I scanned the sketch and brought it into Photoshop to figure out the composition. Eventually I started to put in columns...and banners...and suddenly what was just meant to be a single gryphon turned into scene with perspective!
Though I cropped it out, I originally extended the canvas far to the left so I could find a vanishing point for the lines. The image was starting to go in a direction I hadn't planned on, but I went along to see how far I could push the composition. Finally, I transferred it to my illustration board, and finalized the drawing.
I didn't want the gryphon to be indoors - it seems any king or queen a gryphon would pledge his or her allegiance to would be one who doesn't cage themselves inside walls. Then what would the banners hang on? Trees, of course. Wild oaks with twisting, unruly roots. I found there was a problem with the expanse of negative space in that lower left triangle, so I thought of what should go there.
My thinking process began to mingle with the story that was brewing in my head, eventually pushing the composition to be structured (with the columns and straight edges of the banners), with wildness added. The winding trees, the woodland designs on the banners...perhaps this is a faean 'hall'? Even still, a gryphon is a wild creature, not a being of straight lines and carved angles. The gryphon here is a little out of his element with the columns...bowing down but still with a wary eye.
I recently received some feedback from a group of very skilled, professional fantasy artists who pointed out that my skies are consistently too dark. Reading their comments was like light suddenly flicking on - it was something I couldn't quite figure out on my own until someone pointed it out! Although in this piece the horizon line is almost off the paper (you can see it just barely in the upper left of the background), I had to keep in mind the background would also need to be of low contrast and low saturation.
I am also trying to use less saturated colors overall, and I plan on painting this mostly with watercolor, and using washes of acrylic to really push the values. I hope the acrylic will also help me achieve the smoothness I usually lack with watercolor.