Practice, Practice, and More Practice
You probably already know that practice is the single most important key to improving your ability to draw or paint fantasy subjects. But did you know that there are two major kinds of practice and that you should be doing both?
Drawing from sight is the first way you should be drawing. You should be spending a lot of time drawing familiar and real life objects. This can be anything at all and it will improve your fantasy drawing and painting even further if you choose related subjects. By related subject I mean that if you like to draw unicorns you should be drawing horses and if you like to draw dragons you should be drawing lots of lizards and reptiles.
Making the Connection between Real life and Fantasy
The very definition of fantasy means you have artistic license to draw anything you want. You could draw a five thousand pound dragon that flies around with wings the size and texture of a butterfly's wings. But would that make sense? Even though you are drawing fantasy creatures, objects, and scenes, you still have to do it in ways that make sense. Musculature moves in certain ways, bones and skeletal underpinnings cause bodies to move in expected ways, and to look certain ways. By drawing and understanding real life object and creatures you will improve your fantasy creatures and objects by making them look real even though they aren't real.
Drawing from mind is the second type of practice you should be doing on a regular basis. Get a blank piece of paper and let your imagination run wild. This is where the fantasy will come out. Draw things that are similar to real life objects and also try to create things that have almost no recognizable equivalent. Don't be afraid to explore and try all kinds of crazy ideas - just let the visual ideas flow. This is an exercise in creativity and it will generate lots of ideas. These ideas and images can at a later point be hammered out into more advanced drawings and paintings.
Techniques for Fantasy
Distortion is the number one technique when it comes to drawing fantasy objects and creatures. It implies a change in proportion or characteristic. What happens when you make the eyes of the creature larger? It has a dramatic effect. The important thing to remember about distortion is that it is relative. If you draw the whole elephant bigger you just have a bigger elephant. But if you draw its ears unusually large you have an elephant that maybe can fly. Make just the mouth and teeth larger and you have a creature that could be quite an intimidating eating machine. Try distorting only certain sections of creatures, figures and objects. The effect is remarkable.
Visual Metaphors and Visual Symbolism
There are many accepted and implied visual metaphors that work well in fantasy drawing. Large mouth and teeth, as I mentioned, do well for intimidating and scaring. Large ears mean something hears well, and a large nose implies better sense of smell. Large things generally move slowly while small things generally move faster. Wrinkles imply age and taut musculature implies strength and speed. Think about all of the various visual metaphors that are available to you and try using them. I just listed a few but there are literally an unlimited number of them.
Colors also play an important role in fantasy and in visual metaphors. Brightly colored objects and creatures can signify danger or beauty (or both) and distorting colors can be very effective. Green often is the calling card of reptilian like creatures and pinkish hues often symbolize youth. Blacks and browns tend to signify dark and mysterious while white is linked to good. Play with the colors you use in your artwork and be aware that the colors have symbolic significance that is often not consciously recognized yet subconsciously very important.
You will improve your fantasy artwork by practicing and this is well understood but remember that there are four different realms you can draw upon to improve. Draw things from the real world, draw things from your imagination, distort things in the real world, and make use of the obvious and not so obvious symbolism in things.
The Compendium of Fantasy Art Techniques -
Artists interested in graphic novels, comic book illustration, or computer game graphics will find a veritable course load of instruction in this mega-fantasy art manual. Combining the best of three of Barron's top fantasy art titles, The Compendium of Fantasy Art Techniques presents easy-to follow instructions and step-by-step illustrations that will teach readers the essential techniques for creating the fantasy world of their dreams.
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