L1 - The Spine Says it All

Robert Marzullo
A free video tutorial from Robert Marzullo
Comic Book Artist / Illustrator
4.5 instructor rating • 18 courses • 33,073 students

Lecture description

In this lesson you will learn the importance of creating studies from the spine of various animals. These can teach you so much about creatures and the way the bodies posture and move. From here adding the limbs becomes much easier to envision.

Learn more from the full course

How to Improve Your Creature Design Drawings - Step by Step

Learn to Draw Amazing Creature Concepts with Confidence!

03:53:02 of on-demand video • Updated November 2020

  • You will learn how to draw a variety of creature concepts.
  • Proficiently draw from your imagination.
  • The techniques to developing a creature transformation.
  • You will learn how to draw quick thumbnails to spark your creative thinking.
English [Auto] Welcome back of one Robert Marzell O'Hare. So now we're going to do is we're going to work on the spine creation. And the reason why this is so important is because everything is housed off the spine and everything kind of weights against the spine. So if you have a better understanding of the way the spines are kind of structured then you're going to be able to come up with lots of cool creature concepts and it's just a great place to start. So if you've ever drawn bodies like figure drawing you're going to do things like an action line you're going to find the most significant line through the body. A lot of times that will relate to the spine just because of things like posture and again the weight and everything is kind of housed on that. So what we're going to do first is just draw out a spine to a human character really because it helps us to see by comparison. So we have a little bit better understanding naturally of the human spine even though we don't really see it in this fashion very often but we understand the posturing and the weight and we see a lot of people in the way they stand. So we can relate to it. From there we're going to take that information and we're going to draw a few others and then we're going to see the differences in a lot of times when you're doing creature design concepts and drawing anything really but it very much relates to creature design. You'll do a lot of things by comparison. So when you draw out a certain character you'll look at it and kind of analyzing OK how can I make this a bit cool or how can I stretch the the magnitude of the size of the veracity or you know whatever it is you're trying to convey in that creature design you know is that more innocent in a loving type little creature than you do that comparatively you look at the things that are working and the things that aren't and just maneuver. And that's that's what sketching is all about. Even what you see me doing here sketching out these pieces of the spine. They're not entirely correct and you know it's probably a lot more imaginative in some ways but it'll get the point across. But each time I saw some sketch I'm fixing little components of it I'm adjusting things and moving them around. I'm checking the work things like that. So that's the same way that you're going to sketch out your creature concepts and you're going to. Each time you're going to hone it. We're going to talk about that with thumb nailing thumb knowing is a great way to be able to do just that. And it's just slightly moving the lines around slightly adjusting things and you keep getting a better and better version of what it is you're trying to put down. So if you notice with the spine here there's a lot of curvature. It's not a straight up and down. And that's why I want to do a profile to really show that because it's it's very easy to draw characters and creatures to straight up and down and really getting this repetitious kind of behavior of drawing the same static kind of pose. And it's very important not only just in character design to get anything less than static dynamic you know as much as possible but but with creature design it goes into a whole nother level because there is a lot more expressive behavior in the body of creatures there's just so many things that you can accomplish and so many rules that you can break with creative design that you really don't want things to be straight up and down at all you know it pretty much never. So what you want to do here is really focus on the ability to draw these lines in a really imaginative way. But again we're going to start with a base of realism and the thing that we know most realistically would be the human spine. And you know keep in mind there's lots of humanoid characters where understanding the spine and the ribcage and the cranium like this will still help you with those types of designs as well. So I'll just finish this off. And you know drawing through this and getting enough of that information in place to understand it and keep in mind whenever you do sketches like these you want to catalog them you want to save them you can always use this as a foundation to build up your creature concepts. Another great exercise is to actually put this in place and try to draw maybe five different creature concepts over the spine of your work. Traditionally that means a light table and some paper tracing paper vellum but that's always a great exercise to really stretch the imagination as well. So now we're going to do another very recognizable spine structure. This is actually from a Raptor. So we're going to draw now and really pay special attention to the elongated spine and the curvature that we see within this type of character or creature. And again this this relates so well to so many various concepts that you could come up with. So by doing this we can really start with a base you know a foundational element and we could work up from this and we could create dragons we could create creatures that have you know multiple sets of legs in it just whatever your imagination can come up with. And that's really what you're going to learn throughout these lessons and to show you how to really stretch that concept you know start with the basics start with a foundation like this and then apply a bunch of different things overtop various wings different legs just different things to really get an idea going and then elaborate from there. So it stretched the proportions out a bit as well. So that's another thing that's really big and creature concepts. Now here we're going for a little bit more of what it would actually look like a little bit closer to realism. But a big part of creature design concepts is to know when to really push to the proportions so really stretch the proportions. You can actually come up with some pretty imaginative ideas just with changing the proportions. There's just lots of little things that we associate as being correct. By the way the portions are done so if you give something an overly long neck or a bigger than average tail smaller head for instance if you make the head smaller You're going to make the creature look more massive by the relationship of the body. You know another trick is if you're doing this creature that you want to look very large in you know monstrous or whatever you can give them these tiny little eyes and just that comparison will generally make the hadn't looked larger and so proportions are very important to either making something look realistic like we're going for here or making something looking a bit more fantasy based. So again just kind of drawing through this. And notice too just as far as the sketching part goes that when I saw Torrey's it down and I got to draw back through that's when I come back in with the confident line making. In the beginning I'm very much just scribbling in ideas and I want to talk a lot about that through lessons because I always get a lot of students that will say that they struggle with you know getting their ideas down and in the sketching process. Keep in mind that that loose sketching and light sketching is very much part of the creative process. That's what allows you to see into the work and kind of figure things out. I don't always know exactly what something should look like. You know if you're working for my friends you have that as your guide as well. But the light sketch lines are a work up to finding the right line. So don't think about it as much as having to put the right line down exactly where it needs to go. The first time because that I think that stagnates you and it makes you a little too critical of your work too early on you want to really let the sketch lines help you to find the right placement. I'm always nudging lines around always moving things around and then once I have a firm understanding of what should go on the page that's when I come back with a more solid line. Which is still not against soft a racing bat and fixing that if I can make something better. So notice that spine's very long awaited. The proportions skills. There's a lot of similarities to even the human spine but you know there's those major differences like the obvious tale structure and the way the neck is elongated and even the long awaited cranium and just lots of neat little details you can study from there. And again this is the foundation of how you'll start to understand different animals and then you can start to put it all together and make just lots and lots of cool creature concepts. And what I really want to stress too is if you learn to pull certain characteristics from a variety of animals and from nature as inspiration even plant life and sex if you really get good at that you're never going to run out of ideas you're just going to have a multitude of possibilities. It's just amazing when you start to really think about that and you start to really pay attention to the things around you. There's just tons and tons of great inspiration and reference select this right here is the skeletal structure of a fish and it doesn't seem like much but when you start to compare it to the differences that you see in the previous two examples you realize that there's there's actually a lot of tiny differences going on. You know the structure of the head is very different it's almost birdlike with a bit of a beak the way that the the spine runs right through the middle of the body in this perspective and fans out is very neat the way that it has a top and bottom. Arch you know that kind of fans and it connects to the spine. So these are just little details but it's it gives you lots of great information to work from when you go to structure something. And one of the things I think it's really neat about studying the spine is that you know we don't have to leave all that information on the inside of our character. It can be a foundational base where we apply anatomy overtop or it can be an exoskeleton and you can come up with all sorts of neat ideas in fact I think some of the best alien creation type designs seem to always have a bit of fish like qualities on the exterior of the body. And likewise there's just so much great reference when it comes to aquatic life. It's just there's so much that we're not used to seeing that it has much of a almost an alien like appearance. So there's a lot to be harnessed from and studied from that. And that's why I really like doing these types of renditions. It's always a great warm up and it gives you just a bunch of ideas I think almost a little bit subconsciously too just by creating these studies. It just makes you change your perception or your perspective on things a bit more and then when you go to draw your own stuff the ideas just kind of work themselves. And so I get a lot of people that ask you know how do you come up with these ideas how do you see these things and then you know in your mind and then put them on paper. And I don't know that it's that conscious all the time but by doing these studies it becomes a little bit more subconscious and it just becomes almost reactionary you know. So you're sitting there putting down the work and you think well I'm having this really creative moment and I'm coming up with this great idea. But in all reality it's just some sort of resemblance of life experience and things that you've practiced or done before you know maybe studied from even another artist or you know but you know life generally and just lots and lots and lots of sketches. You really want to sketch often to really get a confidence level with this type of stuff and it's not always a magic to drawing sometimes it's a combination of realism and then putting your own spin on it. So another great technique for stuff like this is to actually draw a lot of the foundational information and then hide the reference and then just draw from your mind. In fact they do that quite a bit because I want there to be more expression in the work if I wanted just a picture I would just grab a picture. So I tried to make sure to experiment in that way. So make sure to do lots of studies like these you know grab spines from all sorts of different animals and vertebrates just everything and get your hands on and really study some of the shapes and designs that you see with them there and it will really help your creature design the next lesson. We're going to cover the cranium design a little bit more and a more imaginative way. So with that let's press on.