Drogon the Dragon – a Sculpting Tutorial

In this guest post, Franziska Schaefer gives us the detailed instructions for reproducing her small sculpture of Drogon the dragon. Thanks, Franzi, for showing us how it was done! This is an incredibly detailed sculpture, and a real treasure. (Click on the images to see a larger version).

©2018 Franziska Schaefe

Making Drogon the Dragon

Dogon sculpture tutorial

Some of you may know the series “Game of Thrones.” It’s based on a fantasy novel with knight and dragons and my aunt is a big fan of it.

So I thought she would be happy about a gift with connection to this series.

I searched the net and found many nice DIYs for dragon eggs. I tried and the outcome was pretty OK, but I had the feeling something was missing.

First I thought to place it in a nest or a treasure chest but then but then I had an idea: “What’s an egg without a dragon?”

My aunt likes “Drogon” the dark brown, black reddish dragon best, so I already made his egg (it has the same colour) and decided make him next.

But how?

I wanted an easy not expensive way to sculpt a dragon. Again I searched the net, I found many cool designs – but not practical for a beginner who doesn’t want to spend a fortune for materials at first try.

I searched till I found videos with Dan Reeder and his paper mache Dragons and they looked really great. So I did a research on paper mache and found Jonni’s site. Her technique with patterns caught my attention. For me, who never did anything like that, I thought it would be easier with some kind of skeleton as the basic design for guidance.

I decided to use Jonni’s way of using a pattern for the basic design and also her recipe for air dry clay for some modulations, the claws and horns. For the wings I tried Dan Reeders technique with cloth mache.

Making the Dragon Egg

Make a Dogon egg.

Materials:

  • 1x styrofoam egg (ca. 14-16cm)
  • ca.500 drawing pins
  • acrylic paint red, brown, terracotta, white, black
  • acrylic effect paste
  • brushes

I placed the first pin in the bottom middle of the egg and then placed the next pin slightly overlapping the first. I wanted to create a circle around the middle pin. Each pin should slightly overlap the pin “below” it and the one to the left of it. I continued in this way until I got to the top of the egg.

My lines got a little crooked, I didn’t want them to be symmetrically. In some DIY they use glue for the last pin to secure everything but I didn’t have to use glue. I used acrylic effect paste to crate rough surface on the bottom. I painted everything with dark red acrylic paint. I created a colour gradient from brown to red bottom to middle and black to red from top to middle. On the bottom I used the terracotta acrylic paint for highlighting rough surface.

Making the Eyes for the Dragon

materials to make a dragon eye.

Materials:

  • 2x Raindrops (Acryl ca. Ø5mm)
  • 2x printed picture of a dragon eye (ca. Ø5mm)
  • dark red paint
  • scissors
  • glue
  • brush

The photo on the left above is the finished eye glued to the head and fixed with toilet paper for brows and cheeks.

For the eyes I used raindrops made of Acryl Ø5 millimeter approximately and a picture of dragon eyes I modified to my needs.

After I had changed the picture of the eyes to my liking I printed it out. It has to have the size of the raindrops. Then I used a scissor to cut it out. With glue I fixed the eyes to the flat bottom of the raindrop (face to the top). I finished it with a drop of dark red paint on the back over the paper to fill the gap between the paper and the edge of the raindrops.

Putting the printed eye on the acrylic raindrop.

Sculpting Drogon the Dragon

The size of the dragon I wanted to be as similar to the young dragon in Season Two as possible.
The size of the dragon should also correspond to the size of the egg.

Materials:

  • cardboard
  • newspaper
  • Jonni’s Silky-Smooth Air-Dry Clay
  • florist wire
  • toilet paper
  • acrylic -, paint, effect paste, effect crystal
  • cotton wool ball (different sizes)
  • print-out paper
  • clear vanish
  • styrofoam ball (different sizes)
  • Elmer’s glue
  • scissors, cutter knife
  • tape
  • flour (mixed with water)
  • pencils, brushes

The first step was to draft a pattern; therefore I used one of my templates of the young “Drogon”.

Dogoon pattern

Pattern for the dragon's head.

At this point I didn’t know how I wanted his pose to be. So I was thinking about a way to make the basic design as flexible as possible.

I made some kind of ball joints to give the skeleton the flexibility I wanted. Then I connected everything with a strong yet flexible wire.

I wanted the dragon to link with the egg. In the end I decided to let him sit on the egg in a protective pose. When I made the dragon egg I had one Styrofoam egg left untouched, this I used for fixing the pose I wanted.

Dogon with egg, posing the armature
Posing the armature of Dogon the dragon, back view.

Note: Maybe I didn’t use the right tape. The grip of it wasn’t strong enough so I had to rush with making the first layer of paper mache.

I only did two or three layers of paper mache before I started with the wings. I did the layers after work so that between each layer it had a whole day to dry.

Dogon beggining to get paper mache.
Dogon the dragon, with paper mache
The back of Dogon with paper mache.

For the wings I used Dan Reeder´s technique with Cloth Mache. I soaked a piece of cloth in glue, mixed it with water and squeezed out the spare. After this I placed the cloth over the wires of the wings and pressed it on the shoulder. I used scissors to cut off some of the spare cloth and trimmed more carefully after it had dried.

The cloth mache wings for Dogon the dragon.
Dogon's wings with cloth mache.

Note: Because I wanted to save some money I mixed glue with water. Also I didn’t tape the wire of the wings. In the end there was no grip between Cloth Mache and wire. I had to tape the wire onto the Cloth Mache and covered everything with a thin layer of toilet paper. Afterwards I bought and read Dan Reeder’s “paper mache DRAGONS” as there was some more things I could have done better.

The wing armature for Dogon the dragon
Attaching the cloth mache to the wire in Dogon's wings

But after I finished the painting I thought the toilet paper gave a nice effect and it almost looked like some veins.

Painted wings on Dogon the Dragon

I wrapped tape round eight pieces of wire, four toes each foot. Then I taped four pieces together.

I pushed the spare wire of the feet into the leg wrapped everything with tape and one layer paper mache to connect them together.

With the paper mache still wet I set the dragon back on the egg and matched the feet and claws with the shape of the egg. After it had dried I made a second and third layer paper mache and did the same fitting as before.

The wire for Dogon's toe armature.
Adding claws to Dogon's feet.

I made some conceptual designs for the right position of the eyes and marked them with a point and glued the eyes to the head and fixed them with toilet paper for brows and cheeks. (See the eye section at the beginning of the post).

First I wanted to use the toilet paper only as basis for the paper mache Clay but I liked the uneven and rough texture and didn’t want to cover it.

Positioning the eye for Dogon sculpture

The teeth and the tongue I made out of packaging material leftover from chopsticks. The ends are pressed together with a … profile that gives a realistic effect to tongue and teeth ridge also it´s firm and keeps the shape of turning it.

For the tongue put a taped piece of paper into the throat. I cut the tape into a triangle and only taped one side of the tongue to the throat. It was a bit difficult and I need use needles because my fingers couldn’t get in “Drogons” small mouth.

The teeth I glued outside of the head and laid paper mache over to make lips, jaw and buccinators. Next I used more paper mache and toilet paper to design the nostrils and face.

Adding the teeth and tongue to Dogon's mouth.

After working on the head I got back to the feet and claws now I used Jonni´s Air Dry Clay to cover the feet and claws and made some knuckles. I did this more than once and also worked with sandpaper to get it to my liking.

Adding Jonni's air dry clay to Dogon the Dragon.

While working on the feet I worked on the dragon’s breast plates. I applied one small strip of folded print-out paper over the other as I worked my way from neck to tail. Every time I added a piece pinched it in the middle to

By finishing the dragon I realized that “Drogon” didn´t have this kind of breast plates so I covered most of them with paint.

I added Spikes, out of wire and tape and paper, on the top of the brows and made a thorn crown, out of packaging material and air dry clay, beginning on top of the head to tail.

Also I made more layers of toilet paper to make a smooth transition of the different kinds of material (clay, cloth, print-out paper, newspaper etc.). I added more spikes at the tail and claws at the wings and after covered everything with multiple layers of toilet paper it almost looked like a white dragon.


Create a Dogon sculpture
Dogon sculpture with spikes on his back.
Before painting the paper mache Dogon figurine.

I started to paint the mouth and then everything else.

I don’t think there is much to say about painting because everyone has different kind of technique as long it works for you it’s fine. I worked with acrylic paint in different shades of brown, red, white and terracotta. I black washed it two times.

I also used acrylic effect paste, acrylic effect paint crystal and clear varnish for finish. The acrylic effect paint crystal gives off a nice wet effect to the eyes, throat and tongue.

I think I used a bit too much clear varnish over the body because it reflects too much light and also almost looked wet.

Note: Dan Reeder´s technique to cover the eyes with paint and later scrap it of is not working with eyes made of Acryl.

Dogon sculpture getting paint


Dogon being painted.

To get an idea of “Drogons” size here you see the dragon sitting on a normal coffee cup (before I used the clear varnish).

Making the fire of a dragon

Making fire for Dogon sculpture

Material:

  • 3x sheets (ca. A4) plastic packaging material
  • 1x plastic cup
  • spray cans (red, yellow)
  • hot air gun
  • potted cup without handle (for premoulding)
  • scissors

For the Fire I used some plastic packaging material, a potted cup without handle, a plastic cup of the same size, spray cans red and yellow and a hot air gun.

I cut three sheets of the plastic packaging material and cut the edges in a fire like design.

After this I molded the sheets around the potted cup with the hot air gun.

I let it cool down to use spray cans for colouring. The dominant colour in a flame changes with temperature. Near the base, where most burning occurs, the fire is white, or yellow. Above the yellow region, the color changes to orange, which is cooler, then red, which is cooler still.

I placed the plastic cup in the premoulded middle and cut off the top till it was not visible anymore. I used the hot air gun to debur the sharp edges of the plastic cup and coloured them as well.

In the end I placed the egg onto the plastic cup and the dragon on top of the egg.

Dogon Dragon Sculpture

Note: Colouring the plastic packaging material I wouldn’t do next time because the paint is peeling off to easy. Maybe I would use already coloured PVC sheet.

25 thoughts on “Drogon the Dragon – a Sculpting Tutorial”

  1. Ja und der stolze Besitzer dieses Drachen, bin ich jetzt !!! Tausend Dank, liebe Franziska ?????????????

  2. That is one cool dragon! I can’t believe you’re a beginner – this looks so difficult. Great job and thanks so much for the tutorial.

  3. Thank you for a very inspirational post. I love the dragon (who wouldn’t) and the way you thought outside the box to create this wonderful piece of art. I appreciate that you took the time to show us what you did, what worked and didn’t, and a detailed process.

    I agree, too, about taking care of you Aunt. She must be over the moon. Wonderful.

  4. I’ve been waiting for this since seeing his picture on Daily Sculpture. Drogon and his egg is very impressive. Thank you for the tutorial. I especially like your use of ball joints to make positioning him on the egg easier. Very clever idea.

  5. Wonderfully crafted. Great job. You are very talented. I really like the eyes but the whole project is great

  6. Hi
    For someone who has never worked with paper mache before, you have done a great job. I love your courage to have tried something so challenging. I love dragons myself and I thought it would be a very difficult thing to do. After seeing your tutorial, I’m inspired. Your details out of never-thought-of materials are amazing and I’m already starting to collect. Thanks so much for sharing and take care of your aunt, she’ll probably went through the roof….well done Franzi

  7. Hello Franziska,
    How are you? You’ve created such an amazing dragons d your detailed instructions are superb!! Love your tips and can’t wait to follow up on them. Thank you !!!!

  8. Hi Franzi, Wonderful sculpture! Thank you so much for sharing the process. Great ideas for making the egg and the eyes, not to mention the dragon. I was very surprised to read this was your first attempt at paper mache. After seeing the photos, I had to go back to the beginning of the article to read that part again because I thought I had not read it correctly. Impressive results.

  9. Fantastic work.. and a great result. Thank you for sharing your process, it’s really interesting to see the steps you took..and also your comments about what you would do differently. ?

  10. Bellissimo il servizio illustrato per la realizzazione del dragone con il suo uovo .Grazie per le spiegazioni .

  11. Hi Franziska,

    I am an artist in Belfair, WA. USA. I love your dragon. It is especially impressive since it is small and much harder to work on. I was interested to see you used 2x Raindrops (Acryl ca. Ø5mm). What is this product? I have never heard of it before.

    I have a website: pattart.wixsite.com/patartweb. if you’re interested to see.

    Paper mâché is my main medium for sculpture right now. I have been using polymer clay for the eyes on animals so your Acryl sounds interesting.

    Keep up the good work,
    Pat Wilson

    • Hi Patricia
      I looked at your site and was really impressed, I liked everything.
      How did you do the big sculptures that are standing outside?

      The rain drops are a product for decoration and I bought it in a shop near my place but you also can buy it over the net, here is a link.

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