by Caleb Goellner

Creative Space: Creature Designer Terryl Whitlach's Studio

Terryl Whitlatch gives life to creatures that exist on the outskirts of our imagination.  She worked with George Lucas to design many of the creatures in the Star Wars prequels, and she has imagined creatures for a wide range of movies, video games, and merchandise.  So what does the art desk of a creature designer look like?

Traditional/Digital Hybrid

"Digital and traditional art are bookends to each other," Whitlatch explained.  And her workspace reflects that.  Her home base is a large, flat drawing table.  On that table, Whitlatch keeps her drawing materials, her Wacom tablets, and her Macintosh computer.  "When I’m doing traditional art," she said, "I draw on an angled surface.  But the computer can’t go on that!"

On top of the large table, she keeps a smaller, portable mini board.  "It’s like a recipe book on a counter," she explained.  With an angled surface, she can use traditional illustration tools; she has canisters with pencils, paints, brushes, and Copic markers.  "I work in hybrid form," she said.  "I start with pencil, paper, marker, acrylic.  I like the chaos factor, getting cool effects you can’t necessarily get digitally, like how graphite spatters on paper at a microscopic level."  But when it is time to make changes, she shifts to the digital.

Digital Style

Whitlatch scans her drawings on a big 11" x 17" Epson scanner.  "I bought it refurbished to save money!" she shared.  "Artists today really need to have a scanner."  Then she manipulates the drawings and creates effects in digital format.  Using her Wacom pen tablet, she can doodle and make changes until she finds something that fits the role the animal will play in the story.  "And if that doesn’t work," she said, "I’ll create another variation." 

Her work on the Wacom tablet makes it easy to share her work with colleagues, galleries, editors, and even students.  Whitlatch’s master class in creature concept design and development, Tales of Amalthea, is conducted online, so the Wacom tablet is helpful for demonstration drawings.  And her work with Helpful Bear, a visual development company, pairs her with other top industry talents in a diverse range of projects, including motion graphics, books, and even creature contests.  With the tablet, she can share ideas in an instant.

Coming Soon

Currently she has drawings from her upcoming book, Bestiary:  A Natural History of Mythical Creatures, on her desk.  "I thought it would be cool to treat mythical creatures as if they really existed," she said, "What if mythical creatures were an earth species instead of a magical/science fiction species?  What would they really look like?"  Unicorns, dragons, and everything in between will be making an appearance.  "In fact," she teased, "I just finished a drawing of greenish felines."  Color us interested.

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