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Designing Fantasy Felines

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Originally I wasn’t going to make tutorials out of this, but since I tried to put more thought into it than I usually do for this kind of thing, and am trying out some new ideas, I figured I might as well see if it works for anyone else. =p

Step 1: Study nature. This is a plain coated cat, but that doesn’t mean it has to be one boring solid color.

The species I am focusing on is from a wonderful book I recently discovered, Ratha’s Creature, by Clare Bell. She has a dA account and the first chapter can be found here: Ratha's Creature, Ch1Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell    Chapter One    Ratha leaped over a fern thicket and dug her paws into the spongy ground as she dodged sharp horns.  One prong sifted through her fur and she skittered away from the beast.  She turned and stood her ground with hunched shoulders and twitching tail.  Her quarry advanced. A two-pronged horn on the stag's nose joined the crown of points on the head and it lowered the entire array, charging at Ratha.  She launched herself at the deer, both front paws spread.  She landed on her rear paws and bounced sideways as the multi

The art in her gallery is definitely more cheetah-like, and I will admit to being biased toward the raw power of lions over the grace of cheetahs. :XD: She has stated that she doesn’t mind alternate designs, so I figured I would at least explain why I saw it this way in my mind.

Female Named is too slim in the waist. That will be fixed when it is time to do individual and detailed character designs. :XD:

Facial proportions are all wonky. :XD: I did all the coloring by mouse, which is way harder than making the lines traditionally and scanning them. The main focus was establishing a unique profile and deciding on color, so it should look much nicer when I get to individual characters.

Apologies if anything is really off the mark. I haven’t made it past the first book yet. =p
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rathacat's avatar

03/31/2021


I really loved this when I saw it. Leonca did such a lovely job showing the Named as an example of designing a fantasy species. People have asked why the Named have so many color variations in their small group.


Since they are former hunters turned herders, the need for a concealing coat is no longer needed. In order to manage their herd animals, (dapplebacks, threehorns, and attempts to include others, such as elephant-like creatures and the seamares (based on the desmostylian Paleoparadoxia) the sapient Named actually need to be seen, so they can drive or lead their herds . An invisible herder doesn't work! If the herd animals don't see you, they will ignore you. Yes, the creatures probably can scent the cats, but they are used to smelling their Named protectors .


Another reason that Named fur colors vary is the fact that Ratha's kind have sentience equivalent ( but NOT the same) as humans, and they value individuality and identity. As they became more intelligent and self-aware, they helped any odd colored offspring survive, since the cub would be a more effective herder. In contrast, among the UnNamed hunters, non-standard coloration would be a handicap, and the cub would usually die before breeding.


There is actually one more color phase among the Named which is a variant of the melanistic solid black.

Night-who-eats-stars got his name because his pelt has occasional white hairs that seem to sparkle, then disappear amid the black. Night is based on the "ghost panther" (leopard), which is a sold black when young, but starts showing scattered white hairs which accumulate. As the animal ages, more of the white hairs accumulate until the pelt becomes increasingly speckled, then white patches start to replace the black, until the animal becomes white, speckled with black. Ultimately in old age, individual becomes gray, and if it lives long enough, white.


I actually had a young black cat that started to get white flecks in his pelt, and might have developed into miniature version of the ghost panther. Unfortunately he ran away, so I couldn't watch him grow up.


Some of the Named fanart in my favorites depicts Night-who-eats-stars

Leonca's avatar

Glad you liked it. :) Yeah that leopard was beautiful.

I made one kind of fantasy cat myself, but even though it has fur and gives live birth, it´s actually a therocephalian (reptile with mammal characteristics).
Riolus's avatar
Yeah, the head on the "Named" is very small, and not trying to upset anyone or mock the person who drew them, but the facial expressions on the "Named" looks weird and smooshed because of it's small head, I know your probably trying to be acurate with the charachters(mind my spelling). Anyway, my point is the facial expressions and head in general look goofy. Sorry if I offended anyone because of my comment.
Leonca's avatar
Yeah, the proportions are a bit off. I think it still works as a conceptual illustration, with the simplified detail and all.
Sivatherium07's avatar
well thought out. I might use it sometime
Leonca's avatar
Thanks. Glad to help. =)
rathacat's avatar
I really like what you've done here. The Named do vary, from the very cheetah-like Thakur, the herding teacher, to Cherfan, who looks very much like the Named cat you depicted here. They also have a mix of lion and cheetah behavior, such as the cub nursery (lion) and the courting circle (cheetah). PS, there are four more books in the series. Website is [link]
Leonca's avatar
I’m glad you like it. =) I’ll buy them all eventually, even if I have to order them online.
Heyriel's avatar
The named rules! 8D
How many of the books did you read?
Leonca's avatar
I have read the first book.
TheTinkerThinker's avatar
BIG KITTIES! :XD:
For some reason the tail on 'the Named' looks like an extra limb :lol:
Leonca's avatar
Yeah, might be a tad too long and fluffy. =p
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