Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Cactus Heron Dragon

Last Friday on my Twitch Stream, we did the #DiscoveringDragons Community-Draw-Along! It's a fun event where I welcome all skill levels to push their pencils (or whatever tools they use to make art).

I worked on my piece live on my Twitch stream while viewers worked at home and then on Monday we shared our finished pieces.

Here is my finished colored Dragon. And below are my steps to create it as well as the community submissions.

For #DiscoveringDragons, I post two or three prompt words for everyone to make into a dragon. It's a nice framework for artists of any skill level to focus some time on an 'assignment' to shake the rust off or get the pencil moving again––all while also being loose enough that there's plenty of room for individual expression and interpretation.

This month the prompt was two words: Cactus & Heron

I opened several tabs of google image searches of Herons, Cactus varieties and Wyverns (because I wanted this to be a bipedal creature)

On a continuing plan to make my dragons more dragon-like with the prompts as traits (rather than the prompts glued together with dragon adhesive), I started with the head and neck trying not to just draw a heron, so I made lots of angles and exaggerations while keeping the overall shapes and proportions (as well as the little feather swoop off the back of the head.)

Cactus became more of a texture to apply to the form and details to use as the back spines. I drew the pencils on two sheets of copy paper (The wings were separate) and then put them together in Photoshop with some quick color blocking. 

I printed out the above design and taped that onto the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Using a lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol as I inked the dragon. I used Copic Multiliner 0.7 pen to ink the art.

The inking on this piece was about trying to make the forms and textures all make sense without it becoming visual noise. I'm not sure if I got there in the end, and hoped I could make more sense of the form in color. I was unable to finish the inks on-stream, but returned to them the next day off-stream.

Right after the inks were finished, I scanned them so I could start the coloring process to try and save the form of the piece. After prepping the digital inks, I established color holds (areas where I want the inks to be a color other than black––on the overall lines (to a dark brown) and on the flame.

Then it was time to start the color flatting process––basically professional coloring-in-the-lines. Some of this is just to make it easy to re-isolate various parts when doing later painting & rendering. So, I established the main green everywhere, a darker green for the beak and back cacti, a brown for the wings & spines, pink of the flowers, and the flame and eye.

For the final colors I did most of the highlights, shading, and texture with the dodge and burn tools and a stock photoshop texture brush. I'm not sure if I'm as happy with this dragon because I think the silhouette is a bit confusing and while I tried to push colors and value, I worry I ended up making a yellow-green knot of spaghetti. Below you can again see the final Dragon...

But, as this is a community event, I wanted to share all the other entries posted in the Discord. 


Capt. Nemo



Nate Pride






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