We’d like to warmly welcome a new family of creatures into the world. Their names are Chub, Bog Bomber, Egg Thief, Mantapup, Kha-Philian Peasant, Red-Finned Slark, Hellhound, Fungus Eater, Squidsect, Stargazer, Monster Puppy, Swamp Golem, Harrysaurus, Ambush Snapper, Rhinodino, Jellybug, Agonia Pulchra, and Eater of Worlds. Hi, guys!
These are just a few of the brutal beasts you’ll find in the pages of Creative Essence: Creatures, a new book from digital art powerhouse Ballistic Publishing. Featured here are eight leading creature designers and 3-D modelers from the CG industry, who have created monsters for video games, TV, and big-budget films like The Hobbit trilogy, Dr. Who, Snow White and the Huntsmen, and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Working off of short briefs from Creative Essence's publisher, like “hunter, hunted,” or “predator, prey,” these eight designers developed 28 original creatures specifically for this book, from flying jellyfish to hookah-smoking aliens to egg thieves. In hilariously bizarre interviews, artists detail their processes of imagining, drawing, modeling, and sculpting their creatures, then animating them with ZBrush technology.
Monster Puppy, for example, is a hulking, bug-eyed bulldog, inspired by the artist Josh Herman's "adorable puppy, Spock," as Herman says in the book. If your kids want a puppy and you want to dissuade them, just tell them it will grow into this. "This is the creature that scares me the most," Herman says.
Chub, by James Van Den Bogart, is a “kind of big ball of meat” that “moves like a mini gorilla." He evolved when Van Den Bogart wanted to make something interesting out of a circle. “I drew a circle on a piece of paper and tried to find a way I could pack a cute creature into it. Then I moved into the tadpole creature–-with its chubby cheeks, softer body, a little smirk and smaller eyes, so he looks like he’s squinting and kind of smiling,” says Van Den Bogart. In Van Den Bogart’s biography and photo, he’s presented as just a regular guy who loves CrossFit and football. You’d never peg him for a Creator of Monsters, but he works as a main designer for God of War: Ascension.
Mantapup is a cute little guy, with four big brown eyes and a Manta Ray’s kind of upside-down smile. “I see him hopping about as he uses the little sensors on his wing tips to alert him to when something falls to the ground. He then picks up these scraps with his little digging arms and uses his shovel-like mouth like a living pooper-scooper,” says the artist, Ian Joyner, who's created monsters for Cowboys and Aliens and The Amazing Spider-Man.
GEILO is the stuff of nightmares: his name is an acronym for Genetically Engineered, Intelligent, Lethal Organism, and he was inspired by the military industrial complex and its genetic experimentation-related black ops. "These creatures were designed for killing, in a number of manners. Whether they are needed for soldiering or assassinations, they have the ability to be quiet, quick, and brutal," says artist Andrew Baker, who's worked on The Adventures of Tin-Tin and The Hobbit.
It’s amazing how deeply these artists know their characters—they’ve plumbed the depths of their beastly psyches, with every detail richly imagined, from how and what they eat, to how they move, to their coloring and texture and weight.
Back in 2004, Napoleon Dynamite blew millions of minds with his creation of the Liger–-"pretty much [his] favorite animal ... a lion and a tiger mixed, bred for its skills in magic." Someone should have told Napoleon that there are people who get to design such fantastical creatures for a living.
Creative Essence: Creatures is available here.