I’ve always felt well disposed towards dragons, even as a child. None of this Western angst as portrayed in so many Medieval paintings or the vehement hostility in so many tales of old involving dragons. One could say that I’m more aligned with the Eastern view of dragons, that of benevolence, wisdom and grace.
I’ve always found it remarkable that stories of dragons exist in the collective mythology and history of mankind. In Africa, South America and Australia we can find hints of giant serpents, (maybe with a couple of legs). In the Middle East there are tales of mythological beasts with scales and wings. Asia is full of dragon mythology as is Europe. North America (Illinois) houses the Piasa dragon and the original mural predated the arrival of any Europeans. There are also spectacular dragon pictographs of a mishibizhiw (known as the underwater panther with horns on its head and plates on the ridge of its back and tail) in Ontario. The list of dragons world wide is far too long and their tales would fill several thick tomes.
But one of the most interesting things to me, is that dinosaur fossil discoveries made in China 2000 years ago, were called Dragon bones. The word “Dinosaur” is very young, going back only to 1841 and coined by Sir Richard Owen. With the 2006 discovery of Dracorex hogsartsia in South Dakota, it’s entirely plausible that the worlds of dragons and dinosaurs might have been one and the same thing. Even if the former might have embellished the latter a bit.
This embellishment, this imbuing through fantasy, is something I love to explore when making dragons. The variations are endless. Here are some graphite drawings I’ve done of dragons:
It’s a theme I love exploring in the three dimensional realm of precious metals as well. The idea for the Silver Dragon came from several influences; first the acrobatic flight of several bird species (Swallows, Birds of prey and Starling murmurations) and of course the world of animation. Specifically the fantastic dragon dance in Avatar: the Last Air Bender and the swirling flight of Haku in the brilliant Miyazaki film “Spirited Away”. I wanted to recreate that joy, that frenetic, powerful energy that can be found in the freedom of flight. To capture a moment in that flight that draws statis and movement into one, into a moment of suspended equilibrium of shape and form. A circle seemed most fitting to convey this. The drawing for the dragon was done freehand onto a thick plate of sterling silver (4mm).( I seldom sit and pre-draw my designs. I see it in my head and transfer it directly onto metal.) Sawing a design out of thick plate usually takes much longer, and one tends to go though more blades than one would like. But working with this thickness has its sculptural benefits. Shaping and deepening form through texture becomes very rewarding as it allows ample surface.
I wanted a serene expression on the dragon’s face, as if he entered into complete trust of his own skills and strength, complete trust of the air supporting him in that moment of curling his body into a circle and drawing in his wings. That moment of complete joy-filled tranquility and freedom…
The rest of the body was textured with a burr tip to simulate a crusted scale pattern, aside from the tail “fins”
The wing was a different matter. I wanted to recreate a smooth and leathery surface on the wing membrane, such as one sees on bat wings. I also wanted the ridges of the wing “fingers” to really stand out, ending in talons. Initially, I thought I’d make it out of red deer antler. After I did a very rough shaping of the wing and held it to the dragon’s body, I saw that it just didn’t fit the overall design and feeling of the piece at all. So, on to sterling! (I might add that there is always value in exploring options, even if those options aren’t feasible in the end, they can be of worth. Many such explorations have led to nothing and many have led to new ideas and designs. But you’ll never know if you don’t explore.)
The sterling silver domed wing turned out to be the exact material that brought the overall concept together in congruity. The metal also gave itself beautifully to allow the leathery membrane texture I had envisioned and was thick enough to accentuate the wing fingers to its full potential.
The wing was then soldered onto the body of the dragon. The whole pendant was allowed to rest in pickling solution and then it was off to the polishing buff.
Even though the final piece is only 4.5 by 3.5 cm in size, it has nonetheless managed to convey the enormity and feeling of a dragon in flight.
You can find this piece and several other dragon pieces on my website: https://stefaniedonau.com/
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