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Artist Julia Lundman is a pro with over 25 years of experience under her belt, but she was still willing to dive into what she didn’t know. In fact, she was so ready to explore a new challenge that she created 48 thumbnails. Don’t miss out on her breakdown of how to create a Sea Witch.

  1. References and Idea Sketching
  2. Choosing a Thumbnail
  3. Head Explorations
  4. Creature Features
  5. Final Presentations

My name is Julia Lundman. I am originally from Chicago and now live in San Francisco. I’ve worked as a commercial artist in animation and games for over two decades. I started in commercial animation as a traditional background painter, storyboard clean-up artist, and art director. Eventually, I moved into games, where I worked at Calabash Animation, Electronic Arts, Zynga, Disney Interactive, and Ghostbot. Plus I had several freelance clients like Random House and General Mills. Currently, I’m currently taking a break from working studios in order to develop my own stories, illustrations, and other personal work.

1. References and Idea Sketching

For the course, I wanted to create a Sea Witch. To gain inspiration, I focused on rockfish, crustaceans, sharks, some invertebrates, and salamanders.

The first thing we worked on was iteration. I thought this stage of thumbnailing was really fun. I could have gone on forever, and liked how many ideas came out of the process.

Scroll through Julia’s thumbnails!

2. Choosing a Thumbnail

After submitting the sketches, we focused on picking out a couple of thumbnails that worked best to develop. Bobby wanted us to take our thumbnails and create musculature overlays. We included a scale comparison with a human being. I really liked the idea of a fish that has fins that come up towards its face when wanting to appear threatening. This variation was based on salamanders and flying fish.

Check out CGMA’s Animal Drawing course if you’re a beginner who wants to create your own creature.

3. Head Explorations

After we submitted ideas for a few basic designs, we focused on iterating the head. This was the part of the course I think I got the most out of. The head is how characters interact and it’s so memorable and impactful in dialog scenes.

These versions were really fun to draw. I looked at everything from giant squid to walruses to even bats. In the end, I decided they were too derivative of Cthulu for the Sea Witch I wanted for my story. In my story there is another creature of the deep that I want to be reminiscent of Cthulu, so I decided to save any mouth/head tentacles for that creature instead of this one.

Read “5 Steps to Create Your Dream Dinosaur” for a non-aquatic creature breakdown.

4. Creature Features

During the next week, we focused on a few poses for the few variants. At this point, I knew the manatee-like creature was not really cutting it for my story, so I decided to switch directions. It was still really fun to draw though!

While I was not entirely sure of the new design (below), I did like the slinky quality it offers. I also enjoyed the wispy hair and head designed to throw off unsuspecting prey in the dark. I went with a bioluminescence idea for a Sea Witch, and creepy tentacles arms. When I drew this version I was thinking about moray eels, who have such great faces.

4. Final Presentations

For our last class, we had to do a few studies of the final animals we designed. I landed on the Hellbender Salamander and the Bamboo Shark as most of my inspiration points, but there were definitely some other ideas in there, too.

For the final painting of my final design for the Sea Witch, I did two versions: one is total darkness and one in light for modeling purposes. We also were required to make a few detailed head studies for our final class.

Scroll through Julia’s final paintings.

Final Thoughts

  • Since I haven’t done a lot of creature work in my career, I wanted to dive into an online course and see where it might take me. I found Creature Design for Film and Games at CGMA with Bobby Rebholz and I’m happy I took the time to enroll.
  • Bobby’s lectures provided so much information, and his feedback sessions had great discussions about many creature considerations, acting, and posing that I hadn’t thought about and I learned a great process for coming up with an entirely new animal.
  • Although I am most likely going to edit and revise this character to fit with my story, I am glad I went through the process of taking a creature course.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Check out CGMA’s Animal Drawing course if you’re a beginner who wants to create your own creature.

Read “5 Steps to Create Your Dream Dinosaur” for a non-aquatic creature breakdown.

Be sure to enroll in Creature Design for Film and Games taught by Bobby Rebholz.