Yellow paint in his eyes and on the ground around his feet

Art: Toothless gulping fish (step by step)

I made a habit these last few years to hand-make my son’s birthday cards. This year I did something new: asking HIM what theme he wanted me to explore. Toothless, from the movie “How to train your dragon”, he said. Ok! I love this character: he’s in fact a cat. With scales and wings.

Grey toned paper taped with masking tape and the pencil sketch of a sitting dragon with a fish in his mouth

I started with a pencil outline on toned thick paper, the size of a postcard.

Dark blue gouache paint applied in the background

Then I mixed my Holbein Artists gouache paint: Prussian blue and ivory black and added titanium white (just a teeny bit), which I laid on the paper. I made sure to be as precise as I could

Darker blue and lighter blue applied on the dragon and where there is light on him

I mixed further my blue mix: more blue and black for the areas of the dragon that were in the shadow, and more white for the parts of the dragon that were illuminated.

Yellow paint in his eyes and on the ground around his feet

Then I used leaf green mixed with with to paint the grass underneath and his eyes.

Thinner yellow in the background to represent light rays

Here, I had a very precise idea of what I wanted to achieve and it turned out I just could not! I wanted rays of golden light falling in the background. I mixed some yellow watercolor paint (I don’t have yellow gouache) and white. And there was no way I was able to get the yellow to play well with the blue background. I had thought that once the background was dry the new layer was never going to be change by it: big mistake.

Brown and light brown added to the rocks

So I ignored the yellow rays mess, mixed a bit of black and white and painted the dark parts of the rocks. Then added more white to the mix and painted the light areas of the rocks. I used some of those mixed on the ears. I added details using black for the pupils, white to accentuate the illuminated areas.

More yellow added to darken the light rays

At this point, I had wasted both time and yellow paint 🙂 None of the strokes would produce the gradient I wanted because either the moisture of the paint turned the layers to green, or the new layer was unblended and it was going to look bad.

I covered the yellow rays after all and now the background is shades of blue

So, I returned to my early mix of blue, black and white and covered as much of the yellow rays as I could. It gave some texture to the background. I painted the bit of the fish that sticks out of the dragon’s mouth.

Masking tape removed, white lettering added to wish my son a happy 13th birthday, dated in signed.

Final result with lettering done with a white Posca pen. I hope he likes it! His birthday is next Monday.

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