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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles

Making a monster

Now we've done some of the introductions and you've got a general idea of what goes on around here, I thought it would be good to start getting into the process of putting a monster together. When they first land, things are always a bit chaotic but as and when I manage to get a quick 'snap' of a bit in clear view, I note those down and start assembling an overall view. The resulting first drawing is usually pretty close but being me and a bit of a perfectionist, I always then go off and do my research to see how similar things are put together and use that to build a version from the bones up. If the end result of that is a match for what I had to start with, I hit the go button and we're on for producing a final piece.

Mr Thingy's feet. hands. handfeet.

This sketch of Mr Thingy's feet is a good example - I started a 'finished' piece a few years ago but wasn't happy with his neck and posture still, something didn't seem authentic so I quit and kept the bits like this that I was happy with for future reference - which I've just dug back out since he's on the list for autumn. It's interesting for a couple of reasons - for a start you can tell the age because I was still working on textured watercolour paper before I settled on my beloved hot press hard stuff. It also leads in to the story of how I invented the trotter.

Our boy, as you may have noticed, lacks upper legs/arms so it made sense for him to have something a bit more maneuverable at the end of those great long legs, especially as it's a long way from there to his mouth. I think he eats swamp stuff - probably roots of water plants, weeds etc though I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't go for a bit of squishy animal if he finds it down there too. Anyway, that's all well and good but there's a reason that our hands and feet, while basically the same kind of thing, operate differently. I needed to keep the flexibility of the hand while making it a bit more sturdy. I had a look at things like chimp feet - our feet are a lot more like theirs than you might expect, some people even have a degree of mid foot flex (bet you try it).

That wasn't quite it though so I tried it from the other end and decided hey, he's a bit horse-like, what's the difference between hooves and hands ? How can deer and so on walk on their tiptoes ? Do they still fold up ? Many days of research, making notes on bones, ligaments etc I ended up with a system sorted that would give me everything he needed, was dead pleased with myself, picked up one of the first printouts of hooves over the ages I'd done to give myself a starting point and there, on the end, was essentially a Mr Thingy paw in the form of a pig trotter. At which point I said a few words and went in search of a very large drink.

From bones to beardy

The neck issue I sorted out in the last round - that actually wasn't so bad when I got down to it though did make the amusing discovery that up until I last checked, nobody knows how the camel neck works. Except, possibly, camels and as expected they have no intention of sharing this information with us. I managed to get it to balance without a great deal of muscle - he's very lean on top of those great big bones. It does mean there's a lot of weight there and given his size, a lot of strain. Which explains his swamp lifestyle - largely submerged, that's greatly reduced of course and with that mane floating on the top of the water like weeds you really wouldn't notice him until he moved. Which he doesn't very often.

That's where we are at so far - now is the time to go back over all of this, tweak any bits I still wasn't convinced about, add in any new details I've picked up having known him a lot longer and to start on the final layout. I intend to draw him partially submerged,from the side so we can see him above and below water which should be fun. I'll keep you posted.

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