One of my art students, Miriam Häusler, approached me with a most crucial question within Fantasy-Art and I am ever so happy and thankful about that question because it helps me to thoroughly think over a theme that seems to have become common sense within Fantasy and that is why, in my point of view, it is necessairy to have a closer and conscious look at it over and over again.
The question was of how to approach the anatomy of dragons.
I postponed our lesson and arranged an expedition to the natural history museum one week later to set out for our queste for Draco.
There are several reasons why I chose the natural history museum as a starting point to approach dragons:
1) the impression of size.
Looking at pictures of reptiles, birds, other paintings of dragons etc might be helpful to get a first idea but to me only if one is confronted with the true sensual sensation of the size of existing creatures we get a better notion of what inches, metres or cubits look like in "real bones".
2) anatomical diversity and possibilities within nature
If you look at the skeletons of real creatures it helps you a lot to gradually develop an eye for specializations of anatomical features and starting from there to begin to develop your own ideas of anatomical possibilities for a creature, we see in front of our inner eye.
Here are some examples:
|Dicraeosaurus, a smaller sauropod, specialised in feeding on low growing plants.||Notice the extended vertebral notches to keep his presumably rather stiff neck close to the ground unlike other sauropods, with which he shared the same environment.|
|Diplodocus, who's long neck and tail equal in it's functionality the construction of a modern suspension bridge.|
|Allosaurus' impressive skull, the chambers in the skull helped to keep it light weighted|
|skeleton of a sea eagle in comparison with Allosaurus' arms and claws|
3) if we limit ourselves to the two points mentioned above in my point of view we reduce ourselves rather by practicing "Science Fiction" and will not touch the mythological/archetypical nature of the dragon sufficiently.
the mythological aspect of fossilised bones
I am always in awe when I approach the real skeletons of extinct creatures, the fossilised bones which represent the immense span of time which symbolically resembles to me as well the immortality of the dragon, emblem of the forces of nature in their unpredcitability.
To me they are in fact like sculptures in their sheer beauty and the purest inspiration.
John Howe - Forging Dragons *
John Howe - the Fantasy Art Workshop*
Daniel Falconer - Smaug: Unleashing the dragon
Joseph Reichholf - Einhorn, Phönix, Drache
* Forging Dragons and the Fantasy Art Workshop in German language