The Dragon Empress

-By Dan dos Santos

This past week I was extremely honored to be the Artist Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA.

The AGoH has several responsibilities, including putting up a large retrospective of work, giving lectures, and most importantly, creating an original work of art for the cover of the Program Booklet. This piece of art is also used to make a limited run Lithograph, commemorating that year's convention.

The Artist can paint anything they want for the poster, provided it is 'dragon themed'.

Sadly, when deciding what to paint, one of my largest concerns was time. The commission is unpaid, so as tempting as it may be, it's financially unfeasible to spend a month painting a really elaborate picture. Instead, I needed to think of something I could paint quickly. I decided a portrait was my fastest option. I'm fairly facile at painting faces, and I knew I could do a good job in just a few day's time.

A dragon themed portrait immediately conjured up images of 'Dragon Royalty' and elaborate headdresses. I actually went so far as to shoot and compile reference for an alternate sketch, before deciding I didn't like it.

Above: My initial sketch, and my reference comp. The reference is composed of a mannequin head, a kneaded eraser, and my Wife's torso.

I kept a lot of the initial concept, but ultimately I decided to go with a more organic take on the portrait. I decided to make the woman herself a more obvious blend of human and dragon, rather than just a woman wearing a dragon themed headdress.

Like I mentioned, time was a concern, so I actually did the majority of work as a demo at this year's Illustration Master Class. Not only did I sketch out the concepts there, but I also photographed one of the attending students as my model. A great big "Thank You!" to the beautiful, and amazingly talented, Reiko Murakami, who took time away from her own work to pose for me.

After revising my sketch (thanks to some fantastic input from Iain McCaig, and the rest of the IMC faculty), I transferred it to the board, and jumped right into the painting.

Above: A progress shot taken during the Illustration Master Class. Note the reference comp to my left. It is assembled from photos of models, sketches, and sculptures.

I fell short of finishing the painting at the IMC by a day's work, so I put the finishing touches on it once I got back to my home studio.

Once completed, I photographed the piece and emailed the final scan to the Art Director of Dragon*Con. Their team of professionals did a wonderful job designing the Program Booklet, and Lithograph around my image. They unveiled these the night before the con, and I am happy to say the image received fantastic reviews from the attendees.

I will be offering these posters for sale next week on my website's store page. Until then, anyone who purchases one of my 'White Trash Zombie' prints will receive a 'Dragon Empress' print absolutely FREE (while supplies last).

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