When I was first began drawing this comic in 2009, I was already a huge fan of James Gurney, the creator of the Dinotopia books and the author of the greatest art blog on the internet today, bar none. James very often employs miniatures, which he sculpts himself, to help him get ideas for his fantastical paintings, particularly ideas about lighting. Here are just a few examples – I could post dozens more and they’re all equally astounding:

After reading his superb book Imaginative Realism: How To Paint What Doesn’t Exist, I was determined to adopt this practice. I was barely confident in my ability to draw a human being from various angles, much less a totally fictional creature of my own invention. But I knew that the alien/kachina was going to be a big part of the story, and that I’d have to draw him many times. So I busted out the plasticine and managed to crap out this little number:

A lot of the animal’s proportions changed between the initial model and the final artwork (first appearance, Page 86), so I didn’t end up referring to it all that much. But constructing the model nevertheless helped a lot – it forced me to visualize the creature as a three-dimensional being and not just a series of lines. I brought the model with me from New Orleans to Portland in a shoebox – it has completely fallen apart.

P.S. Seriously, if you an artist reading this, even if you think my art sucks, you should absolutely read Imaginative Realism. If you are in Portland, I have two copies and will happily lend you one.