Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Best Movie Dragon

Last week we had a poll, asking you which movie you thought had the best dragon. The results are in, and the winner is...

'How to Train Your Dragon'.

In honor of your selection, here is a small sampling of some concept art from the movie. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the 'Art of' book. You can purchase it HERE.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Exhibits Galore!

-By Dan dos Santos

Personally, I think there is no better way to celebrate Autumn than to hop in the car, enjoy the New England foliage, and visit some of my favorite museums. To make it even better, there are a lot of fantastic exhibits to see right now.

For New Englanders, The Lyman Allyn Museum in Connecticut is currently hosting Dinotopia: Art, Science, and Imagination.

I'm sure if you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know who James Gurney, the creator of Dinotopia, is. But this new display of work should be of particular interest to artists as it not only showcases James' final works, but also his sketches, color studies, and maquettes.

It is an intensive retrospective which delves into the entire creation of the book, which is currently enjoying it's 20th Anniversary.

The exhibition runs from September 22nd - February 2, 1013.

Also in Connecticut, just a 20 minute ride from Manhattan, is Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe, hosted by the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

This exhibit showcases artwork by two of the finest Flash Gordon illustrators, Alex Raymond and Al Williamson, as well as numerous other science fiction cartoonists. The artwork and memorabilia on display, representing space adventure creations from Buck Rogers to Star Wars, provides evidence of the significant impact that these heroes of the universe have had on American culture.

If any of you have seen the Al Williamson Archives that have recently been released by Flesk Publications, you already know what a phenomenal draftsman the man was. I, for one, can not wait to see some of these drawings in person.

The exhibit runs from September 22nd- November 4th.

Just a little further north, the Norman Rockwell Museum is hosting Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered.

Hopefully, Howard Pyle doesn't need an introduction. But for those of you who are not familiar with his work, let's just say his informal title as 'The Grandfather of American Illustration' is very well deserved, and quite possibly a little bit inadequate.

This exhibit has been up for a little while now, and comes down in less than a month. I encourage all of you that can, to take advantage of this opportunity to see it.

(On a related note, The Norman Rockwell Museum will also be host to an upcoming retrospective of Alex Ross' comic book art, so keep your eyes peeled for that in November!)

For you West Coasters, tonight is the opening reception for Borrowed Memories at Thinkspace Gallery.

This two woman show spotlights the work of Tran Nguyen (above) and Stella Im Hultberg.

I'm a big fan of Tran's work, and was fortunate enough to see a sneak peek of the show. As usual, Tran doesn't disappoint. Her works are imaginative, feminine, and from a technical standpoint, stellar.

If you're in the area, this is definitely the place to be tonight.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Vanessa Lake and Tentacle - Walkthrough

-By Serge Birault

Here's a caricature of the californian model, Vanessa Lake. I did this picture last year, after several tests. I just wanted to do a picture full of pink.

Vanessa is a great model, she's got a very interesting face. I used several photo references for her face. Here's a list of links:

Well, yes, I know, all this lines mean nothing. In fact, I added the composition over the sketch ... :D

Seriously, if you work with a computer, don't think too much about "lines" (curves are far more important if you paint pin ups). You can easily change your composition, change scales and ratio, erase and retry... Composition is more about training than rules.

The final picture is an A3 format, 300 dpi.

First, as usual, I choosed my background color. This pink color was my background tone and my ambiant light. For the skin, I started with a swath of classical flesh color. For all the gradients, I used the airbrush ( the soft round brush) with very low opacity.

Once again, the more difficult part was to find the good contrast. Once again, the skin looks very plastic (as all the parts of this picture). Once again, I had to cheat a little bit with the volumes...

The hair were an interestig part to paint. Indeed, I'm still trying to find a way to do "cartoon" hair. My good friend David "Loopydave" Dunstan provided me good inspirations.

I added a little bit of pink retro light on the edges. I think it works well and the hair look more plastic that way.

I did the tattoo on the shoulder with a lot of different layers. It would be too long to explain here but I did a small tutorial in order to paint tattoos on my FB page HERE

It's the real tatto of Vanessa, she provided me references. White latex is not easy to do, it's very difficult to fnd the good contrast. I finally changed my mind for her left hand. Yes, you have have the right to change your mind whenever you want with softwares :p

The pink tentacle has to be a little bit transparent and very reflective (like the lollipop). Here's the method above.

I did very few adjustments on this picture :  a little bit of contrast, a little bit of yellow and a very soft gradient on the background. I can't remember how much time I spent of this one, but less than 20 hours.

It seems Vanessa liked it a lot ... Job done :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Object of My Desire - Captain America

By Donato

This past Tuesday I shared some high resolution jpgs of detailed areas of historical paintings to a class I am teaching.  It reminded me how much I love to get up close and personal with works of art.  These intimate inspections not only allow us to better understand how they were created, but in closing in on the art, we are placing ourselves in the physical space once occupied by the artwork's originator.  This is all the more true when visiting works in a museum, gallery or exhibition.  The visceral experience and 'high' I receive from these interactions with unique, physical objects are the main reason I will likely never become a digital artist - I have conditioned myself to fall in love with physical objects of desire.

This is not an assessment of digital art, but rather speaks to the approach I have taken towards painting during the development of my career as an illustrator and painter.  The treatment of my paintings and conversion of them into commercial designs during the first year of my professional career drove home the fact that these illustrations were nothing more than part of a tool in marketing - to be manipulated and distorted to the needs of my client in selling their product.  This use of my art reconditioned my expectations regarding illustration commissions from that of seeking pleasure in seeing my art on a book cover or magazine distributed worldwide, to that of seeking pleasure in the sheer process of making the original painting in oils.  Rather than falling in love with the image, I fell in love with the object.  Nothing more simple as that has driven my entire career.

Thus while this conditioning has worked for me, the same 'object love' may not work for millions who are in the midst of the digital age creating art on the computer.  Your challenge is to fall in love with your art in a different manner.  For when you are passionate about your art, it is easy to spend an entire day in the physical proximity of that which you so dearly desire...

Captain America : Duty        48" x 36"     Oil on Panel     2012

A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros,  William Bouguereau    detail   1880

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Howard Lyon: Color Theory

Our  good friend, and really talented artist, Howard Lyon just posted a wonderful article on color theory on his blog.

Titled 'Building Harmonious Color', Howard breaks down for his readers how to achieve a a cohesive color 'scheme' for a painting in very simple, easy-to-understand terms.

If you have trouble using a limited palette, or difficulty achieving 'mood' in your pieces, this is a really good read. You can check it out: HERE

Monkey Business

By Jesper Ejsing


I just found this graffiti on the internet. I am sorry I cannot credit the guy who painted it, since I guess it was made illegally and posted under an alias. But, he did credit my original painting as being an inspiration. This homage really warms my heart.

I painted graffitti when I was young. I was very young and did not really dare to paint on walls or tunnels or trains. My buddy and I decorated shops or youth clubs . We painted graffiti pieces on canvas that were stitched to the back of our denim jackets. Every Monday we wore a new one that we had spent the weekend working on. I was doing the figures and my buddy Michael was making the letters. I remember one summer where I earned most of my vacation money from doing these kind of "Back Paintings" for a group of local Bikers called "Big Balls". The figure was an angry bull wielding a dagger, holding forth some hairy, cut off balls. As you see, I acquired a good taste in arts from a very early age.

I am sorry I cannot post any of my old graffiti. It has all been painted over or worn out.

In my heart I feel very "Oldschool" ( my Wife laughs at me when ever I try to insinuate that I am a hip hopper, or when I suggest that I am cool and used to be a rapper ).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Draw the Eyes

Stan Prokopenko just keeps impressing me!

Seriously, if you guys haven't watched these videos yet, you need to. I've seen a marked improvement in my own work since I started watching (and re-watching) these.

Previous videos in the series can be found here:
Head Part 1 (Any Angle):
Head Part 2 (Front View):
Head Part 3 (Side View):
Head Part 4 (Extreme Angle):

Wrapping it up... with a bow!

-By Dan dos Santos

So 'Dragon Fortnight' has finally come to an end. Thank you to everyone who went out of their way to do special posts for us, especially our guest bloggers. It may only take a few minutes to read, but each of these posts takes hours to compile. I am deeply appreciative of the time all our contributors have taken to do this for our us.

For those of you who may have missed a post, or those who would like to re-read some of them in your spare time, we've got a treat for you.

I've compiled the last 2 weeks of dragon-themed posts, as well as every other dragon related post on Muddy Colors, into a single downloadable PDF for you! That's 30 articles in all.

To download the PDF, just click here:
(This is a free hosting service, so please beware of pop-ups.)

I decided to include all the comments as well, as there is often valuable information in the form of replies therein.

It's not pretty to look at, and there are definitely some formatting errors, but it gets the job done. Once I delve into this more, and work out some of the kinks, you can expect to see many more of our past posts compiled into easy-to-read ebooks for you.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Dragon Wind-up

by Arnie Fenner

After two solid weeks of dragons, you're all probably ready to move on to other things. So let's wind the subject up with some influential movie wyrms through the years...

Above: Fafnir from Siegfried [1924].

Above: Taro from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad [1958].

Above: Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty [1959].

Above: King Ghidorah from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster [1964].

Above: From Dragonslayer [1981].

Above: Draco from Dragonheart [1996].

Above: Haku from Spirited Away [2001]

Above: From Reign of Fire [2002].

Above: From Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire [2005].

Above: Saphira from Eragon [2006].

Above: Narrisa from Enchanted [2007].

Above: Mountain Banshee from Avatar [2009].

Above: Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon [2010].

Above: From Suckerpunch [2011].

Above: From Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 [2011].

What's your favorite? One of the above or one I've forgotten? Let us know in the poll above.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dragon Design in the Natural World

-By Lars Grant West

Dragons are the undeniable mascots of fantasy art and illustration. They embody the genre - Firmly anchored in reality, but vigorously tearing free of it at the same time.

When forging a dragon there’s no substitute for real world observation. The animal kingdom delivers an astounding palette of material to work with, from overall body structure to the fine detail that can help your dragon take flight.

There are some aspects of the classic mythological dragon that can make them troublesome subjects to render, so let’s touch on those potential stumbling blocks first.

All animals with backbones share some fundamental similarities. Terrestrial vertebrates appear to have a single four-footed root in their family tree. A very, very long time ago, early tetrapods (“four feet”) dragged their bodies from the water’s edge onto land and have spent the 300-something million years since evolving into the amazing array of backboned animals on earth - including us. A sprinkling of examples of our distant relatives might include dogs, cats, birds, snakes, dolphins and dinosaurs. We’re all tetrapods. We share a common lineage built around four limbs, a spine and a skull.

That’s all well and good, until you try to let dragons roost in the family tree.

Dragons, in their stereotypical four-legged winged forms are not tetrapods...they’re hexapods. The only real hexapods on earth are insects. So that extra set of limbs on dragons can be a problem. My biggest frustration with dragons is figuring out how and where to plant the damned wings.

The fossil record shows powered flight being achieved by insects, birds, bats and pterosaurs. Insects aside, all use modified front limbs to flap through air. That muscle takes up a lot of space, and adds a lot of extra mass to lift. With the exception of snakes, we all have muscle groups ringing our rib cage that help us move those front limbs. The placement of those muscles provides strength, leverage, and a wide range of motion. So what happens when you try to put one almost right on top of the other? It’s a mess.

Where do you put all that added muscle and bone?! If you want to make something that can actually fly, prepare for a tough slog. The bigger the dragon, the more lift it needs to get off the ground, and the more muscle you need to move those wings.

In the real world, the limits of flight by an animal were stretched by the largest winged animals known. The pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan estimated at nearly 40 feet, and weighed maybe 500-550 pounds. In modern terms that’s somewhere around the weight of a smallish zebra. That kind of rules out a creature that could swoop down and snatch up a horse and rider.

But this is fantasy.

There’s a point at which scientific accuracy needs to step back and let “cool” take center stage.

You can still use building blocks from the natural world to make creatures that look realistic and inspire wonder in your viewers. Challenge nay-sayers who list reasons why your beasts can’t fly to use their brilliance to devise a rationale for how they could.

Nature has done some ingenious problem solving in the past. For example. Think about turtles. For the sake of protection, their front legs and shoulder blades actually develop inside their rib cage. Maybe something as trivial as adding an extra set of limbs shouldn’t be so difficult. I’m willing to give nature the benefit of the doubt.

Ignoring mundane things like physics and the limits of real-world physiology, let’s go over some practical considerations:

First, what kind of mood do you want your dragon to convey? Is it sinister and crafty? Lean and energetic? Regal? Old? Young? Create a personality. Think of your dragon as an individual with a reason to be in your story. Make it a character with depth, voice and purpose.

The Matriarch - Portrait of an Aged Dragon
Start with a general shape and carriage from nature that delivers the mood you’re after, and build from there.

• Bear in mind that with wings, balance is important. Things look more natural if what’s behind the wings can counterbalance what’s in front.

Don’t short-change the wing musculature! Those limbs need to lift the full unsupported weight of the body. No need to reinvent the wheel. As Dan mentioned, Todd Lockwood’s musculature design is brilliant. It reads as both scientifically plausible and visually elegant. This art is an invaluable resource for the dedicated dragon designer:

© Todd Lockwood

AFTER you’ve explore the overall structure and posed it in an interesting way it’s time to add the finishing touches. Surface detail can play an important supporting role. Jump back to the natural world to add spice to your creation. While coloration and surface detail should never be relied on to carry your dragon, they can do a lot to make it more credible. What animals interest you and why? Any interesting color/patterning or texture can be transposed onto your creation. Make sure these later additions augment the mood you’re targeting.

As an example of how much observed detail can help sell a concept, look at this critter created by Wayne Barlow for his amazing example of ecosystem design, the book “Expedition”.

© Wayne Barlowe
This truly unusual and bizarre creation doesn’t resemble any real animal, but Barlowe has crafted something that can move, breath, find food, and survive. Picture an elephant and you’ll see some similar components arranged in a very different way. The placement of the Unth’s lumps, folds, spikes and sphincters is indisputably alien, but the result is disturbingly convincing and uncomfortably familiar.

So mood - gesture - big forms - small forms - that order.

When you set out to create a dragon, search the natural world for inspiration. When your dragon begins to congeal inside your head, believe that your creation is real. Pull out the stops and go wild. Nature’s been doing it for billions of years.

Cyberdragon, © Lars Grant West

For more of Lar's art, check out his website at: