Creating a monster when you can't draw

As I said, I'm working on redoing the fantasy novel cover. My original idea was this:

The idea being that 1. there is a dragon, and 2. the dragon is taking over, which is A Bad Thing.

The notion was to convey these ideas by making the cover like the video game Snake. But the book has nothing to do with video games in general or Snake in particular, so I think that cover will send the wrong message.

I still like the idea, though. I just need the dragon on the cover not to look like a video game--in other words, I need a dragon that looks a lot more realistic.

That's a problem, because I still can't draw.

I can use Gimp, however, and I feel like I do pretty well with modifying photographs. So, the White Spider legs on the cover of Trials are modified pictures of ferns that I took on a walk, and the cover of Tribulations features what was once a cup of tea.

I also feel like fantasy/sci-fi creatures need to be a bit uncanny, so it helps to use something far from what you're making--hence the reliance on ferns to make the White Spider legs, instead of using pictures of fuzzy sea life or the like. So while the dragon's body will still be snakelike, I didn't want to use a picture of a lizard or something as my basis for the dragon's head.

Instead, I used a picture that I took of a cute kitten.

I'm not going to blog the whole process, but even at this early point the kitten looks a lot more menacing.

There's a lot left to do, of course, but I think you can see how just a few changes can make something look much more eerie and fantastical.