The Dragon’s Pet
The Dragon’s Pet.

Sometimes inspirations are more direct than others. The Gentleman render, for example, one familiar with the mannerisms of Johnny Carson or David Letterman would know from where I got the pose. In this drawing, well, when chatting with my friend Will about a doodle I sketched out, he asked if I drew from source or memory. I answered that I can’t draw simple from memory. He joked, “Yeah, and now you’ve deprived the world of a T-Rex stomping on a barn while a femme fatale shoots him while doing a backflip, and somewhere in there put a kitchen sink.”

The very next day I thought, “as a joke, I should just do the t-rex vs femme fatale duel. Draw it in a quick goofy cartoony style, and make her guns shoot kitchen sinks.” So I started sketching the framework for a roaring tyrannosaur, and then three seconds later the idea for a slave-girl in this pose (sans background) popped into my head. But, for the pose to work, it really needed a background for her to touch and interact with. “Well, I was going to draw a giant lizard anyway ... we’ll just stay she lost her duel.”

Early on, the render felt like a disaster, and at one point I managed to convince myself I had regressed all the way back to the early days of this site. Some renders just roll out of the imagination, and some pose problem after problem after problem, daring you to quit.

For me, the key point of the drawing is the girl reaching up and touching her dragon owner. Her hand was the first thing I drew, moving down to her arm, and drawing the rest of her. And this brought me into the first of many conflicts. You see, I want to draw human figures large on the paper to work in the details. Unfortunately, an 8.5X11 sheet of paper hardly provides sufficient space to draw a large human figure with other figures and/or a detailed background. (I really need to take my pencil drawings to the large sketchpads.)

So, I wound up drawing her too big in the frame for what I initially wanted, which meant I had to make changes to the dragon to integrate him into the new frame. This new idea of the dragon lead to balance issues, which I had to correct and counterbalance. I also messed up the tile pattern on the floor, and had to rework it from scratch (don’t get me started about drawing the individual chain links--or worse--the shadows of said chain links on the floor.) Like I said, problem after problem, begging me to scrap the project (fortunately, I’d spent hours shading and reshading those damn scales, so I would make this render work or die trying.)

Despite this render’s tumultuous history and development, I think it’s one of my favorites here at Dark Side of the Soul. For one, I love reversed roles (Gary Larson did this best in his immortal comic Far Side.) We, as human beings, have been the dominant race on this planet for ages, but what if there were a more powerful creature? What if we were beneath them? If we were their pets? And what if we were domesticated (for lack of a better word) like dogs, and would show affection to our draconic owners when they fill our food/water bowls?

I also like interesting juxtapositions. I knew early on that I wanted a stylistic difference in the shading of her soft skin (smooth shading) to the dragon’s hard scales (rough shading). A happy accident occurred when I screwed up the floor, and had to break out my kneaded eraser. You see, I usually don’t use the eraser as a creation tool. As I tried to strategically erase bits of the original floor, I noticed it left a “streaky” look which you can’t get with graphite alone. So, I exploited it and, thus, added another juxtaposition: smooth skin, rough scales, and streaked tiles. And that’s just shading technique.

There’s also the juxtaposition of the triangular shape of the dragon’s scales to the curved figure of the girl to the geometric pattern on the tiles. Speaking of the dragon and tiles, whoever heard of a dragon in a building? Don’t we traditionally find dragons in caves? The pose of the girl—calm, affectionate as she caresses her owner—despite her numerous bindings (chains, collar, and leash). In modern American society, I have a hard time visualizing anyone being bound and content. (Side note: I’m dying to hear a hack [or even a pro] psyche analysis based on this and a few other drawings.)

Anyway, some renders come together effortlessly, others you fight tooth and nail for. Neither is necessarily more rewarding than the other, and neither is necessarily better than the other. Some ideas just flow together seamlessly, others get stuck in a few traffic jams along the way. It’s all part of being an artist.