Here are the original posts showing the making of my Sea Dragon. I’m showing these posts from the first to the last and I’m leaving it as one very long page. And I’m sorry for the formatting. I cut and pasted these posts and much of the formatting doesn’t want to change.
First Published 1/23/2011
I’ve decided to make a dragon sitting in a nest along with a baby and a couple of unhatched eggs.
I will start with the nest. I’ve been saving a bunch of driftwood just for a project such as this. So here is the first photo of this project. Thanks for stopping by.
This will turn into a driftwood nest.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon: The Nest
I’m back. And I’m very happy with the nest I’ve made for this new dragon. The photo doesn’t really do it justice since you can’t see inside. I have this secured to a cabinet for now. It will eventually go on a wall. It’s supposed to look like it’s near the top of a tree. Now I can make the paper mache parts using the nest as a reference. I also know how big to make the eggs. I know that this isn’t paper mache. Just thought some of you might be interested in this step. If you are curious about how I made the nest, look at the photos below. Otherwise, see you next time!
The beginnings of the Dragon
The beginning of a project always involves Max. He loves to tear up paper. As soon as I unfold the paper to crumple, he is in the middle of it grabbing it and ripping it up.
After a bit of wrestling, Max relinquishes the pile of paper and I’m able to crumple some body parts. Here you see a body, a long tail, a neck (upper right hand), two legs (next to Max), two arms (which will be wings), and balls of assorted sizes that will be a head and muscles. As you’ve seen with my art, I like the appendages to be stuffed inside clothes hangers. I did this crumpling over a couple hours one night after school.
I added the paper mache over a couple hours the next night. Here are the balls.
Here are the other appendages. The clothes hangers are great for hanging the pieces to dry. Most paper mache pieces take two or three days to dry completely. I will use that time making claws and teeth.
I love it when they come out of the oven. Note the brown tinge, perfect for dragon claws and teeth.
Next I’ll make the basic “fingers” for my wings and the toes.
For this I use wire clothes hangers, masking tape, and a phone book. I cut the hangers to size.
I really like the way phone book paper compresses allowing for a tight taper. I twist the paper around the wire and tape. I have some tricks for this kind of thing. It would take too long to explain them here. I have lots of these tricks and hints in my book (shameless plug). I also make two, thin, tapered pieces for the tongue. I add tape to the back and add a few wrinkles.
I “cloth mache” the long fingers for the wings in advance. It makes them very strong. They need to be strong to hold the weight of the large, wet cloth pieces I use for draping the wings.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon- feet, arms, body
Now I’m ready to do a partial assembly of the body. In the photo on the left you’ll see my tail (on the left) and the neck (on the right) and two bodies in the middle. I know what some of you are thinking…why does he have two bodies. Well, it’s because whenever I paper mache the bodies and appendages I make extras. (Surely this is a paper mache trade secret.) That way I use up the paste. And if you’ve read my other entries you’ll notice that many times I cut open paper mache balls and pull out the wads of paper inside. I throw the insides into a corner until I do my next paper mache batch. If you’ve ever looked at my studio (go to my site and check out the 360 degree view) you’ll see a pile of paper mache balls and appendages ready for me to use. So…long story short (well, longer actually) I decided to use the more elongated body instead of the paper mache ball I made for this dragon.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon-assembly!
As you can see, I chose the larger, more elongated paper mache ball for the body. I cut a hole in the bottom and inserted the tail. I continually check the dragon against the nest.
I get an idea for where the right leg will need to be. I cut a hole in the paper mache body. I always try to make the hole slightly smaller than the appendage I insert. Paper mache will give a bit as I push the leg in and the fit will be tight.
This is how the dragon will stand on the nest.
Here is a look from behind.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon: More assembly
I originally thought this tail would hand down lower. So I broke the paper mache and added a few twists. Again, that’s why it’s so great to have wire clothes hanger inside. I just make repairs with masking tape later.
Since I want this dragon to be as light as possible, I pulled out the initial wads of paper inside the paper mache body when I cut the hole for the head. It’s amazing how much paper was crammed inside that body. Max wants to know what’s inside the nest. I fully expect to see him curled up inside the nest at some point.
Next, the dragon needs her wings. I gathered the paper mache arms and the “fingers”. I taped the fingers together into a hand.
I taped the hands to the paper mache arms. Note the extra finger at the elbow. Then I cut holes in the body and inserted the arms.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon- jaws and details
I used hot glue to attach the teeth to the paper mache shells. After that, I wrapped each tooth with a small strip of cloth and glue. Then I put a larger piece of cloth into the middle of each jaw.
I will paint these jaws before putting them on the dragon. I’ll come back to them later.
Time to add a few details to the dragon. Earlier I broke the paper mache leg at the knee. The clothes hanger inside the leg kept it in the shape I wanted. I crumpled up some paper and put it in the hole to make a knee. Note that I also added some “muscles” on the thigh. Those are just smaller paper mache shells like I used for the jaws that I taped on.
Next, a little work on the feet. As you can see, the foot is not too interesting as it is. Now that I’ve bent the toes to conform to the wood in the nest, I want to embellish them. For this I use little balls. Here is one of my trade secrets. I just tear off a few pieces of masking tape and roll them in my palms to make balls of various sizes. The stickiness of the tape holds them together.
I use the smaller balls for knuckles. Just add them and cover with small pieces of masking tape.
I hot glue the claws onto the toes and then wrap them with tape. Next, add the cloth mache around the claws…
…and then cloth mache the legs. In this case I also cloth mached the arms.
By the way, once again I changed my mind about the tail. I wanted it longer. So I made another tapered piece and added it to the end of the tail. I like it much better.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon: Wings
As you can see, I’ve left the paper mache completely behind. I’m solely in the realm of “cloth mache.” One of the coolest things I learned to do with my cloth mache technique is to make wings. If you are interested, read on.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon (back lit)
I dip a large piece of cloth into a bucket of Elmer’s glue and squeeze it out. As you might guess, this is a very messy process. And it can take a full quart of glue depending upon the size of the wings.
Next, I drape the cloth. I push the cloth in between the fingers. You must be patient here. This can be very frustrating. You push in between two of the fingers and it pulls out of adjacent fingers. But you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t get upset.
Note all the extra cloth at the ends of the fingers. Cut this excess off with scissors. Let it dry overnight.
After it is dry, use sharp scissors (I like the little, hair cutting scissors for this) and trim the wings. Beautiful!
In this particular case, I wanted claw (or clawish looking spikes) at the end of the fingers. So I roll back the cloth and use my wire cutters to cut off the ends of the fingers.
I hot glue the spikes onto the ends of the fingers. Then I cover the ends with glue (Elmer’s) and pull the cloth back over the spikes. Look at the photo on the right. How cool are those?
Finally, I turn the project over and lay it on its stomach. It’s hard to see with these photos, but I add long strips of cloth and glue to the back sides of the fingers and arms. This “locks in” the shape of the draping.
I must say one more thing about this cloth mache process with wings. When you paint the wings with latex based paints (basically house paint), they feel like leather. They replicate dragon wings very well.
I love putting breast plates on my dragons. This is easy to do with cloth mache. But first, I didn’t like the body of this dragon. She didn’t really have a waist. This was easily fixed. I just grabbed her in the middle and squeezed. I love paper mache. This is what I mean when I say that it is “forgiving.” You can adjust anything at any point. Then I added tape. I drew a line down the length of the body to guide me as I put on the plates. It’s easy to loose the middle if the neck or tail has a lot of movement.
I started at the tip of the tail. I folded pieces of cloth and laid them on top of one another. I pinched them in the middle to make a crease. This time I decided to have the crease split into three segments when it got to the body.
Now it’s time to add the head. (This part is for you Don.) Putting a head on a project is a matter of putting the jaws together in a position that you like. Tape the back of the jaws to hold the mouth together in that position. Note that I painted the jaws and tongue first…much easier than painting it once it’s on the project.
If this were a simple Screamer or monster, I would cut a hole in the body and push the jaw assembly into the hole and tape. This is a bit different because this dragon has a long neck. I just cut off the neck and pulled out some of the paper. This made a hole for me to insert the back of the jaw. Sometimes there are gaps that need to be filled. I use pieces of paper mache balls to fill those holes. I put the paper mache shell over the hole and added masking tape.
As I’ve said many times, I use smaller paper mache balls for details. I cut off part of one and added it to the top of the dragon’s head. I used my knife to cut a small hole for the eyes which I hot glued in place.
I then crumpled small amounts of paper and wrapped them with tape to add details. In this case I wrapped the eyes to give some depth to the eye sockets. I also use small pieces of paper mache (remnants of the neck in this case) to fashion a nose.
I wanted an elaborate spine on this dragon. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it. Again, no more paper mache. I’m fashioning details with paper (mostly phone book paper) and masking tape.
I twisted paper around pieces of small gauge wire. I tapered them to a point and wrapped with masking tape. You’ve seen me do this a million times. I started at the head and attached the longest spines.
I continued adding the spines down the back….all the way down the tail.
Next, I dipped pieces of cloth into the glue and draped it over the spines from top to bottom. I cut off the excess cloth while it was wet. I know that this looks easy, but it is actually quite challenging.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon: Head and Scales
I continued up the back to the wings and neck. Then I started on the front. First the feet, then the shins, then the thighs.
I then worked up the body and up to the head. This particular build I added scales up the neck even though I hadn’t yet sculpted the face. The photo below (on the right) shows the details I added to the face, the tentacles, the nostrils, and obviously the eyes and brows.
Below is a close up of the face after I added the cloth. I know it looks much the same, but look at the lips, the eyelids, and the scales. I’m very pleased with it. It turned out exactly as I envisioned.
Okay, so you haven’t seen Max for a while. This is a funny scene I caught with my camera. I haven’t had the dragon standing on the nest in a while. I worked on the face with the dragon on my table. I didn’t want to drip glue onto my nest. I had just put her back onto the test to get a couple of photos when Max came down to the studio. Lately he’s been jumping in the nest while the mother dragon was gone. He was going to jump up this time and the dragon caught him by surprise.
Yes, I get carried away with my cats. As I mentioned above, I’ve made a baby dragon as well. If you look closely, you can see him.
Paper Mache Sea Dragon: Making the Baby
So, in case you’ve ever wondered, which came first, the baby paper mache dragon or the paper mache egg…
it was the egg.
I used Jonni’s “paper clay” to make the shell of the eggs. That stuff is great. I just made some paper balls and put the paper clay on the outside. I wasn’t sure what size of egg I wanted, so I made a bunch, as you can see.
Once they were dry I sanded them. I didn’t care if they were perfectly smooth. After all, they are dragon eggs. Then I cut one open with my utility knife and pulled out the paper wad.
As you can see below, I just started with a few odds and ends of paper mache balls I had laying around. I didn’t do any kind of formal paper mache on the little dragon. I just sculpted with small pieces of paper mache and masking tape.
I hot glued on some eyes and teeth. I wrapped masking tape around wire to make the “fingers” of the little dragon wings.
I tried to add analogous features to the big dragon, like the spikes down the spine. Of course they would be the baby versions of the mom dragon. I didn’t take any photos of the cloth mache process. Suffice it to say that it took time and patience. Working small is harder than working large in many ways. Many times people will write to me wanting me to make them a “small” dragon. I’ve learned over the years that a request like that really means, “Make me something inexpensive.” The truth is, in many cases, it takes me longer to make something small than it does to make something large. Still, I enjoyed making this little guy.
Yes, here is my cheesy Photoshop effort to create her spot by the water.
I hope you enjoyed this build. Take care.