The dragons are taking slow, quiet baby steps

By the time I share an artwork in progress with you, it’s usually pretty much done… From the initial spark of an idea, to a printed and signed artwork, it takes me months!

I’ve been percolating this particular idea for… well… over a year. It’s still so unformed, I don’t even know where I’m going with it yet. And I guess it’s possible you may never see a finished artwork happen. But I enjoyed creating this, so even though I’m finding it rather scary to show you this early in the process, here goes!

Designing the skeleton of a monster

A year ago, I was visiting my art school, The Learning Connexion, for graduation. And while I was there, I had the chance to do a block week course. Of course I chose to be making mythical creatures!

It sounds awfully cliché, but yes, I made a dragon.

Ok, nerd fact for the day. It turns out that if the creature has 4 legs and 2 wings, then it’s called a dragon. Which means anatomically-speaking, it has 6 limbs. And, well, reptiles and mammals only have 4. Right, so let’s be more ‘realistic’ and have a dragon with 2 hind legs and 2 winged arms like a bat. Except then it’s not called a dragon, it’s a wyvern…

So, I made a wyvern.

The skeleton is based on a horse’s body with the forelegs replaced by bat wings. Here’s the drawing of my skeleton template with marks for the joints. I cut and bent wire along the line curving from head to tail, and along the lines for each limb.

Layout out and bending the wire to shape along my template.
Layout out and bending the wire to shape along my template.
My wyvern wire skeleton put together and standing!
My wyvern wire skeleton put together and standing!

Putting on muscles

Next, I wrapped on tinfoil to bulk up the rib cage and the large muscles over the back and hindquarters. Mainly because it’s quick, and then I don’t have to use so much sculpting material!

Wire skeleton wrapped in tinfoil. The wyvern is taking shape!
Wire skeleton wrapped in tinfoil. The wyvern is taking shape!

Sculpting the skin

Then I smoothed on the skin layer and built up the muscle definition. At this stage, life drawing came in handy to figure out the chest and arms. The rest was inspired by horses and big cats.

That blue stuff is plastalina – a oil-based modelling clay. It doesn’t dry so it’s perfect for travelling artists who know their maquettes are going to get squished in transport!

He survived, and here he is: my wyvern.

My wyvern maquette.

My wyvern maquette.

What will I do with him? When he’s not basking in the sun getting his photo taken so I can do quick paint sketches, he’s been sitting on my desk and staring at me… I’ll keep the ideas percolating.

I’d love to hear if you enjoyed this. And if you know of any 6-limbed reptiles or mammals, I’m curious to hear what they are!

Keep on shining bright,



  1. How nice to see, that you’ve taking an exploration of something a bit different and you say “taking…baby steps”. Interesting how ideas start within and then slowly evolve out into the wider world…

    hi, I’ve finally got a dedicated spot for art and inspiration OR why/where/etc is happening. okay it’s not something really grand but it isn’t for anything terribly personal.

    I’ve just returned from exploring some of the South Island, an unexpected turn of events led me away from home…

    1. Aw thank you Catherine! Yeah, creativity is quite a process isn’t it? Sometimes it just takes time…

      I love your website! It looks like you’re being very creative yourself. I hope you enjoyed your South Island trip – are the leaves turning golden yet?

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