Beastember

December 13, 2017

I thought I would do another drawing challenge for the first week of December. I wanted something that could be different everyday, but a topic that was a bit different for me. I have not delved into the fantasy side of illustrations professionally, so thought that drawing such forms on the everyday could be quite interesting.I'll include the information from the caption on the associated blog posts.

 

These are only quick sketches that I did each day because obviously I had other work to do, so be kind! But it was fun to play around with different body shapes and features.

 

 #beastember DAY 1: dragon.

 

There are so many different literary accounts of dragons dependant on geographical region and era, but mostly, dragons are seen as magnificent, scaly, fire breathing beasts, with lizard, snake and bird-like characteristics, and are often guarding a hoard of some kind. I decided to illustrate a well known beast for day 1, that of Smaug. Tolkien description in "the Hobbit" is quite thin, but includes descriptions of "a vast red-golden dragon" with bat-like wings and a "long pale belly". When first encountered, he is on top of his treasure, "a dire menace even in his sleep". My depiction may have a slightly more peaceful Smaug, happy to sleep amongst his gold, however I have kept to the six limbs of a dragon, unlike Peter Jacksons Smaug, which had four limbs, more alike to a wyvern. I will draw a different beast each day, follow along!

 

 

#beastember DAY 2: centaur.

 

Centaurs are half horse, half human, and were often depicted as untamed and representing savagery. One ancient centaur, however, differed to his bestial kin. I decided to illustrate Chiron the centaur, who was tutor to Hercules, amongst others, and was known for his wisdom, civilised manner and teaching ability. Some ancient depictions of Chiron have him with two human legs, while others have all four as equine. According to Guerber (1921), Chiron was accidentally mortally wounded by one of Hercules’ arrows. The gods, however, were happy with his work, and brought him up to the heavens as the constellation Sagittarius. More recent literature has some more helpful centaurs who help fight battles and pass on their knowledge of the magical world.

 

 

 #beastember DAY 3: cerberus.

 

This three-headed canine beast is what guards the gates to hades, and thus is often referred to as the “hound of Hades”. Sagona (2005) states that it was custom for Greeks to place a coin under the deceased tongue to pay Charon, the boatman, who would then take the dead across the river Acheron, where a wall with a gate would be guarded by the three-headed dog, to prevent the dead from leaving. He can sometimes be illustrated as having snakes protruding from his body, and does not always have three heads. In fact, some early descriptions have Cerberus with fifty, or one hundred, heads. He is often linked to Heracles, who captured Cerberus (in various fashions depending on the author) as his twelfth labour. My illustration today is a bit more realistic than what I was intending, but nevertheless, here is Cerberus!

 

 

 

#beastember DAY 4: cyclops.

 

A cyclops is, quite simply, a giant with one eye. I decided to use Homer’s The Odyssey as my source for today (my copy has been translated by Rieu, 1952). Homer describes the race of the Cyclopses as a “fierce, uncivilised people” that are without laws and customs, live in mountain caves, looked after ewes and goats, and didn’t mind the taste of humans. I chose a scene from The Odyssey, where the hero protagonist sees one such cyclops, called Polyphemus, gives him too much wine, says a witty remark about “Nobody”, sticks a stake in the cyclops’ eye then tries to run off with his sheep. I illustrated  just before this point, where the cyclops is wary of his home’s surroundings, looking after his sheep and perhaps readying himself for a vegetarian supper before these humans come to try and harm him. Maybe.

 

 

 

#beastember DAY 5: sphinx.

 

This beast has a human head, the body of a lion, sometimes the wings of an eagle, and occasionally a serpents head on the tail. The sphinx changes depending on the culture, with the Greek version often that of a woman, and the Egyptian sphinx often a man. They are guardians at the entrance of temples, and often require the correct answer to a riddle, with those answering incorrectly being killed and eaten. The second riddle is often considered to be: “two sisters; one gives birth to the other, who gives birth to the first. Who are they?” The answer, to avoid death, is “night and day”. I have illustrated a young sphinx, possibly discovering the origins of this riddle. I’ve also added some quick colour to today’s beast, just to bring it to life a bit more.
 

 

 #beastember DAY 6: kraken.

 

Originating within scandinavian mythology, this giant lives in the depths of the sea. The first mentions of the kraken are in the 13th century, with early reports likening to a crab-like creature, while nowadays it is usually represented as being alike to an octopus or squid, sometimes with spikes along the tentacles. Such a squid-like creature has been referred to on many occasions, such as Alfred Tennyson’s sonnet “The Kraken”, Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, and Jules Vern’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”. This dangerous creature has destroyed many ships that crosses his path, with some sailors reporting that its great size made them think it an island.
 

 

 #beastember DAY 7: dryad.

 

This little beast is a tree spirit or nymph. They lived a long time but were considered to be shy in nature, and very close to their tree-based homes. They were their spirit, with a flourishing tree spirit being reflected in the health of the tree. They are often represented as being small, almost fairy-like creatures, sometimes featuring wings or antlers. For today’s beast, I’ve decided to go against this, and almost take a “Treebeard” direction, if you know what I mean. My dryad is very deeply connected with her tree, as one is to the other. She sways and bends, but sometimes can snap when the wind blows the wrong way.
 

 

instagram: @siobhan.mcvey

 

 

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