Hello! My name is Calyn McLeod. I am an artist and designer who loves working in many media, but my current specialty is creating one of a kind posable fantasy creatures (commonly referred to as posable art dolls). My workflow for making these creatures usually doesn’t start with a tight plan – I begin with just an inspiration, and maybe a rough sketch or two. I sculpt the face first, and let it tell me what kind of feet it needs and what body type is appropriate. I will have some idea of what the creature’s coloring will be, but I don’t plan it in detail before I start painting.
The process for creating these creatures is one of discovery – a controlled brand of unknown. I have a direction I am working in, but I let myself deviate from it as the work progresses. In this way I continue to hone the design as I work, rather than attempting to anticipate every detail in advance and follow that plan dogmatically. This is not to say it’s all some kind of free-for-all: there are rules – guidelines, really – to making a believable anatomy and believable markings. I’m still early in the learning curve of understanding the formal language of these creatures, but there are things that animals tend to have in common. Most faces are essentially the same – that is, they share key elements which can be modified a great deal before they lose that quality of naturalness. Coloration is the same way – for example, many species have a lighter belly and darker legs. If I follow these basic guidelines, I can use wild colors and yet create an animal that reads as believable – it may be weird, but it is not entirely alien.
Because of how I work without a tight plan, I prefer not to take commissions for specific characters or real animals. (Although I will do so on occasion!) To recreate an existing design demands that I know exactly how it is going to turn out, and this is really hard to do, especially when considering the fur – it is difficult to precisely estimate how much bulk this will add. Additionally, I know my materials, and while working on my own, I will design creatures that work with the flaws in the materials. My goal is to keep a consistent stylization throughout the creature – this means I want there to be no awkwardness in the seam between clay face and fur body. To make that work requires careful consideration of the join – better if it coincides with an intended textural change in the creature. The same principles apply to seaming the body – colors and gradients (in hue and/or fur length) will hide seams and make the fur appear smoother.
The reason I care so much about controlling the texture and stylization of these creatures (besides the fact that I am a natural-born perfectionist) is that I don’t conceptualize my creatures as art objects so much as characters. A character should be consistent with themselves and their world, and I have chosen a scheme that has a high level of realism. This is also why I make them posable – so they can appear to react to their environment and with the viewer. My creatures are not representations of characters – they are the characters.