Drawing Dragons How to Draw Mythical Creatures for the Beginner

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Fantasy has been in existence since time immemorial. From myths that tell of the earth’s creation, to folk and old wives’ tales that explain life and its mysteries, to bedtime stories that fill the dreams and imaginations of children… they have enthralled audiences of all ages from every era. One of the most treasured of these fantasy creatures are the dragons. While there is not a trace proving their existence, there is a minefield of precious artifacts that reveal humanity’s fascination with them. Where did they originate? How long had they been around? What caused their disappearance? Maybe the answers will remain a mystery, but an exploration into the world, where fire-breathing creatures come alive, would always be a worthwhile endeavor. The first of the How to Draw Mythical Creatures for the Absolute Beginner series, Dragons is divided into two parts. Part One explores the presence of dragons in Art and Pop Culture. Part Two equips novices with the necessary drawing processes and techniques. Using the most basic of tools, you will be provided with straightforward instructions that aim to bolster your creative skills. Included in the drawing process is a discussion on rendering techniques and exercises. Rudimentary to the beginning artist, the discussion is succinct, direct, yet thorough. Moreover, a glossary has been included to aid the absolute beginner. This will keep one from getting caught in the trap of confounding words frequently used not only in this book, but also in the drawing community. May every reader enjoy this delightful guide into the mythical!

 

Anatomical Structure and Proportion To be quite frank, no one can actually draw a well-structured dragon. Why? Most (or should we say all?) humans have not seen any for real! All sculptures and drawings are based by studying ancient works and developing on these “prototypes.” Thus, there is no solid foundation by which anyone can learn more about their structure and composition. However, you might have wondered yourself why you are unable to create a well-proportioned dragon. If they do not exist, why does your own mind perceive something completely off and wrong about your drawing? That is because something may indeed be wrong. Remember, the number one rule in drawing can be summarized in a few words: If it looks wrong, it must be wrong. No worries. We will be discussing a number of tips that serve as helpful guides to the effective conceptualization and construction of a dragon. The good news is this means we can stretch our imagination. Think about the film How to Train Your Dragon and the many possibilities one can actually come up with! So, depending on what type of drawing you are working on, anything is virtually possible! There are no limits! Parts of the Dragon Let us proceed with the main focus of this course by narrowing down on two specific established concepts of what dragons look like: the Eastern and Western dragons. Let us start with the first. Eastern Dragon Lines, Shapes and Gesture Drawing I decided to create a dragon based on the traditional Chinese figure commonly seen in Modern Tattoo Art. Typically, these are the parts of a Chinese dragon to watch out for: Camel or Horse Head Hare Eyes Bull Ears Deer or Stag Horns Snake Neck Carp or Fish Scales Belly Clam Tiger Paws Eagle Claws
Rabbit Ears There is no apparent restriction to the length of a dragon. The lengthier they are, the more entangled in swirls the body will appear. The length of the neck allows room for long whirling whiskers. The belly can be a noticeable bulge; or it can be flat and inconspicuous. Let us go back to intention. Remember what came to mind earlier. Imagine your dragon flying across the sky. Now using your mind’s camera, capture a specific image that you want to put into paper. For this demonstration, I chose a Chinese dragon with a bit of modern twist. Using that image, establish the form by drawing the line of action. The line of action is primarily used in Figure Drawing, but it has its uses in other types of drawings. It is especially useful in full-paged drawings as well as for media that allow little room for correction. An excellent example is Tattoo and Ballpoint Pen Art. Both media have little tolerance for mistake. But that is the very reason both are excellent platforms that help artists broaden their imagination. What is the line of action? It is a straight, curved, swirling line that marks out the path in which the action or form of a subject will run along. In actuality, it is a simple line that literally makes no sense to an onlooker until we start building on it. Here’s what the line of action will look like:

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Fig. 2. Line of action.

After drawing the line of action, mark the location of key the features (such as the head, arms, legs, and claws) using geometrical shapes. These shapes serve as our guides, which we can alter at any given point. The advantage of working in layers instead of working on one aspect of a drawing at a time is that revision comes easier. The more complicated a drawing gets, the more difficult it is to make corrections.

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Fig. 3. Basic dragon form.
Form Construction - contour Begin molding the base form and giving it more shape by drawing in specific details. Establish the breadth and dimensions at this point. Draw in essential features (eyes, ears, horns, fangs, whiskers, arms, legs, and claws).
 

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Fig. 4. Samples of Eastern dragon heads.

 

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Fig. 5. A more defined structure.
Detailing As the word implies, we want to establish more details at this point. Define the primary features constructed in the previous step.

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Fig. 6. Draw alternating lines on the area from the neck, belly, and down to the tail. In this case, the perspective only allows for the “front-side” to appear up to the belly.

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Fig. 7. The back is pockmarked with sharp edges from the neck down to the tail. Finally, draw the scales. Here is a simple trick to drawing scales: 1. Fill the area for the body with intersecting diagonal lines. This will look like a pattern of diamonds. 2. Then, replace each sharp corner with curved lines to make them look more like scales. This is the most tedious part. I encourage you to be patient and refine one scale at a time, instead of going back and revising should you notice any mistakes.

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Fig. 8. Draw a pattern of diagonal lines. Then, draw curved lines over the pattern.

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Fig. 9. Filling the entire body with scales tends to make your drawing to appear. One workaround to avoid this is “not to draw all scales.” Put gaps in between. This is a technique you can apply even on realistic renditions. Now that we have finished with penciling, we can proceed with outlining and coloring. Simply trace with a pen. As for your choice of color, you can refer to Chinese symbolism. Ancient texts show that this was one key aspect used for identification. Then again, it would be excellent practice to unleash your creativity at this point. You can take a sheet of tracing paper and place it over your drawing. This way, you can reserve the original drawing as a template and create copies by simply tracing over it.

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Fig 10. Chinese-inspired Eastern dragon. When coloring for a client or personal project, research on color symbolisms that may exist for each culture (such as the Chinese.) Otherwise, get creative!
As you progress and should you opt to explore other traditional media, consider the possibilities of watercolor and acrylic. When using paper or canvas, the fluidity of paint is quite ideal for creating Asian dragons.

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