Facing a blank canvas can be daunting, particularly when designing subjects not of this world. Just what and who do you turn to for inspiration when designing mythical creatures? The sixth in its series, Sketching from the Imagination: Creatures & Monsters, by Marisa Lewis is a fantastic place to start.
It’s an inspirational paperback (for more great books, see our best drawing books (opens in new tab) roundup) that gathers artwork from 50 illustrators working in the field of creature design, while throwing in some valuable artist insight for good measure, too.
Sketching from the imagination: Format
The book's format quickly becomes apparent from a glance through the book’s 317 pages. Each artist has been allocated a similar amount of space, most of which is crammed full of the most fascinating creature designs. A varied subject selection provides drawings of everything from dragons and fairies to mechanical structures and aliens, in all stages of development. The majority of the artwork is in black and white; however, a number of full colour illustrations pop up randomly, making for a welcome change of pace in among the monochrome.
A slight downside to this softcover is that there’s no easy way (unless you’re familiar with every artist) to quickly find a specific subject matter or style of interest. Instead, you’ll need to flick through the book’s hundreds of pages to find those dragon designs you’re looking for. If and when you do, however, artists are detailed in a summary of contributors at the back of the book, should you want to explore their body of work any further.
Sketching from the imagination: Layout
The image-to-word ratio is, quite rightly, weighted heavily in favour of the former, and the text featured is, for the most part, carefully placed so as not to intrude on valuable illustration space. Page layouts follows the same format for each artist – a short introduction followed by inspiration, materials and techniques sections – which can get a little repetitive. Highlighted boxouts, which feature individuals’ artistic and professional advice are, overall, much more insightful (for a good example, see White Ink is Your Friend on page 17).
Sketching from the imagination: Our verdict
On the whole there’s very little not to like about this book. The art is accessible and fascinating in its variety, and the artistic insight is a nice added extra. Creature artists are sure to enjoy all the eye candy on view, and at less than £20, it’s a bargain to boot.