Year of the Dragon 2012

Happy 2012! Here is my take on a Japanese new year's card (nengajo, 年賀状). Traditionally they feature the Asian zodiac animal of that year, 2012 is the year of the Dragon. Basically the bottom says Happy New Year and the top says 2011 and the final box below that is the character for dragon.

have i learned nothing? i am a fool and spent 4 hours working on that first color sketch and didn't explore the other compositions i had thumbnailed out. after thinking maybe i hadn't explored enough i fleshed out this 2nd color sketch. I spent like 7 hrs total on these 2 sketches. I forgot to mention that the dragon is probably the one card i was least excited to illustrate because it is so cliche and has been done by so many people and is kind of a symbol of bad taste and bros that love awesome dragons and yin yangs and nunchucks and have posters of scarface on their wall. We've all seen millions of images and tatoos of asian dragons twisting and looking awesome so i wanted to do a crop of a river dragon zooming along his river in a straight line instead of in the sky all twisty and turny. I wanted the feeling of if someone were to look out the window of the boat they would catch a split second of a huge dragon eye ball and scales zoom past the window basically at water level height. In japan dragons usually live in bodies of water like the ocean or rivers. i thought this was cool and interesting. Like that Miyazaki movie spirited away, that dragon was the spirit of some river in Japan. A huge dragon zooms by a japanese party boat, the kind i frequently saw on the sumida river in Tokyo. He is looking ahead (maybe to the new year?) and doesn't look like he is going to harm the boat at all. In fact they are the guardians of rivers and stuff. Dragons are also associated with spring in japan. What i wanted to achieve was to make it look like he is flying fast-ish, really close to the surface of the water. The shadow had to be created perfectly and the water movement had to be perfect too. I hate doing water movement and suck at it so badly, i can never get it right. The problem is that there was no proper reference for this kind of water movement. I know i've seen it before in some anime or movie where a missle is cruising 2 inces above the water or something. I even watched the scenes in a few Harry Potter movies where they fly close to the water but the special effects team always copped out and didn't show the water being effected by these wizards flying super close to the water. I even enlisted in the help of my fellow illustration collective to find reference but couldn't find any.

the shadow was super hard to get right and i never got it right. i even used google sketch up and taped together paper and a lamp.

had to cut this paper cuz I couldn't find the same weird size i found in china to match the other previous paintings.

gesso borrowed from Angel. you'll get it back some day.


i'll spare you the tedium of painting all the cherry blossom petals and transferring the drawing to the painting, so here it is after all that and inked in.

Here the colors are all blocked in and then i had to fly to NYC to accept an award at the Society of illustrators. hopefully i will paint all 12 asian zodiac animal cards through the coming years. So far this yearly card has been the 1 time a year i get to paint something and not use photoshop. I had this half painted and then due to some extenuating circumstances was unable to finish the painting in time so i had to clean up my sketch and use this all digital version. The momentum is gone, will i ever finish the painting? I have to i guess.

Posted byJason Raish at 6:11 PM  


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