When I sit down to work, I tend to warm up by sketching around a bit. If you follow my work, you might be aware of my Tea & Creatures project and I've talked about the importance of warming up before. I thought I'd share a fun exercise that I employ often when I need to warm up quickly and don't have lots of time to spend looking for ideas.
I'm sure everyone knows what Pinterest is at this point but in case you don't, Pinterest is an organized image bookmarking website. You can bookmark or "pin" images of anything into customized groups called "boards". I find it quite useful for gathering inspirational images, recipes, and gift ideas - it works for many different facets of life. One thing I really enjoy pinning is animal reference. Because these images are seldom high resolution, they aren't really suitable for intensive reference. However, they are great for ideas, inspiration and quick reference! My board, What Inspires Me Most, contains images from science and nature with about 97% of it being animals. I tend to pin images when I'm drinking tea in the morning, at lunch, or when I'm riding the bus - anytime I have a spare moment.
This particular board isn't really separated into different groups or kingdoms of animals, they are all just sort of tossed together. I did this on purpose. What I end up with is a collage of all different sorts of animal images, right next to one another. It really shows you the differences and the similarities between species at random. It can be fun to just scroll through every now and then.
How does this relate to warming up? I've found that when I just doodle, there's a tendency to incorporate some of the same traits into my designs. I'll always go for forward facing eyes and a leathery hide. It's what I like the most and I think all artists have certain "pieces" of subjects they like to draw over and over.
I use Pinterest to give me a fresh set of traits. It not only switches things up aesthetically, it keeps things exciting and challenging. It's almost like slots. Scroll down on your mouse fast and where ever the webpage lands, pick a few animals in that space and smash them together! I've sketched out two creature portraits below. This can easily be done with quick head concepts like these or full body concepts as well. You can see this particular set of animals came up:
What's fun about keeping your animal reference board sort of unorganized is that you begin to pull from different families and groups of animals for your design. For example, you could combine different birds with fish or reptiles with all sorts of mammals. It begins to open things up and you can begin to find ideas quickly. In the image above you can see four highlighted pins - a mammal, an amphibian and two birds.
You can see I pulled a lot from the tiger in terms of facial structure. I liked the cheek waddle on the pheasant and the cockatoo feather display so I incorporated those into the design. The poison dart frog inspired the color choice and application a bit as well.
Here's another example. you can see I pulled a lot from the turtle in terms of head structure. The iguana played into the neck spines and the rams horns showed up too. The creature's coloration was inspired heavily by the cassowary.
Smashing up different animals is essentially the essence of what creature design is. You're taking what you know about the natural world and using those traits to create something new and exciting. Using Pinterest is a quick and convenient way to collect inspiration to help fuel new ideas and warmups. Give it a try! It's a lot of fun and a good challenge.