A friend of mine lost a signet ring her father gave her when she was 19. She was always sad about it. She asked me to design a new signet ring, with a new motto she had chosen, and a new heraldic beast, a basilisk. The old beast was a griffin and the motto was something about God.
Above is my first try, not really heraldic enough.
That's my second pass. More heraldic, not fierce enough. Cartoony.
I tried a lot of heads, looking for fierce. I looked at snakes, hawks, dragons, eagles. How do you make a beak look scary, like it's about to bite you?
I realized that the original head was fine, it was just the body that was off. I put the first head on the second body, and tried a bunch of different wings and tails. You can see it coming into its own, looking fierce, crazy, dangerous. That's what we were shooting for. It's a great feeling when something starts to come together.
My friend liked the bat wing with the curling devil tail, but the ridges on the stomach she didn't like. I had a terrible time with the wings, till I figured I could just add ribs. You see those in the final version.
The new motto my friend chose would be a Latin translation of her father's motto:
When in danger, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
We thought "scream and shout," or, in Latin, "quiritatus et vociferatio," would fit on the front, and look motto-ish, while the rest could go around the rest of the ring.
The last detail I fooled with was the eye. I went with the one on the right.
The final version.
The ringsmith took a lot of liberties with my drawing! But the great thing is to be doing artwork again. Last year I designed a T-shirt for the museum I work for and found I could still draw. That was like finding a hundred dollar bill in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in a while.