The Trouble with Dragons

As a children’s book illustrator I have attempted to depict dragons many times.

Because my style veers towards the literal, this causes me no end of stress as I can’t seem to get my pencil round the anatomy of a creature that enjoys the use of four legs as well as a pair of massive wings. I spend a lot of time arranging the composition so that this anatomical absurdity is cunningly disguised, usually with liberal swathes of billowing smoke and mist. Occasionally, I discover the text does not stipulate the number of appendages and I am free to opt for my preferred dragon physique: that of a bat or pteroadactyl. The downside to this approach is that the poor creature is reduced to a shuffling mess when earth-bound but, for elegance in flying, the loss of two legs is worth it; I can avoid getting in a muddle with my muscles (the pectorals and deltoids being particularly awkward).

Recently I have been drawing a lot of dragons for a series of book covers (sketches and one finished example attached, as well as a couple of previous takes on the beasties in question). The other day I was moaning to Terri Windling in the butchers about this subject, and she has instigated a moveable feast over on her blog concerning the nature of dragons in mythology. 


5 Replies to “The Trouble with Dragons”

  1. Hello David,
    Really enjoying reading and looking at your blog. Fantastic stuff 🙂
    I have thought the same thing about dragons myself. If I think dragons as being magical, I suddenly have lots of excuses for sticking wings wherever I want…he he.
    Anyway, wonderful artwork-I love it!

  2. So glad Terri sent us here – very nice indeed. Ah, the literal mind- greatest bugaboo of storytellers, writers, poets and, it seems, artists too…

    1. Thanks Christine. I’ve never had a problem with dragons when used in a stylistic way – they work well when used as part of a pattern or heraldic design. And they work even better in literature – it’s when they become corporeal the trouble starts…

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