Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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).

24 comments:

  1. Great piece, love the subtle colors around and on the hand. Question, how do you do the photography of your pieces, or do you have that done and do you do any post processing of the photo?

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    1. I am already working on a post about photographing work. I should be posting that soon after 'Dragon Week' ends.

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  2. Amazinggg, makes me want to draw something simillar to it! I'm in love by your contrast and composition, also, thanks for the tips by using photograph as reference! I'll try that sometime!

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  3. Not sure which knocks my socks off more - the piece itself, which is beautiful, or the short time in which it was accomplished. Brilliant!! Are your reference comps digital? What are you using to create them?

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    1. I use Photoshop CS6 for sketching and composing. Once the comp is completed, everything else is traditional.

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  4. Fantastic Dan! When your store will be sending the posters outside U.S.?

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    1. It seems everyone is ignoring the 'no international shipments' rule anyways, so it may be rather soon.
      I just have to figure out a standard pricing for it.

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  5. I admire your professional approach to a project which you were given so little time for. You've used the tools given to you, effectively. Love it :)

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    1. Thanks Fehr,
      That is actually a large part of doing illustration work professionally. You have to be able to work within all types of confines well.

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  6. If I hadn't missed almost the whole class I'd loved to have watched the process more. It's beautiful in it's simplicity.

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    1. Still bummed about that, dude. There is always next time.

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  7. Love this creature, she has a very sensible look. Also, very delicate. Very nice how you prepare your reference, I have a similiar way :)

    Thanks for this great post :)

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  8. Hey Dan, quick question: where did you get the mannequin head? Looks great!

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    1. That head in particular, a friend of min found in a dumpster in Brooklyn. But I have bought several others since. Just google 'mannequins', they are surprisingly cheap. A full figure is only $100 or so.

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  9. Oh lord that is a great painting. The design is just superb. Makes want to step into that world and figure out what's going on.

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  10. Very Nice Dan, really sorry we missed you at Dragon*Con, this would have been a spectacualr print to have. I hope to see you at SFAL or back here next year.

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    1. Dwight,
      Hit me up via email.. I'll send you guys some.

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  11. Should I order 'White Trash Zombie' print now or wait until next week when the dragon poster will be available?

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    1. Once the dragon print is available for sale, it will no longer be free.

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  12. Just ordered mine! Thanks for sharing your wonderful work!

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  13. Love your use of light on the different areas of the skin really well treated!

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