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 guide...it's an art
book...it's a field book and an art guide?
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"
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.