The following articles are all from Tolkien artist extraordinaire John Howe with the ever-prolific … John Howe Newsletter
Most Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dragons (Or At Least
a Certain Amount) courtesy of artist John Howe …
A new book coming out is always fun, generally as it means the
editors involved are happy to coax me from my lair to go sign copies
in some far-flung clime…..
FORGING DRAGONS by John Howe
Paperback: 144 pages
Impact (10 Oct 2008)
FORGING DRAGONS : Inspirations, Approaches and Techniques for Drawing and Painting
Dragons by John Howe
Hardcover: 128 pages
Impact Books (31 Oct 2008)
The other Amazons have it too, of course:
(All the slightly contradictory information – differing page counts,
publication dates, etc., stems from amazon having to create web pages
far ahead of publication date. There are two identical editions:
hardcover for the UK market, paperback for the US.)
SCALES, TALONS, WINGS & FIRE
This is a book about dragons. Actually, it is several books!
One is an encyclopaedia, since dragons sprawl atop a wealth of lore
that equals only their golden treasure troves. Dragons poke their
scaly noses out of every crack and cranny of humanity’s patient
edifice, they are ever in the dark space under the stairs, or flying
over at great height, wings glinting in the sun, or guarding some door
or gate with sharp talon or sly advice. Dragons are so much a part of
our subconscious that we rarely consider them carefully (as they are
such an intimate part of us, perhaps they don’t always invite
scrutiny). The book is not, however, an attempt to link dragons to
dinosaurs, to root the origins of the great wyrms in some
imperceptible and hypothetical recollection from our proto-human past.
Nor is is psuedo-science ; I am not a fan of cross-sections of dragon
plumbing and fire-breathing apparatuses, all of which erase the magic
while providing a wholly unsatisfactory fiction in exchange.
It is, though, a gallery of images; a glossary of scales, a lexicon
of tails and talons, a thesaurus of Sauria, a visual exploration of the dragon
genus. Visually, dragons are a universe to themselves. They
present illustrative challenges that involve a curious and
simultaneous suspension and reinforcing of belief that they cannot
exist, but they need to look real, dragging their bellies on the
ground, spitting forth great gouts of flame, spreading their wings and
taking flight. Quite honestly, I didn’t realize I had drawn so many
of them, that they had found their way into so many images. But then,
they can be devious creatures, despite their size.
It’s also a practical art book, as much as I dislike the term, it
does contain an awful lot of things about how I work, what can go
wrong or right in a picture (wrong always makes for better
storytelling) and other hints and tips that are the product of much
paper covered in colour, as well as signposting the pitfalls of
discouragement that punctuate any picture. It is also a guide to
treading the path between client and creative conscience. There will
be a lot to read between the lines, and, added to that, each picture
is always worth its weight in words.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is, in the form of a book, a
representation of the way I work, a combination of encyclopaedic but
fully empirical knowledge, both extensive and flawed, rigorous and
biased ; a desire to see clearly even things that do not exist ; an
interest in mankind and the visual terms of engagement with the world
around us and the worlds in our heads.
On the road between all these things, these contradictions and convictions, is where the illustraton of fantasy wanders, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with a strange sense of urgency and purpose. The notion of vulnerability to imagery is explored and just how much of what you consider your own personal vision is really yours and how much is inherited or absorbed. How to let your pencil wander and how to follow where it leads. All very romantic, but simultaneously, it is also a hard-nosed expose of how to draw the things and how to make them crawl and fly. (It’s also a nice opportunity to see if all these thoughts that tumble in the happy chaos of my mind can actually be given voices that make sense.) It is an attempt to pin down, even
briefly, the infinitely tricksy business of why one sees things the way one does, not that the actual vision is valid for others, but in the hopes that the method in the madness thus outlined may serve as an example for the personal foray of the reader into those lands beyond.
And dragons are the perfect companions for such a voyage, because we
all know what they are.
Or do we ?
John Howe, 2008
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