genesis of a dragon

Above is the completed dragon, one of a small handful of ‘beasts’ on the cover of Marly Youmans’ novel Glimmerglass, due out next year with Mercer University Press. Below, starting with a fully worked-up study, are the sketches and articulated maquette that were preparatory to the dragon. It’s interesting to see the chronology from first drawing to finished work. I don’t always make such comprehensive preparations for a design, though when I do I invariably find the process to be rewarding on multiple levels. With the final version I had to compress the figure slightly to gain extra space for the the author’s name to sweep airily over the tail and wing. I also used less black than in the study in order to ‘knock back’ the beast a little, the better to emphasise the lettering that I later placed above it.


Marly scatters a Historia Naturalis throughout the narrative, a trail into the heart of a mystery where iron griffins and curlicues guard a cottage gate, a plasterwork bestiary seethes across a ceiling, and trilobites are fossilised in the masonry of a house with a sea-dragon door-knocker and a labyrinth at it’s heart.

Above: tiny collage for making the leap to colour.

Above: the maquette. I didn’t really need a maquette for this project, but I love making them and the process helps me think.)

Above: study snipped and collaged from paper worked with acrylic paint.

Above: snipped and collaged from paper worked with acrylic paint.

Above: second Conté pencil study of head.

Above: rough Conté pencil study of head.

First study page from notebook. From the start I was envisaging a maquette, hence the segmentation and overlaps.

8 thoughts on “genesis of a dragon

  1. Pingback: Telling Tales by Clive Hicks-Jenkins | hedgecrows

  2. it’s fascinating to see how many iterations of the creature there are–they are all extraordinary, it’s amazing you were able to “let go” of any, to make changes… but the end result, is, to quote phil: ka-pow!!

  3. What a glorious dragon, and the colours are Ka- Pow! So like the trees I see flaming away in the bright autumn sunlight today

  4. Wow! it’s looking good!
    i’m liking the ‘beefed up’ snout in the final version!
    makes him look more imposing if thats possible.

    I just wondered what size you are working at Clive?
    i’m guessing that the final book will be roughly A5?

    • Oh my brain is addled this morning, and my first reply to you was utter gibberish, which I have now deleted and am attempting to answer coherently.

      Marly’s last title with Mercer Press was The Throne of Psyche, with a detail on its cover taken from an Annunciation painting of mine titled Touched. The book measures approx 23cm x 16cm. Using it as my template, I decided that to prepare cover art for Glimmerglass I wanted to work at twice that scale, and so the artwork… a detail of which is shown on this page… measures 46cm x 32cm. Front and back and with a 3cm add-on in the middle to allow for the spine, the wrap-around artwork measures 92cm x 67cm.

      So, bigger than you thought.
      Now my brain hurts! (tee hee)

      • Thanks for clarifying that Clive!

        I did have visions of you toiling away on a micro-masterpiece with your nose an inch away from the paper!

        I’m reassured that it is a more managable size now!

        • I’ve found that the story has worked on me in quite unexpected ways. It hangs in the air around me. There were so many images that would have been appropriate to ‘pick out’ as potential cover/illustration material. But I discovered that what stayed in my mind was a feel for the piece, couched less in the narrative itself, than in the mood of it. I wanted to represent it in a way that equates better with making a portrait not by painting a likeness, but by drawing attention to the beautiful silk of a waistcoat or gown, and the scent of a perfume or cologne. The sense of Glimmerglass, rather than something plucked from it and ‘shown’. Achhhh. I can’t explain. I’m far too clumsy.

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