Take on the wrath of Medusa with Raymond Swanland

Raymond Swanland Medusa concept art

Raymond Swanland uses traditional methods in Photoshop to create this monstrous gorgon for our Greek myth special issue.


Raymond Swanland
Raymond Swanland
Raymond started at Oddworld Inhabitants, and has been involved on many book, comic, advertising and film projects.

Greek mythology possesses a wealth of visceral adventures and moral conflicts that resonate with the human condition to this very day.

It also taps into the purest depths of our imaginations to provide us with experiences, places and characters that indulge our most extreme fantasies.

Medusa is one such fantastic character; she embodies the essence of myth by combining many archetypes representing our darkest fears.

In this workshop, I'll be designing my own take on the classical look of Medusa, with homage to the familiar past, but also an eye for contemporary pop culture and a new, fresh edge sprinkled in.

Though I often sketch using pencil and paper to kick off a design, this piece was created entirely in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet.

Although I take advantage of tools that don't exist in the physical world of painting (such as layers and colour adjustments), I still approach the process of digital art in a fairly traditional way.

I tend to paint from dark to light with simple brushes, and I flatten my image on a regular basis to keep it cohesive.

Ultimately, my process is more about the basics of colour, lighting and composition than it is about digital tools. Having said that, the computer is the best artistic tool I've ever laid my hands on.

01 Inspiration and concept
When I was asked to paint my own take on Medusa, a fairly clear image appeared in my mind right away.

While I'm familiar with many of the previous representations in books and films, I knew that I wanted to create something more ghostly and alien.

As she was cursed to guard her subterranean lair, I imagined her as one of those cave-dwelling creatures that never see the light of day and gradually evolve to lose all their pigmentation.

An ancient albino guardian could be as beautiful as porcelain and as frightening as a wraith.

Step 1 image

02 Black and white
Although I often start straight in with colour, the ghostly nature of this piece enabled me to work in simple black and white. Rather than sketch each piece as a line drawing, I dived right in to pick up where the light illuminates Medusa's form as she emerges from the dark recesses of her home.

Step 2 image

03 Separating layers
I separate the image into graphic layers. Grading the layers from darkest in the foreground to lightest in the background, I get a sense for the graphic reads and the how well the positive and negative space is balanced. This creates a fog-like atmosphere, which confirms the physical weight of Medusa is correct.

Step 3 image

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