When it comes to creatures, demons come in all shapes and sizes. In most fantasy setting demons have a tendency to to take on very western demonic ideals and we oft end up with the horribly mutated cousins of Tim Curry in Legend. This week we will be taking a look specifically an invented malevolent, demonic creature, but in distinctly Japanese fashion. Now, in Japanese folklore, Bakemono doesn’t necessarily refer to a demon per se, but it does, by definition, shape-shift. Your task this week is to create a type of mountain demon with the ability to shapeshift into some kind of normal animal. As a nod to its origins, the creature should at the very least have a nod to Japanese folklore in its design, in some way.
I did some research on Obakemono and decided I'd like to take a stab at rendering a Tsukumogami, or 100 year old object. From Wikipedia:
the term is generally understood to be applied to virtually any object, “that has reached their 100th birthday and thus become alive and self-aware.
After browsing the internet and doing research on animals that live in the Japanese mountains I'd also decided that the demonic creature I wanted to render would be a Japanese snow macaque. In my initial sketches above I experimented with the idea of the demon object being a stone lantern that came to life after a hundred years. You can see how I tried and failed in the sketches above to synthesize the shape of the macaque and the lantern. After giving the idea some more thought I decided to try something else. I'd always been interested in samurais and their accouterments, and the more I looked at the macaques the more their faces reminded me of samurai masks. I made a couple of sketches with this idea in mind and since I was pleased with the result I decided to go that route.
Since I'd already decided what my demon and his animal form would be, I now had to work out how I would like him to be posed. Keeping in mind what I'd learned from the Gobelin's Master Class in Animation I wanted to make sure that the silhouette of the characters stood out and that it would "read" properly even without any details. To aid in this I kept my lines as simple and clean as possible, eliminating and internal detail and focusing on making sure that the body silhouette and that of the mask were most easily readable. I liked the shapes of thumbnails 1 and 3 the best, although I ultimately settled on 3. While both thumbnails exuded "evil", thumbnail 3 looked more like a creature that was out to work some mischief, and thumbnail 1 looked more like a guardian, or someone taking a dump. My thought process was that if I was suddenly animated after 100 years I'd be raring to run around and trick people instead of just sitting still.
With my pose in mind I settled down to create the initial line art for the piece. After doing some research on Japanese paintings depicting snowy landscapes (which I will go into with a little more detail in my next post) I made some quick thumbnails in my sketchbook and then translated that into Photoshop. This composition isn't final and I'll be talking about some changes I made to lead the eye more towards the creature, but that can wait till the next post!