Hunting the Monsters - Talking to Aaron Lopresti

Aaron Lopresti, Monster Hunter

Comic fans know Aaron Lopresti as an artist who’s currently drawing Wonder Woman for DC. Needless to say, his style on female characters is one of the things that he’s best known for.

So why is this nice man drawing monsters?

Wait – you didn’t know he was drawing monsters?

You’ve perhaps missed out on Fantastical Creatures Field Guide: How to Hunt Them Down and Draw Them Where They Live, a recently released book of Lopresti’s … “findings” with his “partner,” Professor Ham Fabricatini.

The book, published by Watson-Guptil is 144 pages of monster-y goodness (with the aforementioned suggestions on how to draw them), including suche denizens as the Gul Stream Gill Man, Drooling Wolfhounds, Treasure Elves, Thunder Trolls, Bug Eyed Bush Beards, Wild Rhinoceros Boars, Cave Harpies and more.

What’s this monster hunting by Lopresti all about? Here’s what he had to say:

Newsarama: Aaron - since this book isn't out from comic book publishers, it may have been off the radar of your fans, so first off, what the heck is this book? It's a field's an art's a field book and an art guide?

Little Bigfoot

Aaron Lopresti: The book is equal parts humorous field guide and art book. Originally, at least in my mind, it was intended to be a book that just showcased color illustrations of strange creatures that people had never heard of. As I put it together, the actual writing became as important as the art. Now I think readers get as much out of the text that accompanies each creature illustration as the art itself. There is a chapter at the end that discusses my painting technique and takes the reader through a step by step process to creating one of the illustrations in the book. The "how to" chapter is something that the publisher wanted in the book, but the book itself is not a "how to" book.

NRAMA: How did the ball get rolling on this? After all, this is all you, right?

AL: Yes, this book is all me, in the sense that I both wrote and illustrated it. Andy Smith had written a very successful "how to draw comics" book that was published by Watson/Guptil. While we were both at CrossGen, his editor was looking for more projects. Andy hooked my up with the editor and I pitched this project. She didn't think Watson/Guptil would go for it because they mostly publish "how to" books but they liked the art and agreed to do it if I included a "how to" section. Three years later, I finally finished it!

NRAMA: Tell us about the set up and the framework here - this is a ”collaboration" between you and Professor Ham Fabricatini right?


AL: Well, I am hesitant to give Ham too much credit, since I did all of the real work. Besides he is on the run from the law (tax invasion) so it seems unlikely he will show up to complain. It is important not only to read the "how it all began" introduction to this book but also William Stout's wonderfully funny Foreword as they all work together to set the table for the rest of the book. Essentially I have taken the notes and journals of the not so famous scientist/explorer Ham Fabricatini and organized them into book form. I have created 44 color illustrations and over 120 pencil drawings to accompany the text to create this fantastical resource.

NRAMA: Let’s talk about those illustrations - what creatures does your guide cover, or rather, what creatures were you able to discover for your guide?

AL: The Guide is a travel log of sorts. We visit each continent and uncover the strange creatures that live there. Some of my favorites are the Thunder Troll, the Saber toothed Jack Rabbit, the Pastry Elf, the Rhinog (Wild Rhinoceros Boar), Little Big Foot, the Troll Monkey, Davey Jones' Locker Partner, the Mummy Fish, and of course, many others.

NRAMA: You mentioned it earlier, but how much of a “how-to” book is this?

AL: There is an instructional chapter at the end of the book. The book has sort of been marketed as a "how to book" which it really is not. From my stand point the "how to" chapter was a bonus for the reader who happened to be an artist (or inspiring artist) who liked the art in the book and wanted to know how I did it.


NRAMA: Looking at the creation of the creatures, what are the important things to remember in regards to drawing fantastical creatures? Even though they are fantastical, there are some...well, "rules" aren't there? Just to keep that hint of reality?

AL: As far as I am concerned, the most important thing is drawing. No matter what your creation is, if it is well-drawn people will buy in to it. If it isn't, I don't care how creative the idea is, people won't respond to it.

Now, I have always felt when you are creature creating, there are certain rules. There definitely needs to be something iconic or familiar about the creature. In other words it has to have a look that people can grab on to and remember. If you get too wild or grotesque it just becomes this weird or disgusting thing that lacks lasting appeal. Look at the designs of the urRu and Skeksis for The Dark Crystal movie compared to the Orcs or Trolls in Lord of the Rings. To me the Orcs and Trolls are just big masses of random ugliness, while The Dark Crystal creatures have a more solid sense of personality.

In my book it was also important to ground them a familiar reality since they all supposedly exist on this earth. Did I say "supposedly'?

NRAMA: What was this project for you? Something like a faucet to allow all of this to get out, or the start of a new side venture that you're looking to continue?


AL: This project is hopefully one of many. While the commercial art market continues to move in the direction of digital art, I continue to want to become a good painter/illustrator. Books like this allow me to do what I really love. I am really most comfortable when I am writing my own stories because it allows me total control of the art. I am a big fan of fantasy and that is probably due to the influences of Frazetta and others during my formable years in the 70's, so I would like to do more in that genre.

NRAMA: So what else do you have planned in this vein?

AL: I’m currently working on a children's book with a fantasy theme attached to it. I don't have a publisher yet, but hopefully now that Random House has purchased Watson-Guptil I will be able to work that connection. Since Wonder Woman is my priority right now, these other things continue to be side projects that I work on when I can squeeze in the time.

Fantastical Creatures Field Guide: How to Hunt Them Down and Draw Them Where They Live is currently in bookstores.

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