Inside an illustrated menagerie

We talk to Cory Godbey about his mixed-media artworks where animals dress up in period costumes.

Cory Godbey is an illustrator based in Greenville, South Carolina in the US. His work for clients spans animation, comics and publishing, with an emphasis on works for children – though he's not exclusively a children's illustrator.

Cory also produces at least one large-scale series of artworks a year as personal projects. His most recent was called Menagerie, and features animals dressed in historical costumes from foxes as Victorian Gents to a literal interpretation of King Richard I as Richard the Lionheart.

We caught up with Cory to find out more about this series.

NB: You clearly have a passion for drawing animals. Where does this come from?

CG: "I think like most kids I grew up enchanted with animals and I've just held on to that.

NB: What appeals to you about putting them in historical dress?

CG: "For Menagerie that was really about it, the series was an excuse to draw a bunch of animals and dress them up. I wanted to focus on my animal drawing and giving them a historical context, sort of an imaginative framework to build within seemed to work out. The first impulse I had for the collection was a fox in a hat with a feather at a desk (and interestingly, that piece, while it made to the thumbnail and rough stages, didn't make it in the final set). I thought of Menagerie as a collection of dragons and animals organized in three ages. The Classical Age features the grand creatures of the past, the operatic dragons and gryphons. The Golden Age is the time of kings, tigers and lions. The Glided Age brings us to the present where foxes holiday on the river and bears handle the bookkeeping.

NB: Tell us about the composition of your favourite of the pieces

CG: "Fox River Holiday (above) began as a part of a series of thumbnails. I settled on which one I wanted to pursue and scanned the thumbnail and did a quick Photoshop pass at a value study. From there it adapted a bit and I added another fox to the piece.

The colour stage for this piece gave me a little more trouble than usual and I think that's why I enjoy this piece like I do: I feel like I worked through a few things and figured a lot of stuff out."

NB: What's your favourite animal to draw and why?

CG: "I like making up animals (like the dragons and gryphons below) but probably the fox, I think Menagerie has more foxes than any other animal. In fact, for my [recent] digital painting demo, I chose one of the foxes."

NB: What are you working on currently?

CG: "Several client projects and my new 2013 sketchbook series, Lyrebird."


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