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How to Draw a Minotaur

Updated on April 30, 2013

Minotaur Painting

Oil painting by lyonart
Oil painting by lyonart | Source

What is a Minotaur?

Before you learn how to draw the classic Minotaur, you might be interested to know its origins. The Minotaur originates from ancient Greek mythology. It is quite a story!

When King Minos became ruler of Crete in Ancient Greece, he was competing with his brothers. He wanted to solidify his place on the thrown so he prayed to the God of the Sea, Poseidon to send him a white bull to show that he backed Minos. Poseidon sent the bull, but in exchange, Minos was asked to sacrifice the bull to show his gratitude. Minos thought that the bull was just too beautiful to sacrifice, so he decided to kill one of his own bulls instead. This did not go unnoticed by Poseidon! Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, proceeded to punish Minos by causing his wife to fall madly in love with the bull! Of course, copulation with a bull was impossible, so she hired someone to construct a hollow cow, which she crept inside, to convince the bull to copulate with her! Suffice to say it did. The result was a creature which had the head of a man and the body of a bull.

The wife of Minos nursed the poor creature in its infancy, but when it grew up, they soon realised that it was only marginally more intelligent than a wild animal. It attacked and ate humans and was a menace to society. As a result, the king constructed a complex maze called a labyrinth, in which he imprisoned the creature- the Minotaur.

Minos used the labyrinth and its fearsome inhabitant to punish his enemies. He locked them up in the maze to either starve or be eaten by the fearsome beast. A hero called Theseus came along and volunteered to be locked up with the powerful beast. He ran it through with his sword and defeated it, escaping with King Minos's daughter Ariadne. Ariadne went on to get married to the God of the Sea Poseidon and ascended into the heavens to be with him. The end!

Quite a story! The Minotaur itself is quite a complicated creature to draw. There have been many depictions of it throughout history, so it is not hard to find plenty of images to study in order to create your own version. Its upper body is usually depicted as being heavily muscled and much bigger than its lower body. It stands upright, like a man, but its legs are like the hind legs of a bull, with hooves, but it has the hands and arms of a man. Its arms are long and thick, reaching almost down to its knees. A description of how to draw one follows.

Drawing the Minotaur

Start by doing some research and finding a lot of good reference photos from classical art to fantasy art. The body should be around eight times the head height and the width of the powerful shoulders of the beast should be around three times the width of its head. This is a good starting point. Start the drawing off with a light, sketchy touch, building up to darker tones as you develop the drawing and grow in confidence.

  1. Do a gesture light drawing of the beast. Put in a sharp angle where its thick neck meets its body. Put in a strong centre line to emphasise the power of the beast.
  2. Use strong gesture lines to indicate the arms and legs of the beast, with circles at the joints. Remember that the shins of the beast are a lot further back than the shins of a human. Its legs are structured like the legs of a bull, so indicate the lknee joint and then gesture in the line for the shin a bit further back than you would for a human leg.
  3. Block in the head, and shoulders with circles. Remember that the head of the beast should go into its body eight times.
  4. Use thick cylinders to block in the arms and legs of the beast. Remember that its body is heavily muscled and that its upper body is that of a man with very and powerful arms.
  5. Block in his chest muscles with rectangular shapes.
  6. Block in his muzzle with a cube shape, located low on the circle that is his head.
  7. The beast has hooves, so ensure that his ankles are located a little higher up than where you would put them on a human. Block them in as rectangular shapes at the bottom of his cylindrical legs.
  8. Start to flesh out the muscles by representing them as interlocking oval or circular shapes on his arms and legs. Carefully observe the musculature of the beast using your various reference photos to get this right. Feel free to observe the musculature of body builders for the upper body. Ensure that the muscles look firm and tight! Especially if he is flexing an arm. There should be no flab at all on the creature. His body is entirely made of muscle and bone!
  9. Use photos of bulls as references for the face of the beast. Fill in the facial features, playing close attention to the musculature of the face and the bone structure. Notice how its muzzle makes the face look almost triangular.
  10. Refine the Minotaur. Use darker pencil strokes to emphasise the lines you are happy with. Refine his muscles and add the details to his face. Think about the emotion you are trying to convey. How does the beast feel? Is he angry or sad at being locked in the labyrinth his whole life? An angry bull would probably have brows that are angled downwards, slightly obscuring his dark, menacing, piercing eyes. Use thick line around his upper eyelids to indicate their thickness. His mouth would be taught and his facial features stretched and tight as he grinds his teeth in a rage! Sketch in his horns now. Be as creative as you wish. Make up your own Minotaur horns. They don't have to match anything that has been done before.
  11. Add more details! If you look at the face of a bull, you will see a flap of skin hanging down from his neck. Put that in. Add details to his hands and hooves. Examine the hooves of a real bull in your photo references. Make his big, strong and wide. Much wider than the hooves of a real bull. Remember, they have to hold his impressive weight on two hooves.
  12. Draw hair hanging between his horns and maybe onto his shoulders. Block in some body armour on his huge shoulders if you wish. Add thick pulsating veins to his arms to make him look really strong. Observe photos of body builders to get a realistic idea of how this should look.
  13. Add a weapon if you wish, with chains and perhaps a loincloth between his legs.
  14. Use your imagination and add as much detail as you like to his face, body, weaponry and armour. Most of all, enjoy the process! Don't get too attached to the end result. You can always do another, even better version.

Minotaur Depictions in Art

Oil painting by Iyonart
Oil painting by Iyonart | Source


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