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Freelance artist Laura Gómez already had great background knowledge in animal anatomy but wanted to push some creative boundaries. She pushed her sketches to be weirder and weirder, until she created with the beautiful and powerful Pteracephalous. Don’t know what a Pteracephalous is? Read on to find out, along with Laura’s creature creation process, which includes:

  1. Reference Building
  2. Initial Sketches
  3. Anatomy, Muscles, and Skeletal Structure
  4. Heads and Horns
  5. Final Presentation

My name is Laura Gómez and I’m from Guadalajara, Mexico. I graduated from UDG with a Visual Arts Bachelor Degree where I learned traditional arts and techniques. I work as a freelance artist for independent animated short films, mostly in my own country. Currently, I’m working on the independent short film “Nemi”. I enjoy drawing animals and I often go to my city zoo to draw and take photographs. I took this Creature Design for Film and Games taught by Bobby Rebholz because I wanted to improve my drawing skills and learn how to create my own creatures with a more professional approach.

1. Reference Building

For the mood boards, I picked animals who look strong and agile. I added a lot of bovines since they are some of my favorite animals to draw. I really like their general shapes and the design of the horns and antlers.

I also picked a bunch of extinct animals, some giant mammals and land birds, and of course, dinosaurs. Prehistoric animals have wonderful features and shapes.

Lastly, I added some insects, abyssal fish, and sea slugs because these animals are quite strange looking and have really unique and weird characteristics that could help me to make the creature more interesting.

Check out CGMA’s Animal Drawing course to make your own versions of the real-life creatures above.

My only advice is to try your best in the assignments and don’t hesitate if you need to make big changes. Plus, have fun! Go for the crazy ideas!

Laura Gómez, Freelance Artist

2. Initial Sketches

The first sketches came out easily, but I had some struggles as I went forward because I felt like I was running out of ideas. In the end, I got a lot of sketches (some more successful than others) but definitely, the weirdest designs arrived in the last stage of the sketching process. I learned the importance of forcing yourself to keep going, as the saying goes “no pain no gain.”

3. Anatomy, Muscles, and Skeletal Structure

I chose three creatures based on Bobby’s comments on the sketches, plus my friend’s favorites. I tried to pick creatures who looked distinct from one another. Each one of these creatures has its own unique characteristics and personality. I didn’t make any important changes in the design at this stage.

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I ended up focusing on Creature B for my final project.

https://www.cgmasteracademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/laura_gomez_student_interview7-1-1024x663.jpeg

Curious to see how to add muscles and skeletal structure to a 3D animal? Read “7 Steps to Create an Anatomically Accurate Leopard.”

4. Heads and Horns

For the head structure, I used an American Buffalo as a base, mixed with a Triceratops for the beak and nose in some of the variations.

For the eyes I wanted an old, calm personality, I always envisioned this creature like an alien ox, quiet most of the time, but also powerful and dangerous if you make it angry. I based the eyes on rhinoceros and cows. Although I liked the final headshot, the eyes didn’t make it to the final design

https://www.cgmasteracademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/laura_gomez_student_interview10-1-1024x791.jpeg

5. Final Presentation

The final creature kept most of the same features that I had in mind from the beginning: a big, strong, lonely animal with big horns. I envisioned it living in wide, semi-arid plains, similar to the African savannah. The head was the part that required the most iterations to get right.

The design for the horns changed drastically at each step of the process. From the very beginning, Bobby pointed out that they were kinda useless as a weapon, and it took a lot of effort to come up with a justification that made sense and a design to match.

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After receiving the feedback from Bobby, the big challenge in the final assignments was to develop a more “alien” look for the creature. For me, one of the toughest parts of the design was to stay away from real animal references.

If you want to see how Bobby’s input can influence your work, check out this feedback session!

I was so attached to earth animal anatomy and functions that my creature didn’t look extraterrestrial at all, so I asked my family and friends for ideas. Someone suggested that the horns could work as the feelers of a bug, and that led to the final design: an earless and eyeless head, with huge membranes attached to the horns that would work as its main sensory organ.

Ideas can come from anywhere! Just read “How to Leverage Feedback from Unlikely Sources.

I had to make some hard decisions in the final stages of the designs, like taking out the eyes of the creature, completely changing the horns and head shape, adding a lot of bone plates to the skull, and removing the ears. I made a really basic 3D model of the head on ZBrush, which you can see above, to help me with the final design of horns and sails (this technique is a wonderful way to get quick references for different angles of the head).

The body stayed mostly the same from the older versions, except for the legs.  In the first stage I was keeping the hooves, but in the final design I went for a heavier structure with small, digging claws. I used a tortoise as a reference for it. It took me more time to figure out all the new changes than the final renders, I spent around 6 hours in the final drawings.

Figuring out the name was a funny part of the final layout. Since the head was the most distinctive feature of my creature, I came up with Pteracephalous which means “wing-head”.

Final Thoughts

  • I think one of the more important things I learned was to stop getting too attached to the original idea in order to keep pushing the design. My previous knowledge about animal anatomy really helped me to keep the believability of the creature, but also made it hard to stay away from it when I want to create something more unique. I had to find a midpoint, and I still need more practice to reach a more fantastic/alien look for my creatures.
  • I enjoy drawing animals and I often go to my city zoo to draw and take photographs. I took this course because I wanted to improve my drawing skills and learn how to create my own creatures with a more professional approach.
  • One thing that I love from the CGMA classes, is how they help you to find your weak points and how to work on them in order to improve. As you can see, the difference between my first sketch to the final design is huge.
  • My only advice is to try your best in the assignments and don’t hesitate if you need to make big changes. Plus, have fun! Go for the crazy ideas! I have had wonderful experiences with the CGMA courses, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to improve.

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 to make your own versions of real-life creatures.

If you want to see how Bobby’s input can influence your work, check out this feedback session!

Curious to see how to add muscles and skeletal structure to a 3D animal? Read “7 Steps to Create an Anatomically Accurate Leopard.”

Ideas can come from anywhere! Just read “How to Leverage Feedback from Unlikely Sources.