The dragon was feared throughout the lands by the villagers, castles, kings, and courts. The beast flew day and night seeking its treasure. One day the dragon landed in a grassy meadow where the trees rolled across the hillsides and the wind blew the wild flowers like an orchestral sea of music. In the distance a lone white sycamore tree stood among the dancing lilies and tulips. A noise came from beneath its heavy branches and the dragon looked silently as it peered ever closer. It moved towards the sound and his eyes met the gaze of a fair maiden who happened not to realize the approaching danger.
The young princess was reading a story of old out loud. Her voice was soft and loving to the dragon's heart. His treasure was found at last. Years of searching for a moment like this was upon him. "Someone who can read! She must teach me!" He thought. Although his thoughts were of joy, in his dragon ways, that joy came out as a grumble of smoke and flame. The young princess suddenly noticed the giant beast from behind the great tree and fell off her stack of books. The fear in her eyes gave no comfort to the dragon.
It was always said that dragons were dumb evil creatures who wanted nothing but gold and gems. This dragon knew of those vile creatures, yet the only treasure he ever wished for were of the stories and adventures found in the books of old.
In a panic, the princess started to run, not knowing the true intent of the animal before her. The dragon, only thinking that this was his one chance at true knowledge, leaped over the great tree and collected the young princess before she could escape. As the dragon flew higher and higher the fair maiden whimpered in fright. They arrived atop the highest peak of the lowland mountains and the golden winged creature gently put her down.
"Let me be!" she roared as one last defense to what she thought would be the impending end of her. He shook his giant head and raised his claw in peace. "I wish you no harm," he said in his most calm breath. "Your voice is the treasure I seek." She looked at the winged beast confused and scared. "My voice?" she replied feeling dizzy. "You can read, I do not know how, and I wish to learn." His voice cried out. "Asking the villagers, only results in their fleeing out of fear that I am there to burn the land."
The princess didn't know what to say, moments ago she thought her life forfeit and now new feelings arose from her. "You took me captive so I may teach you to read?" the girl exclaimed. The whimpering animal puffed out smoke from its nose in agreement. "I would trade anything for such a gift. All of the treasures I have claimed throughout my long life." He finally gave words to his thoughts.
"I Accept." she let out in a sigh. The dragon came back with all of the books that the fair princess left at the great sycamore tree that morning, and began to give the dragon the knowledge he sought.
And so there was an agreement made between the dragon and the princess. She would teach the beast to read and learn. He would offer protection and wealth beyond their farthest dreams. The people of the towns grew to love the dragon they once feared, knowing he was not like others of his kind. True to his word he gave treasures and protection to all the people of the kingdom. And true to her word, the princess arrived each day to teach the dragon his letters.
Spring turned to Summer, Summer to Fall and months into years. The princess grew into a queen of the kingdom, and everyone in the land was safer and more prosperous for many years to come. The lonely beast learned to read, and the queen was his closest friend. The golden winged creature became ever wiser and all was right in the land.
While working with watercolors I try to keep things as tightly painted as I can manage. To start, once I have the drawing laid in I try to get rid of the white paper by tinting it with the colors I plan on using (Such as a light brown for the background, or light yellow for the dragon). I try to only tint large sections where detail isn't important for the moment. I take special care to not touch the figure and make sure everything is dry before moving on.
Since the drawing can get lost sometimes after a wash of paint I "inked" the drawing with my brush with a light brown. I did this for everything but the figure's face. I wanted to keep the face as clean as I could before I actually painted her. Using a wide assortment of colors, from blues, to reds, to yellows I created a lot of mark making in the background cave with every intention to later on "wash" sections of the cave off with deep blues and browns to really push back the entrance of the cave. The mark making helps add texture to the painting and it will shine through the wash later on.
I work around the painting so no individual section gets completed first. This helps keep a level of consistency with my painting and helps tie the elements together. I have found that if you complete one section completely before moving on the pieces can look disconnected from the rest of the image. Different sections will look more finished than others if you do a section one at a time rather than all together.
When painting the dragon I used the blues to push areas back and reds/oranges to bring areas forward. I tried to build the wing up as best I could with blues so you would feel that the princess was really in front of the dragon. When painting the dots for the scales of the dragon I used multiple colors to give extra style and texture. I also added some watered down blue where I felt the neck and other muscles of the dragon were turning. When everything was dry (I have a blow dryer to speed up the drying process) I put another glaze of a yellow/orange mix onto the dragon to set the mark making together. Having the different colored scales merge into the skin because of the glaze helped create a more natural look rather then seeing individually placed dots.
I am always reworking areas and redefine shadows. Trying new color combination's helps create for a more interesting painting. When working however, I have a fairly limited palette. I tend to keep to a few colors (in the case of this painting, red, yellow, and blue).
I then add the colors to the dress and skin. One of the most important parts of a painting is the reference you have on hand. Really study what you are painting, and your piece will look better for it. Even if you don't use the reference/stock completely, it is good to see how the folds in the clothing behave, and where the shadows are hitting on the face. I save the skin color for last and keep everything light building up the features slowly (using a light orange/red mixture). I usually spend the most time on the face and try to get it as close to realistic as I can get. It's important not to move forward until each layer is completely dry. Don't add a purple shadow and then glaze with something else.
The final stages of my painting uses Acrylic Gesso for the highlights. It mixes well with watercolors and I can make a bright yellow highlight or pale reflection to give an extra "pop" and dimension to my painting. The trick with Gesso is to not overuse it (something I am more than guilty of doing in previous works). It works well but can give you a hard time if you aren't quick. For this painting, I added some sky holes in the cave to create more light sources as well as creating teeth and nails for the dragon and adding a few highlights to the girl.
This was my overview on how I would go about painting something like this. I hope you can try some of these ideas out in future paintings.
Arches 14'' x 20'' Hot Press Paper, Winsor & Newton Watercolors, Acrylic Gesso
This was a commission that I started last week. I put about 20 some hours into it. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I enjoyed painting it and coming up with the story. I hope you can get something out of the technique I wrote down. Thanks for looking. Please enjoy!
I used this image as stock for the princess. From
I made her older to fit the story better.
I am also submitting this for #watercolorists first contest
& #xfairy-talesx contest
Closeup can be found here: