web analytics

Big Cats and Small Dragons

I got a chance to work on the Dragon Quilt of Doomity-Doom-Doom and managed to finish up the first block!


Each of the blocks will feature the three colors my niece asked for (blue, gold, and green) in different positions. So each will have a different color border, and I’m deciding if I want to do the same ombre effect (thank you Sarah @ {no} hats in the house for the inspiration!) or mix it up. I will probably mix it up since the quilt is turning into something of a technique sampler.


I’ve finished the sketch for the second of the three dragons (other than maybe a few changes to the tail). On the quilt, it will be reversed, since this is appliqué. Some of the inside details will change (like the left foreleg) but I will draw the changes on the appliqué itself when it’s time to stitch. I only draw them in on the interfacing paper so that I can make sure everything is in relatively the right place for the outside line.

I was in a discussion recently with Gillian, who has finished her first drawing class. She is learning to draw from reference, but wants to learn how to draw from her imagination. This was always a mystery to me, but as I’ve been asking around and drawing more, I’ve found that the truth is that you still draw from reference, but then you modify to suit your needs. I certainly did this with the dragons in this quilt, and I thought I’d share a bit of the process in case you want to do something similar.


For these dragons, I had a general idea of a pose I wanted (cautious curiosity for the first one, sitting for the second, and the third will be curled up asleep). Following in the footsteps of many artists before me (Leonardo Di Vinci and DreamWorks to name a couple), I modeled the body of my dragons on cat poses. In particular, I looked at big cats, because they have a bit more stockiness than their domestic relatives, which is the look I was after.


For the face, I looked at alligators and crocodiles, and the expressions are built from human faces for the eyebrows, and cat faces for the eyelids. (Doing a google image search for “sad cat” will make you want to snuggle all the kitties, by the way.)


I also reference skeletal structure a lot, especially if I want to move limbs to a different pose. It’s helpful for proportion, knowing what bends what way, and where things jut out and how.


Not that I always get it right. For the first dragon, I made the body too long, and had to cut a chunk out of the middle of the interfacing to get the appliqué the right length.

A quick note on copyright: I’m not a copyright lawyer, and copyright is confusing and tricky. If you’re planning to sell a drawing or a quilt you make using references, use your own photographs or use lots of different references and modify heavily (definitely don’t trace). Even if you aren’t going to sell it, you should be conscious of copyright issues. If you want to trace or copy closely, look up creative commons license and learn how to find images covered by it. A good source for searching images available under creative commons is here: http://search.creativecommons.org/ If you are ever in doubt, consult a lawyer. Disclaimer done! 🙂

Hopefully the second block will come together more quickly than the first. I’m running out of time on this quilt!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday with Lee @ Freshly Pieced.


I love comments, and respond to each one!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 thoughts on “Big Cats and Small Dragons”