Prologue: the age of dragons [+ video]

So many little bits of inspiration, learning, and growth went into this painting.

And I’m so excited to tell you all about it!

© 2019, Ailene Cuthbertson, Portrait of a Woman with a Hatchling. Giclée print of digital painting.
© 2019, Ailene Cuthbertson, Portrait of a Woman with a Hatchling. Giclée print of digital painting. Displayed at the Raglan Old School Art Centre during our Raglan Art Spring exhibition.

But when I sat down to write out the script for the behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ video, I quickly got stuck. Firstly, the goat on my lap decided that pens are delicious and needed to be chewed (my patrons got to see that particular video – helpful little fellow). Secondly, I ended up with enough script for a feature length film.

And thirdly, where do I start the story?!

Figuring out wyvern anatomy? Soaking in the Old Masters at the Sydney Art Gallery? Surrounded by swathes of glorious fabrics and gowns at the costume exhibition? Learning about Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age? Creating the stage for the photo shoot? Piecing together a reference image? Researching Rembrandt’s paint colours and palette? Experimenting with different oil painting brushes? Translating a Old Master painting process to a digital medium…?

I finally realised I should start at the beginning, of course. Hit play to watch my very own prologue!

Duration: 2 minutes. If you enjoyed this video, please like, share + leave me a comment on YouTube!

Why dragons?

Fantasy, science fiction, historical… my bookshelves are overflowing (quite literally) with these sorts of books. Which may not come as a surprise… you might have been seeing elements appearing in my art.

Artworks from my fantasy collection displayed at Welcome Swallow Gift Shop & Gallery, Hamilton East.
Artworks from my fantasy collection displayed in the Raglan Art with Risk exhibition at Welcome Swallow Gift Shop & Gallery, Hamilton East. (If you haven’t dropped in yet, the exhibition is on until the 27th of October).

I started reading fantasy and sci-fi early on. If you’ve ever read these genres, you’ll know (at least) these 2 things:

  1. Every time you pick up a fabulous-looking fantasy or sci-fi in a library or second-hand book shop, it’s going to be book 2. Of an 8 book series. And they won’t have book 1…
  2. It doesn’t take long before you’re tripping over dragons.

Amongst the books I read as a teenager, of course, there’s Smaug in Tolkien’s Hobbit. Anne McCaffery introduced us to Ramoth and Mnementh and a host of dragons in her epic Dragonriders of Pern series. Melanie Rawn had a whole valley of dragons in the Dragon Prince series. A poor dragon turns up in David Eddings’ Belgariad. Tad Williams had the Dragonbone Chair. And I’m sure there were plenty more that I can’t even remember! Were there dragons in Terry Brooks…?

(How about you? Got a favourite fantasy or sci-fi book with dragons? Let me know!)

Anyway, in those days, if you flicked through my school exercise books, you’d find little dragon doodles flying all over the margins.

Dragons even made it into drawings like this one.

© Some time in the 1990's..., Ailene Cuthbertson, Detail of Untitled. Pencil.
© Some time in the 1990’s…, Ailene Cuthbertson, Detail of Untitled. Pencil.

And poems too…

But, you know… all that is pretty silly and not for grown-ups. There were adult things to think about such as getting through uni, finding a job, paying bills, buying a car then a house, getting married, divorced, being made redundant… all the things!

So dragons, elves, dwarves, magic, and the rest of fantasy got put away.

Until they all slowly started leaking into my art. A river nymph here, a dwarf there, a sorceress with a magic staff… and then suddenly, a whole collection of joy-filled fantasy.

And now?

It’s time for the dragons to rise!

Keep on shining bright,

Ailene