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When illustrating fantasy art, people often find themselves having to draw creatures that are well fantastical. But then how to show that what you are drawing is a giant, or a flying monster, or a sea monster, or a giant flying sea monster?
The answer that many artists come up with is to use something of a known size as a comparison and aid to the viewer. You aren’t looking at a man with birds flapping past his know; you’re looking at a giant.
So often does this get used, that the phrase ‘birds for scale’ gets thrown around a lot. Here are some illustrations that use this principle:
Birds are useful to show that things are at a normal scale too. Above, the birds show that Avacyn is human sized.
Here birds are used in the lower part of the art, to show both that the ethereal trees are huge but also that they push far higher into the sky than a bird would normally fly.
In this piece by Eytan Zana the birds are used to show these are the remains of a giant-sized warrior.
We can see birds in the lower right quadrant of this piece by Thomas M. Baxa, showing us that this strange creature is a large strange creature.
This is the classic use of birds for scale, but the artist has also used trees for scale, and tiled the angle of viewing so we are looking up at this giant figures dominating the landscape.
Have a look at some of your favourite fantasy art, and no doubt you’ll see birds somewhere, demonstrating the scale.