Saturday, 7 February 2015

Wings, teeth and claws.

Everybody seems to like dragons.  Just think about it.  There are so many fantasy stories where someone rides a dragon, is helped by a dragon or ends up having to kill a dragon and of course the 'Dragon Riders Of Pern' stories by Anne McCaffrey have helped to popularise dragon riding as a theme.  Recently the film 'Avatar'  showed the same thing, it has to be said, pretty spectacularly in 3D animation.

A small dragon clutching a tree.
I was a big fan of the artist Roger Dean as a teenager, and when 'Avatar' appeared Dean sued its director James Cameron because of the close resemblance between the floating islands seen in the film and floating islands that appeared in some of Deans most famous poster images.  He subsequently lost that suit, because a parblind judge failed to see the resemblance.  In fact I think that the resemblance goes further than the floating islands, I think the dragons seen in that film also look pretty much like Dean's designs too.  Here's Dean's website

 I didn't really get on with Avatar as a film and I don't care too much for dragons in my reading material to tell the truth, it's not my kind of thing - but drawing dragons?  That's a different matter altogether. 

So how would you draw a dragon?  Well, that dragon at the left is an older image I did from about five years ago and I'll be using him as a reference, after all it's not as if I can use a photograph is it?

In fact I did use a photograph - of a Komodo dragon for the musculature of the torso, and I was very lucky to find one in just the right attitude and in just the right light.  The photograph helped but much of the dragon is imagination, because the trouble is that Komodo dragons just aren't that impressive (unless one is sitting on your chest biting your vitals out).  They look sort of boneless when relaxed, resting on their bellies with their rubbery legs bent up or lying in apparently limp loose heaps.

Here's a working image for the picture I intend to produce.

A dragon rider - in rough.  Ignore the heads, they're just on the same sheet.
 When I've got a working drawing like this, the next stage would be to polish it up a little, draw more detail and practice certain key areas so that they look as good as you can make them.  The head is a key area; I think people look at that more than any other part of such a drawing, but if the rest isn't thought through It'll be obvious.  To a certain extent that old drawing at the top of the page has got most of the body worked up to a good standard, enough to gather information from and I like the curly horns it has.  But horns like that do get in the way of other stuff, like the wings and the rider.  You just have to decide how much trouble you want to give yourself.

Part of the polishing up process, figuring out what the dragon in the working drawing would really look like.
 In the above drawing you can see I concentrate on the head and do a 'possible' rendition of it, not necessarily intending to stick to it however, the process of doing preparatory drawings is to try to see possibilities, and discover problems.

Here's my beginning drawing for the head.

All the above pictures were pencil on paper - this is digital.
This is drawn using a darkish grey, and I'm using a lot of cross hatching to accentuate the shape of the head, rather more than I usually use for this type of project.  I used to draw a lot of aircraft when I was a kid, (I stopped when I realised I wasn't that good) but to get an aircraft right you have to catch something of its bulk, its weight, and the minute changes in line that give it its character.

 Using the shrink and add on technique I'm now expanding the image using the working drawing as a guide.  I'm going to have to cut to the chase with the drawing or this blog will never end, but the drawing is now finished and so here it is.

I wasn't timing it, but I estimate that the finished drawing took about four hours.

 In part two I'll colour the image, and discuss a few of the problems that it throws up.  See you then.


  1. Terrific drawings... I love Dean's work too. Avatar looked like a Yessongs video, shame about the substance!

  2. Thanks Nick, Agree completely about Avatar - looked terrific but. I think someone referred to it as 'Smurfs in outer space'.