If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen the evolution of my latest art piece. Every artist has a different process, and I’m here to share mine! Here are the steps I took to transform a blank piece of paper into a unique creature.
One of many projects I’m working on is an illustrated guide to Avilésor, the fantasy realm in my upcoming book series. The ideal publication timetable for this guide would take place between Book III and Book IV of the series, so we’re still a ways off considering Book I will be making its debut this fall. Unicorns are well established, with sixteen different breeds listed in the guide based on horse breeds ranging from palominos to bays to paints, et cetera.
But what about a draft horse? Is that just a big unicorn?
I decided to change the design a bit. Think of a bilocorn as the unicorn’s cousin; picture a Clydesdale with the mane of a lion and the horns of a bighorn sheep.
First step: find a guide to reference. Sometimes a drawing will use several different images of animals in different positions—one for a head tilted a certain way, another for the body, yet another for lighting and shadows. In this case, I found a painting of a Clydesdale in a pose I found to be a close enough match for the image in my head.
I prefer to draw animals facing left, which required flipping the guide image in Photoshop. There is no tracing involved with the guide; it’s mostly used for proportions during the initial planning and sometimes for shading after the base coat has been applied.
A horse begins with four circles—two for the head, one for the chest, and one for the hindquarters. The circles are connected by the outline that will determine the shape of the creature. It’s loose, and it’s basic. It certainly doesn’t look like much in the beginning!
From there comes a lightly-shaded base coat. Contours are important here. The pencil strokes generally follow the same direction as the fur. When the crosshatch is added, the lines will be curved rather than straight. This helps to add dimension, especially to rounded areas like the belly. The shadows come next.
Highlights are equally important, and that’s where the eraser comes into play. Sections are cleared away, and a couple of fingers effectively blend the edges for a subtler transition. There’s a lot of back and forth play here to make both the shadows and highlights complement each other just right. Then, a mechanical pencil is used for the texture, fine details, and final outlining on the edges.
Ta-da! A bilocorn is born.