Sunday, 24 July 2022

The Dragons of Wales

Dragons have featured a few times on this blog already, even though I have no particularly strong interest in them; well, no more than in other fantastical or unusual animals. Earlier posts are here, here and also here. The last times 'dragons' popped up in this blog had to do with how the prototypical dragon has two wings as well as four legs, not exactly typical for Earth animals. The most common Earth 'wing plus legs' combinations must be 'six legs plus four wings' (insects) and 'two legs plus two wings' (vertebrates: birds, bats, pterosaurs). As dragons are typically large, let’s forget about insects as dragons; even 'dragonflies' are dragon-like 'flies', not fly-like dragons, so they don’t count. Adding extra limbs to vertebrates to form dragons is not at all likely to happen naturally. Of course, three pairs of limbs are the norm for large Furahan animals, so dragon-type flying animals merely requires turning one or two pairs of limbs into wings, which is exactly what happened on Furaha. 

Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge
Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Back to the dragons of today's post; they live on Earth, in Wales to be precise, and have two wings and two wings. They do therefore not need magic at all, or perhaps it is best to say they did not at first. Just read on… 

The 'Dragons of Wales' are called that because their creator lives in Wales, where dragons are part of national mythology: the Welsh flag even has a nice red dragon on it. I came across these Welsh dragons by accident and immediately liked them. I am surprised I had not seen them earlier, as Andy Frazer, their creator, does his best to make them visible. Andy has produced several books on dragons already, using Kickstarter to get the funds to do so. 

So, what kind of animal are these dragons? The book cover above provides a clue; the animal is small, covered with fuzz and has two wings and two legs. The skeleton drawing reveals that the wing is supported by just one finger, so it definitely a pterosaur. Andy confirmed that his dragons were from the start indeed small evolved pterosaurs, descendants of a group that luckily did not die out at the end of the Cretaceous. Andy speculates that their ancestors survived because of their small size and because their specialisation allowed them not to be outperformed by birds, and, much later, by bats. 


Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

These two magnificent specimens show that Andy manages to produce very attractive and also realistic minidragons. Both sport interesting crests. Before you object that no flying animal should have such ridiculously large crests, have a look at some real-life pterosaurs, such as Nyctosaurus. Nyctosaurs are the kind of real animal that no designer of fantasy animals would dare produce because no-one would believe that such animals could exist. I like the way the colours are used to associate the animals with real animals. Here, the images evoke butterflies and bats. Parts of the animal are not standard pterosaur stock, though; the grasping tail is a nice original development, even though a flying animal might not need an anchor, as falling out of a tree won’t harm a flying animal much. 


Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Andy is definitely not afraid to use colour. The red-banded dragon looks like a poisonous snake, with its high-contrast bands shouting 'danger'. The green one uses colour in the exact opposite way, to hide itself. It probably does not do so to hide from its predators, but from its prey, making it a nice example of aggressive mimicry. I love its toad-like demeanour, and wonder whether it is filled with air, as a massive animal would have difficulty becoming airborne. 

Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

These dragons look a bit menacing. They occur in the book 'Dragons of the Dark Woods'. The darker atmosphere is by design and is most obvious in the other example above. This dragon bears sticky worm-like tentacles on its face, something no pterosaur is likely to have ever had. It is here we see that Andy is abandoning the pterosaur ancestry to a degree. I asked him why, and he replied that the change was deliberate. He wished to increase appeal by producing darker designs. His project is, after all, not a pure artistic scientific endeavour but a commercial project too. In fact, quite a few of the dragons originated as suggestions by backers of the Kickstarter campaigns, which necessitated a degree of compromise. One day, Andy wrote, he would like to take things in the opposite direction and produce a book of wholly believable creatures with accurate pterosaur anatomy, probably based on Anurognathes (I'll buy it!). 


Copyright Andy Frazer; click to enlarge

Andy has recently started a new Kickstarter campaign: Dragons of Deep Time. The overall theme is again moving away from palaeontology, but in another, more mystical, direction: these dragons live so long that they gradually blend with rock and wood. 

The illustrations in these books are excellent. Andy told me he starts with a pencil drawing, which he then photographs. He draws over the photograph digitally, using Procreate for iPad. He adds photographic textures to add detail to key areas. The backgrounds are likewise produced using photographs. Many people, including well-known dinosaur illustrators, also mixing paintings with photographs. While that sounds easy, it really isn’t, as you often see a visual clash between the various parts of an image. Andy obviously manages to avoid such clashes. He uses a final layer of digital painting to bring the dragon and its environment together, including cast shadows etc. 

I hope that readers will like the Dragons of Wales as much as I do. Many images are readily visible on social media, so if you want to see more Dragons of Wales, simply copy and follow the various leads below. You will not be disappointed. 


 PS 1. I apologise for being late with this post. The reason is that I am preparing to move house, which takes a lot of time. 

PS 2. A selection of Furahan paintings will feature in the Art Route Leiden ('Kunstroute Leiden'), 24-25 September 2022, Leiden, The Netherlands. Many have never been seen outside my home. The plans include me being there to explain some of the ideas behind the work, and there will be a chance to buy high-quality prints for the first time too. More news is to follow. 




Bob said...

Good luck moving Sigmund! Please keep us updated on the Kunstroute. Would be great to meet you there.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Hi Bob,
The website for the 'Kunstroute' will provide all necessary details, but is not complete at present. The galley where my work will be shown has yet to be added. But I will provide the information on this blog too.

Unknown said...

You've nothing to apologize for.

All the best to you and yours; keep safe and travel well and move in well.

And thanks for the recc of these books.

-Anthony Docimo.