Paint­ing an orig­i­nal dragon

There’s fal­conry, so why not dragonry? Eric Vel­ha­gen shows how re­mov­ing con­trol leads to fresh ideas and imag­i­na­tive art

ImagineFX - - Fantasy Illustrator -

What do dragons do? How are they usu­ally de­picted in art? What can I say dif­fer­ently about them? In the words of the great Win­nie the Pooh, “Think, think, think, think.” We have fal­conry, so how about dragonry? Whether this idea has been ex­plored be­fore or not, I don’t know. But I feel it has some po­ten­tial.

Be­fore I be­gin, I like to col­lect my thoughts. What am I try­ing to say with this paint­ing and how best can I ex­e­cute that im­age? It’s very much like a men­tal plan of the steps I’ll take to achieve the re­sults I’m look­ing for.

I love the sur­prises and un­ex­pected re­sults that hap­pen when ei­ther some or a lot of con­trol is re­moved from the process, and this is cen­tral to how I work. When it comes to artis­tic tools, for me it’s the more the mer­rier. Any brush (make, size, model), any kind of pal­ette knives, plus rags, fin­gers and toes (just kid­ding).

I do sev­eral thumb­nails, ex­plor­ing how the idea comes across vis­ually. I follow this with some more de­vel­oped sketches, but noth­ing too time-con­sum­ing. Another ad­van­tage of thumb­nail­ing the idea first is that it en­ables me to de­ter­mine if the idea has any po­ten­tial be­fore tak­ing the time to find ref­er­ence.

Work­ing with a sim­ple colour pal­ette, a va­ri­ety of brushes and tools, my tonal draw­ing nearby for ref­er­enc­ing value, a cup of cof­fee, Mozart or Led Zep­pelin in the CD player… I’m ready to start.

A largely self-taught painter, Eric has been fas­ci­nated with fan­tasy art, artists and JRR Tolkien since child­hood. After grad­u­at­ing from the Colorado In­sti­tute of Art, he be­came a free­lance il­lus­tra­tor, win­ning many lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing awards. www.er­icvel­ha­gen.car­bon­made.com

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