Now, I've been doing studies in my sketchbook for the past couple weeks of various skulls and body layouts for various owls and bears, trying to figure out what it is that really stands out to me about each. I've also contacted various friends of mine with experience in things like wild bird rehabbing, biology degrees and a passion for all things bird-y to help fill in my embarrasing lack of knowledge about owls. What can I say? I'm all about the lizards and great cats. Here's a three factoids I've learned.
- 1. Despite the steriotype, owls are rather dumb. They're very good at what they do in the wild, but they tend to be ragefull and stompy and hard to deal with in a falconry setting.
- 2. Owls have amazing hearing..partly because one ear opening is slightly lower than the other. This allows them to triangulate the origin of sounds more exactly..and as my friend and vault-of-knowledge on all things bird Jennifer Miller put it, "nothing's better at hearing mouse farts".
- 3. If you study skulls, you'll find that owls have extraordinarily pointy faces. There's a huge mass of feathers that covers up all but the tip of the beak. This might translate in interesting ways over to a redesigned owlbear.
As for bears, I've decided to indulge in my love of all things prehistoric and study Cave Bears, which I previously didnt know so much about. The wonderfull thing about this is that A; they are allready very optimized for fantasy proportions, and B; most of my refrence is bones, so I wont be influenced too much by floofy bear parts. I've done a few cave bear skull + skeletal studies to start off and get a familiarity with the anatomy I'll be weaving, and I cant help but feel I found the right place to start. There's even photos of bones of the juveniles, who look adorable and will be fantastic for keeping my proportions straight.
So that's step one.
Now I need to play with sillhoettes and figure out some proportional stuff, and then decide what to do about the skin of the creature. I dont know that I'll use feathers, that seems like a slippery path right back to people seeing this creature as an owl headed bear. We'll see! Next time, I'll post pics :)