The Eternity Dragon

I made an ink drawing this week of a dragon.

In western literature dragons are mostly symbols of evil and destruction who have to be killed or vanquished for life to go on.

However in many eastern cultures they are seen as strong, beautiful, natural and lucky and often associated with water. In Vietnam dragons are seen as bringing life sustaining rain and are therefore symbols of life and prosperity. In Japanese stories dragons are the Spirits or Kami of rivers and lakes and seas as well as being associated with rain. In China the dragon is a very powerful symbol of energy, wisdom and good fortune.

Because of these positive connections I chose to draw an eastern dragon, rather than a western one. I think the only western dragons I really like are those from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quintet. It’s been a while since I read this series but my overarching feeling about the dragons in her world is that they represent wildness. I really like that!

I began by playing around with curves and loops trying to find a pleasing way to draw this animal…

Then when I found a design I liked I began playing with it to see how I wanted to form it into a dragon…

Once I had the idea in my head I began to draw it…

At this point I realised that the basic structure I had chosen had two interesting relationships to symbols.

  • The first was that the main shape was that of the infinity sign used in mathematics, but also used frequently to represent autistic people.
  • The second was that the head appeared to be moving towards eating the tail, which is another symbol for infinity or eternity.

So I carried on working on the form, laying out ideas with pencil and then inking them as soon as I was sure they would be permanent, like this…

This is how my final ink drawing came out…

Next I used my watercolour paints to add tone to the drawing. Then I added a shadow to lift it out of the page a little and it was finished.

Here’s the finished art…

“The Eternity Dragon”

I do enjoy the symbolism in the picture. The association with autism brings it home for me as does the association with the Le Guin’s wild dragons. (That is, if I’ve remembered and interpreted this correctly and not mixed it up with another story!) The eastern links to water are also lovely too given how much I love being on the water in boats.

In terms of the art itself in a more technical sense. I’m fairly happy with the overall drawing but not quite sure about putting a shadow on it. I do like the way the shadow lifts the dragon out of the page, but sometimes I think keeping it simpler is better. Here is the drawing before I added the shadow…

I like the simplicity of this, but the shadow gives it more of a 3D effect and draws my eye more.

What do you think?

9 thoughts on “The Eternity Dragon

  1. I’m a huge fan of shadows, whether it’s just a simple drop shadow on text or a complicated late-in-the-day shadow of a living creature. I never miss an opportunity for a good shadow!

    Liked by 2 people

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