OGRE ALE I by Scott Story

Hello, My name is Scott A. Story, Midwestern author, and illustrator, and this time I am putting Johnny Saturn on the back burner for a while and diving into a little fantasy art.

Ogres, in most popular fantasy and folklore, represent everything coarse, dull, and brutish in the human race. Most fantasy races epitomize some elements of human character, and ogres got the ugly end of the stick!

If you are an aspiring superhero artist, keep reading, because everything that we talk about here is just as applicable to supers! Same skills, same approaches. In fact, it is no real stretch of belief to see an ogre such as this running around a modern-day metropolis fighting caped do-gooders.

Here’s the final version of what I’m demonstrating. Now it’s time to go back to the beginning and show how I arrived at this.


A thumbnail is a crude sketch made to work out your picture’s composition and character’s pose. This is going to be a simple illustration, a single ogre, no real background—almost more concept design than an independent piece of art.

Thumbnails, as their name suggests, are usually small, and you will probably want to draw several of them before you choose the best one for the task at hand. One reason for sketching them tiny is because it gives you an overview of the whole composition, and so you won’t get caught up in the details too early on. When you take on an illustration job, it’s pretty standard for the customer to request three to four different rough sketches so they can choose the best one for their purposes.


This thumbnail began with a basic action line, in this case, running along the ogre’s spine. As you may see, his arms originally both were at his sides, gorilla-like, but that would have been “twinning,” where the limbs mirror each other, and that is better avoided. There are times when you may want to use twinning for effect, but this isn’t one of them.

Dynamics are vital at this stage, making the character “come to life” and appear somewhat animated. You are hinting at motion, a living being moving through time and space. This is no small task because you are drawing on a two-dimensional, flat surface with a still image.

I chose to draw the character at an oblique angle, which is visually stronger than drawing him straight on or from the side. I guess that I should mention that angled action lines have more energy to them than the more static-appearing horizontal or vertical lines. Curved energy lines hold even more potential energy, looking more organic and hinting at three-dimensional space.


Now that I have the composition and pose established, it is time for me to transfer my ogre buddy to full-sized drawing paper. There are lots of ways I could do this. I could simply redraw him as I did here, or I could enlarge him on a photocopier and then employ a lightbox to trace him onto the better paper, or I could use a projector and trace him onto the final surface. Nowadays, I am more likely to scan him, resize him on the computer, and then print him in non-photo blue on good paper. There are a time and place for all these approaches, and it varies with how much time I have to get the job done and what the project’s individual needs are.


This time around, I am more concerned with my ogre’s basic proportions. Since this is a made-up critter, I don’t have to be a stickler for human proportions as such, but I do need to make sure that he’s in perspective with his background and that his features are balanced. Are his arms in proportion with each other, and are his legs right? This is that point in the process for me to work it out because getting it right at this stage will save me from a lot of frustration later on. Notice that the drawing is made up of a series of loosely sketched ovals, all intersecting in various places. I’m sure you’ve heard before that everything is composed of simple shapes, and that’s so true. I could have designed the same character with cones, cylinders, and boxes, but the result is more important than what I did to get there. (Man, that sounds like some weird “end justifies the means” argument, and I guess it is! Scary.)

Note the ogre’s center of gravity—when we stand, our heads are usually perched high above our spines and centered between where our feet are planted on the ground below. Standing straight is rather static, and while still, I could imbue such a picture with energy, it is much easier to draw my character in motion. When someone runs, he is leaning forward in a long succession of falling, catching, falling, etc. Our ogre is careening into battle, so he is leaning forward. The more forward he leans, the faster it looks like he’s running.

Remember, in drawing, exaggeration is our friend!


Scott Story

Scott describes himself as an author, artist, medievalist, mentor, musician, publisher, introvert, and historian, not necessarily in that order. So far he has published dozens of comics, multiple graphic novels, and prose novels, and he has contributed art to scores of comic publishers and and multiple prose anthologies.