In my teens, I took art classes from a terrific teacher named Ron Moore. He taught everything–painting, pastel, wood carving, clay sculpture, you name it, he’d teach it. Anyway, while learning to sculpt animals, we studied anatomy. I learned proportion tricks, what joints did, how shoulders behaved, and on and on. I sculpted animals, cartoon characters, dinosaurs, anything that struck my fancy.
That training still resides in my head. So when a friend suggested that I draw an amargasaurus, this training kicked in.
First off, this is an amargasaurus.
Pretty gnarly-looking sauropod.
Mr. Moore always taught me that if I did artwork from another artist’s work, I would copy all their mistakes and make them worse. (Boy, have I seen new artists do that.) So I went hunting for the bones of this sucker.
Okay, so, all the spikes are attached to the vertebrae. Notice the way they lay. If he kept his neck straight, they’d more or less lie down. But if he bent his neck, they’d fan out and display whatever skin stretched between them.
So now we have this idea of a dinosaur bending his neck around to show off his frill. He’d have to bow his head a lot. Now we get ideas of what a courtship display might look like.
They might have danced like this. Ever seen an iguana display his dewlap to attract a mate? It’s pretty funny. Or like that red-capped manakin bird.
It’s really fun to extrapolate from dinosaur bones. It’s not like anybody can go look at one and disprove my idea, right?
Anyway, the same process applies to building dragons. Here’s a reference sheet in progress for a story I’m writing with little drakes and big dragons.
As you can see, my drakes are very lizard-like (with pterodactyl wings), while the dragons are the traditional European dragons. Lots of comparative anatomy studies while drawing these, trying to make them work. Well, as well as any six-limbed creature would work. There’s a lot of biological hand-waving when it comes to dragons.
While dragons would be majestic predators, drakes would fly on highly-maneuverable albatross wings, able to pull off midair gyrations like those of a flycatcher.
I suppose I ought to put some kind of a tail fin on them, so they can steer. But then, not all pterosaurs had them, either. What do you guys think?