A Merfolk Feast

Summer Drawing Challenge Day 13

I’m narrowing down the look of my merfolk for my in-progress graphic novel/webcomic The Mermaid, with the help of a lot of suggestions here and on my Facebook page! I also had a revelation yesterday morning as I was drifting up from those languid morning dreams, and suddenly I knew what to do for the whole origin-of-the-merfolk scenario, which figures into the plot quite a bit. I knew if I just let my subconscious stew on it a bit, it would come up with the answer!

I’m going to stick with the sleek dolphin-tail look; not only is it attractive (though maybe not as much fun to draw as various fish tails), I think it’s the most functional for an underwater mammal. I also decided that since people are pretty hairless, the dolphin look would fit in much easier than trying to make them grow otter or seal hair all over. Also it’s easier overall to draw, and I’m going to have to draw a LOT of these people, after all! Someday I’ll do a story about selkies, and can use all the ideas about other sea people!

The hair was a big issue; but one person suggested that dreadlocks would look cool, having done a portrait of someone who had them as a merman, and I thought this sounded not only cool visually, but it would be easier to take care of underwater. So the merfolk take great pride in their hair, as it is what sets them apart from other underwater creatures. They style it with braids, ribbons made from fish leather, and seashell beads from a young age, and as it grows, it becomes underwater dreadlocks, or if they are tired of it, they do decorative braids close to the scalp.

So as you can see, I’m thinking a lot about what this culture would be like. One thing that they spend a lot of time doing is gathering food. They don’t farm as such, but they do tend and guard the beds of plants and sessile animals that they eat, and make sure that things don’t get out of balance. So I thought it would be fun to draw some different characters on their way to a feast.

A quick and rather rough drawing — I'd like to flesh this out with scenery and colours, and other swimmers arriving in the background. There is actually a scene I'm planning in the story like this.

A quick and rather rough drawing — I’d like to flesh this out with scenery and colours, and other swimmers arriving in the background. There is actually a scene I’m planning in the story like this.

12 responses to “A Merfolk Feast

  1. They look great! The only thing about the hair is that the sailors often supposedly saw the mermaids sitting on rocks combing or brushing their hair and looking into mirrors as they sang them to their deaths. However, if the mermaids were successful, the sailors wouldn’t be around to report the artistic license with the dreads…I do like the studding cornrows with beads and shells. That looks so pretty and is so Caribbean.


    • Well, these aren’t strictly traditional mermaids. And who knows, maybe what they saw was the mermaids braiding their hair with shells and beads! I think they will be tropical merfolk too. That way they don’t have to have quite as much subcutaneous fat. And the sea life can be more colourful. There are some other plot elements this will help with as well.


  2. I’m not buying the fin on her butt. As spinal construction comes, it would be higher up, but since our spines are concave in that place, not convex like a dolphin, it would hinder movement.

    But it seems out of place that far down to be anatomically believable. It’s as if you cut the dolphin right before the head and then added another half a creature in front. Like a limo!

    Ear-gills otoh seem very logical.


    • Yeah, I have to agree with you there. Also it’s just one more thing to draw. Maybe they’ll have some kind of a flexible ridge instead. I wasn’t so much thinking ear-gills as a kind of flexible ear-fin, but that’s a thought. That reminds me, though, I forgot to put their gill-symbionts in this picture!


  3. I agree that the dorsal fin needs to be in the middle of her back. When I first saw it, I thought it seemed to be just stuck on. Mermaids don’t need to be entirely dolphin at one end and entirely human at the other end with a sharp line in between. These are sea creatures who have human and dolphin characteristics. 🙂 Oui?


  4. I think they look great! I didn’t think about the fin situation until reading comments. I don’t know enough about fish! 🐳🐠🐡🐙🐬🐚🐋🐟🐌🏊 Have a bunch of underwater icons tho!


    • Haha, I love your icons! Well, dolphin not being fish, their fins are more rigid than fish. Humans actually have far more flexible spines than a dolphin does, which would make them swim differently. So this kind of dolphin fin would probably be more in the way than helpful. On dolphins the dorsal fin serves as a keel, for balance, as well as being part of their thermoregulatory system — if they are overheated, it helps carry heat away from the body.


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