Last Dragon to Westminster

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This is the final Dragonology cover. Although it is the third in the series, I left it until last as it was by far the most difficult. For my book covers, I like to choose dynamic angles to give movement and drama to a scene. This can cause a lot of problems in the perspective department, especially when drawing extravagant neo-gothic clock towers. I also had to take into account all the typography that will appear on the cover; even though the image appears fairly simple, finding the balance of the basic layout was quite an ordeal. I had decided early on to blanket London in some low cloud, a classic move to aid depth (and avoid painting hundreds of Victorian buildings from an awkward angle) but it was still a struggle to make the colours work. As one of the previous covers was predominantly blue, I had to be careful not to stray too far into that palette again.

Here are a couple of development pieces – there were a lot more, but I used them to start a fire (it’s been unfeasibly cold this week).

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7 Replies to “Last Dragon to Westminster”

  1. Well, all the effort has most definitely paid off. That is a staggering image and has an almost dizzying effect. I love the tantalizing, quasi-subliminal glimpses we get of the city below the cloud, too and the sense of the precipitous angle of the flying descent is perfectly achieved. The cold blue night cloud and the warmer but darkly ominous tower is a wonderfully atmospheric juxtaposition. It seems to work on all one’s senses: I can smell and feel the cool air and hear the wind and the slow flapping of the dragon’s wings, the toll of the bell through the mist…in short, I think I like it!

  2. Great image! Curious as to why there’s only a spot of light on the dragon’s back though. I assume it’s moonlight (it’s illuminating the clouds) but why not all of the dragon… and stronger on Big Ben too?

    1. Thanks Darren.
      It’a all about focus and depth. Originally, Big Ben was a bit lighter. I found it flattened the image out too much – images on book covers often rely on a strong focal point. If you zoom out of the image so it’s about the size of a postage stamp (bear in mind we’re concentrating on the right hand side which is the front cover), you’ll see the most obvious bright points are centrally located on the dragon’s back and the illuminated clock face. If Big Ben was lighter I would have lost that – likewise the dragon’s back. If I didn’t have the strong shadow, it would have a lot less depth. Also, the tail falls behind some type so it was important not to clash with that. I often discover these tricks when producing a black and white rough – it helps to get the tonal contrasts right before committing to colour. Hope that helps!

  3. I really love the cold blue affect. I am retired and am learning how to create images so bare with me and my annoying questions, is this watercolor and inking? Love reading artists blogs but I am thirsty for techniques??? Man you are good. Maybe I need to lock myself in my room and draw onions. mmmm My Bulldog would never allow it. hehehe

    1. Thanks Theodora. The Dragon image is painted digitally with Photoshop and Painter. Covers usually need to be a bit more ‘in your face’ which is why I rarely use watercolour (only for interior illustrations or my own amusement).

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