Follow fantasy artist Larry MacDougall through his drawing process in this third and final installment of his sketching series.

Step 01: Designing a troll grandmother with her grandson is the assignment this time. I am going to love this. We will be dealing primarily with character and caricature on this one. I start by doodling out some goofy troll heads because I want to put some humor in this scenario. I have already come up with an idea I think I might be able to use and so I draw a frame around it so I don’t forget.

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Step 02: More troll ideas. I am thinking about the different ways a troll grandmother might carry a child and, if the troll has unique physical traits such as horns or extra-long arms, how might they be used. A troll grandmother is likely to be old, arthritic and possibly crippled or disadvantaged in some way. I try to keep this in mind when posing.

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Step 03: More roughs exploring different troll shapes. Over the years, I have been on many design projects concerning Arctic mythology as both a book illustrator and animation designer. The Arctic character and design aesthetic is almost second nature to me now and much of the fantasy design I do incorporates this. The character on the upper left is very Arctic or Inuit in style to me. There are a lot of trolls in Inuit mythology and I have drawn and painted them many times.

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Step 04: What if a troll grandmother gets stuck with a whole gaggle of troll kids to look after? What then? She will have to find a way to watch them and move them around en masse and not lose them. And if she lives in the north, she will have to keep them warm.

Step 05: A few more ideas concerning troll anatomy, posture and transportation. The troll on the right with the basket on her back is right out of Arctic mythology – the difference being that in the Inuit story, the troll is a cannibal who takes children that don’t listen to their parents and eats them.

Step 06: Still more drawing and thinking. I like the idea of the antlers as a place for kids to ride with their grandmother. I am leaving the Arctic behind for now and considering a more forest-oriented creature. She is wearing less fur and more leather. She has a tail now too in deference to illustrator John Bauer.

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Step 07: Here’s one last page of alternative ideas before I commit to what I think my final idea will be. I have accumulated a collection of design ideas with the previous pages of drawings and think I can now assemble them into something I will like.

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Step 08: Here’s one last page of alternative ideas before I commit to what I think my final idea will be. I decide to go for it here and draw the troll with her kids and place her in an environment; in this case, mountains. The root of this idea comes from the lower right-hand corner of step 2, but I have now expanded it to include several more kids and a background.

Step 09I take a shot at drawing her in a slightly more finished way but it doesn’t quite come together. I also make a quick doodle of what her skull might look like. I really wanted to draw her arm and elbow though, and those fingers, just for fun.

Step 10Here we have the final drawing with the troll grandmother and her three grandsons. I tried to think about making each child unique, and also about how they would be slung onto her with straps and some kind of rig. She has a knife, because she is a troll and why wouldn’t she have a knife? She has a rack of antlers that have been blunted down for safety and an awesome elbow that is pushing into the head of one of the kids. I took away her walking stick because I always draw walking sticks, and decided instead to focus on drawing a characteristic hand. If I were presenting this idea to a client I would likely include all the drawings that pertain to this specific concept. They don’t necessarily need to see everything unless you are getting paid to show them everything, but I would probably show the pages from steps 2, 8, 9 and 10. Hold everything else back for yourself – there might be an idea there you can use on your next assignment.


Larry MacDougall is a fantasy illustrator and Silver Spectrum Award winner based in Canada. Find more of his work HERE.

This image was featured in the first issue of GRAPHITE magazine.