Drawing Baphomet in Space, from Start to Finish

In which I share the process from initial idea to completed image, and my thoughts along the way

A drawing or painting or illustration is a story about the subject, and also about where the artist was at while making it. What kind of day or week or year was it? What did it feel like? What was going on? What was the life of this project? An image is a recording of all of this, and that is beautiful.

At the time I came up with the idea for this image, I was thinking a lot about Baphomet and duality and things being more than one thing. Also I love space. So, putting those things together happened pretty naturally. What a lovely thing to draw, I thought.

First, I made a pencil drawing. Most all my images start with a thought-out pencil drawing or sketch, either on paper-paper or with a digital pencil. This is where I think pretty deeply about the image, and whoever is in it, and what there is to say.

This stage is where I look up details and consider how the drawing will “work,” which is important with fantasy images – in this case, my friend here needs a special helmet with holes for the horns. And it can’t be a visor that opens and closes, because where would that go when it is open? The horns would be in the way. So that, and researching all the many options for space suits (so many!), happened at this stage.

I also bother myself way too much about whether the concept is “legit,” which I think I need to do less. Star Trek is beaming people around and Star Wars has droids on wheels cruising around in deserts, and I’m worrying about whether some attachment on a space suit is right. Sheesh! But for me, it’s important to base things on something. Even if it’s not obvious to the viewer. Everything comes from somewhere, for me. These images, for me, are real, as are the characters in them. And in this case, I would like actual astronauts or rocket scientists to enjoy this drawing too. Even if it is fantastical.

Next, I brought the drawing into Procreate and started working out the major shapes and facts and such. When the gesture of a drawing feels right, it tends to stay pretty simple. So I check for that. Is it overly complex? Does it feel balanced? Is there good information in there? Is there anything that feels unresolved or that I haven’t researched enough? Am I fudging anywhere?

One way to get a feel for a figure, especially when working digitally, is to see how it works as a silhouette. I love this stage, because often the character is taking on a personality, even without any details. This is reminiscent of the stencil work in street art, which I also adore.

Next I considered the image as a whole. I wanted my friend here to be in orbit above Earth, just hanging out up there. So I placed the horizon and figured out where I wanted everything. This is similar to under-painting in oils, putting the basics in there as a foundation. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean we aren’t using methods that are hundreds of years old.

Next, an illustration is going to have different color “environments,” such as the space suit and then Baphonaut’s head and face, and then Baphonaut’s horns which are a bit different material too. Attention to this gives the image its depth of story. The suit is white, and made of suit material, whereas Baphomet is kind of furry with mischievous eyes and the horns are made out of horn material. And then there’s Earth, and of course space, which at this proximity to Earth tends to just be very deep black.

The thing with space is, there is hard light, and it’s not bouncing around off of objects because all the objects are very far away. That’s a special lighting quality that I very much love, so I’ve looked at it a lot. But it’s important to look at examples of your lighting situation. Are you under a tree? Under water? In the shadow of something? Is it night time? Think this through when adding the broad outlines of how your light is going to work. And pick a light source, and stick with it. In this case, I figure the moon is bouncing some light onto my friend here from that left side. So I got that overall idea in there.

Another thing I have looked at a lot is, Earth. From space. But still, I go to NASA or somewhere and look at examples. It’s easy to forget details, or start drawing or painting something the way your mind’s eye sees it, instead of how it is out in the lumpy world. For example, here I was looking at how the sun from the left is hitting some of the higher clouds but not the lower ones, and how the horizon was also bouncing light around but in a different way. None of the edges on Earth are as hard as they are on Baphonaut, because Baphonaut is in the foreground, and Earth is a whole darn planet.

There is a moment for me, when a drawing pops to life. There’s just enough information in there, and it starts breathing and living. I look for this moment, and I have to be patient and let it happen. But I always notice. Often it’s when working on the character’s face and really saying hello. Even though this happens when things have progressed enough, it’s also something that can get passed by if the drawing gets overworked, or if you are not backing out often enough, or if you are thinking more about what people might think of the end result, than you are about your care for the image. This can be a difficult mentality to maintain, and I mess it up all the time. But if I do, I start over, or save the file off and get a new file or a new layer or a new piece of paper. And cut myself a break. Because I know that sense of life and care has to be there or it won’t feel right.

And here is our friend, with some details punched in, which is another part of the process I just love. I love discovering things about how the glass of the helmet might reflect the blue of Earth. It’s important here not to over-work it, though, or zoom in too much and get obsessed. If the light and volume are believable, if the character has popped to life, if your image feels lyrical, let it be. Let it have flaws. Let it be “wrong.” Because this is a story that you are telling, the way you are telling it.

Finally, I back out, and I take a breath, and see if my friend still feels alive and not overburdened with details, or expectations, or opinions. I really believe that joy and care come through, as do any other feelings you are having as you make an image, and you don’t want to paint or draw over those. Let them be there. That is the story you are telling.

And if you are getting a little mired, take a break. I went for a run about halfway through this process, and came back. I also pay attention to my posture and breathing, because if I am physically getting too clamped down, the drawing is, too.

Take your time, take a moment, get to know your subject and particularly your lighting and volume aspects, make a pencil sketch. Make several. Keep your breathing deep enough. Go for a walk. Most of all, allow your drawings to be alive like you are, because they are a part of you, whether they are a single line or an intricate etching or something in-between. That’s what we see when we look at someone’s art.

Baphonaut is available as a print in the print shop!

Thank you for reading! I’m an artist and illustrator and cartoonist. Learn more about me here. Find my books and prints and merch here.