I usually do Creature Features, and this is my first post since the last Creature Feature. I was very unproductive as far as personal art goes this week. If I have a week where I produce little or no art to post here, I don't really see the point in logging on just to make a post about somebody else's art. This blog is about my own artistic progress, with the Creature Feature being just an occasional supplement to that. My own art first, Creature Feature second. No art, no Creature Feature.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Creature Feature #5: Nemo Ramjet

This week's Creature Feature, as the title suggests, is about Nemo Ramjet, one of the most interesting and creative illustrators and creature designers today.
Like Alex Ries last week, Nemo Ramjet does a lot of speculative creature designing, designing creatures and animals with evolutionary processes in mind. Let's take a look at a few of his projects.

The above images show imagined future forms of humanity. The second two images are from his "All Tomorrows" project, a future history of mankind following the next several hundred million years of our progress and evolution, failures and triumphs. It's a powerful work, and I'll provide a link to it as soon as Nemo's website goes back up. The first "All Tomorrows" image shows a few variations of an insect-eating form of humanity, while the second image shows a form of humanity that has evolved to become modular and cell-based; the being pictured is composed of several different humans. The first of these images shows another speculative future human, but is unrelated to his "All Tomorrows" project. As you can see, the human form is rich with creature design possibilities.
Also, Nemo Ramjet is one of the few creature designers that I know of to incorporate the reproductive organs as design elements.

The above two images, and the first image of this post, are from Nemo Ramjet's most well-known project: Snaiad. One of the most fascinating and creative creature design projects out there, Snaiad documents the lifeforms of another world. It is richly detailed and incredibly well thought out. Like many of Alex Ries' aliens in the last Creature Feature, these animals are all derived from a common ancestor, and their variation is due to modifications of a basic set of features. The most notable feature of Snaiadi animals is that they have two heads. The first head carries the jaws, sense organs, and genitalia (yes, the genitalia), while the second head holds the creature's actual mouth. The biology and evolutionary history of these creatures is very detailed and well worked out, so I urge you to visit that website and have a look.

The creatures above are from another project of the busy and versatile Nemo Ramjet. According to Richard Dawkin's "meme" theory, ideas spread, flourish, and die according to the same evolutionary principles as organic lifeforms. These beautiful creatures are animalistic representations of memes. The third one weaves a powerful argument around itself in self-defense, the argument represented by a series of gossamer glyphs. The fourth one is the embodiment of a catchy tune. Some of these creature have fearsome jaws, with which to destroy the arguments and logic of other memetic fauna. These are beautiful, fascinating creatures, and a testament to the possibilities of more abstract creature design.

The images below show some additional creature designs by Nemo Ramjet. The second image in particular is one of my favorite creature design images ever; you can see it in larger resolution on his DeviantArt gallery. The third image shows two aliens from another of his projects, this one about the life that develops on the inside of a Dyson Sphere (an artificial sphere built around a star). The fourth image is a drawing of a Pteranodon based on the work of David Peters, a paleontologist with some truly absurd ideas about the morphology of pterosaurs. The final image shows a speculative land-dwelling descendant of an antiarch placoderm, an ancient form of armored fish.

Relevant links:
Nemo Ramjet's website: It's currently down, but as soon as it's up I'll post a link!
Snaiad Homepage:
Nemo Ramjet's DeviantArt:

All images in this post are (c) Nemo Ramjet.

Figure Drawing 2009, Episode 4

In no particular order.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Magic Metatheria

In prehistory South America, there were all kinds of cool animals, now extinct, that are pretty much unknown to the general public. Among them were large predatory marsupials, such as the somewhat bear-like Borhyaena, and the saber-toothed Thylacosmilus. I love these creatures, and think they're some of the coolest things in the history of life. So, in my alternate magical world, I let them live.
So, here we have a large Borhyaenid and a new species of Thylacosmilus. Since magic is a natural phenomenon in this alternate world, many animals have evolved to use it. The Borhyeen, for example, has a magical roar that makes its prey freeze in place. I tried to use this power to dramatic affect in a story that I wrote in my DeviantArt. I'd very much appreciate it if you read that story, and my related thoughts. Link.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hawk Girl

The protagonist to this guy's antagonist. She's a young woman, about 18-20, of mixed Caucasian and native American ancestry. She's a falconer, and shows aptitude for Vocal powers, but is inexperienced. Skullface (my placeholder names for these characters are Skullface and Hawk Girl) killed her family, and now she wants revenge. Or something like that; the story connecting these characters, and the other ones I'm imagining for this world, is very nebulous right now.
I sketched the face of number 1 several days ago, and spent the afternoon today drawing the pose, costume, and several options for the face. In each face, I sort of blended the features of #1 with the features of girls from photographs. #4/5 and #7 have the best faces, and based on a comment that I've received on DeviantArt, I may combine the two.

EDIT: It seems that the above image is too large for Blogger, so it was shrunk a bit. So, the images below show the character full size, with face #1, and then each of the faces at full size. Your thoughts, preferences, and critiques for this character are very welcome.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Creature Feature # 4: Alex Ries

Speculative creature design is different than "regular" creature design. In most creature designs, the aim is simply to create a creature that looks good and appears at least somewhat plausibly functional. Speculative creature design, on the other hand, places a greater emphasis on scientifically sound biology and the evolutionary history of the creature. Speculative creature design is often based on an initial concept or scenario. What if dinosaurs never went extinct, for example? How would creatures evolve on a world with much lower gravity and a thicker atmosphere? Or, as in the example above, by Alex Ries, what if creatures evolved in an environment with no gravity at all?
Alex Ries, known as Abiogenisis on DeviantArt, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest speculative creature designers today. His creatures are unique, highly plausible, and have a sense of unearthly naturalism that is rare in creature design.

The above sketches are creatures from one of Alex Ries' more ambitious projects. He is designing the inhabitants of another world, exploring how evolutionary forces would alter his basic alien body plan. The examples above, showing an intelligent species, a large herbivore, and a whale-like filter feeder, are all descended from a common ancestor, and show interesting variations of the same basic traits, such as the quadruple jaws and six locomotor limbs. As the leftmost example shows, he is also designing the technology the intelligent inhabitants of this world would invent. It is a fascinating and wonderful project, rich with possibility.

The images below show some of my favorites of his creature designs. See how he combines plausible biology with visually appealing shapes and patterns.

Much more of Alex Ries' work can be viewed at the following links:
His website:
His DeviantArt gallery:
His blog (apparently abandoned, but still viewable):

All images in this post are (c) Alex Ries.

Friday, February 13, 2009


As far as personal art goes, this hasn't been a very productive week for me. Here's a little sketch I played with in Photoshop, anyways.

Though you may not realize is by looking at her, this alien is about to give birth. The Gkaz are a strange species in that their lungs double as wombs, for they reproduce by inhaling spores. If fertilization successfully occurs, the zygote will implant itself inside one of its parent's external gas bladders, which will then harden and fill with nourishing amniotic fluids. The individual pictures is unlucky in that her offspring chose to gestate in one of her lateral bladders, rather than the central one; the resulting weight imbalance is a leading cause of lower back pain among the Gkaz. After a comparatively short gestation period of only six weeks, the bladder with rupture, and the infant Gkaz, usually twins, will enter the world. Subsequently, one of the twins must be given away to be raised outside of the family. This is one of the most sacred traditions of the Gkaz, and is in fact wired into their very genes. Many Gkaz are born infertile, and this sharing of offspring proved to be a useful way to share parenting duties and reinforce social connections.
Besides of their strange reproductive habits, there are many more interesting facts about the Gkaz. Their eyes are arranged vertically, rather than horizontally, but still are able to achieve binocular vision. Their efficient respiratory systems, consisting of numerous internal lungs and external gas bladders, allow Gkaz to breath in virtually any atmosphere, as well as hold their breath a lot longer that you can. They communicate via whistling through the many nostrils on their heads. Their hands are actually modified mouths, the "fingers" highly-evolved teeth. They can spit digestive juices out of their hands in self defense, or to show extreme disgust, or even to insult. The mouths on their other limbs have atrophied, and now serve no purpose other than being feet.

I may update this image with some accessories and/or clothing, since this is an intelligent species. I may not, though.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Creature Feature # 3: M.C. Barrett

Yikes! I forgot that Saturday was my Creature Feature Day!
Anyway, the artist whose work I'd like to share with you this week is Matt Barrett, known on the internets as MC Barrett, a concept artist for Arena Net. My jaw dropped when I first saw MC Barrett's creature designs. I hope you also find them enjoyable.

One of the first things that impressed me about his creature designs is his use of rather obscure fossil animals for creature design inspiration. The awesome creature above left brings to my mind several extinct species of proboscidean (Elephant), while the creature above right is clearly inspired by members of Dinocerata, one of my favorite groups of extinct mammals. Being a paleo-geek myself, I really enjoy this.

Another thing that I find extremely admirable about MC Barrett's art is his amazing command of light and shadow. Just look at the above examples. See that beautiful cast shadow on the upper creature creature, and the great sense of illumination in the lower creature.

He's also a whiz when it comes to rendering textures. Check out these beauties above.

Here's some more examples of his creature designs.

Some relevant links:
MC Barrett's blog:
Index of artwork:
Various guild wars threads from, containing artwork by MC Barrett as well as many other very awesome artists: link 1, link 2, link 3

All images in this post (c) M.C. Barrett.