-By Justin Gerard

After a week of shameless self-promotion, I am now offering a post with what is hopefully something more artistically useful…

For those of you who missed it, I had an artist’s booth at DragonCon in Atlanta.
For the show this year, I decided I would do a dragon mini-portrait painting.  (Do you get it? A dragon for…Dragon… ?  I know, I know, highly original. I am living right out there on the very edge of the fantasy art world.)

Anyway, so I started sketching. I was thinking, “This guy, he’s a huge dragon, and he’s really ripping this castle up; just trashing the place. And he is loving it. Yeah, yeah this’ll be great.”

As I went along I added a lot of smoke and more of the castle falling down around him. It was a lot of fun.

Then I finished the painting.  (It was watercolor and gouache on bristol, by the way.)

But it was missing something.  It was so…


I mean, I should have known right?  There is literally no story here.  And I felt like, surely I can do better than this. I’m a high school graduate after all.

There was just nothing of any substance here.  Sure he was real mad.  And that castle was getting real trashed. But there was no context for any of it.  I mean, who cares right?  I don’t even know or care whose castle this is. And the audience certainly doesn’t know or care.

I got kind of depressed about it.  How am I going to sell this at the show?  Everyone would be whispering at the booth unaware that I was spying on them.
“That Gerard is an over-rated hack.”
“Yeah he is. I hear he doesn’t even really paint anymore. Just talks about how great a painter he is on blogs mostly nowadays.”
“Isn’t he running some kind of pyramid scheme?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. But say, have you heard of Amway? You look like a smart guy and who would like to make a lot of money working from the comfort of his or her own home…”

Anyway, so I light the curtains on fire, crash my car, stumble off into the night and wake up the next day wearing a pancho, several garbage bags, a tear-stained face and a stray cat.  But with a resolution to not do such a boring painting.

On the flight back home I drew this guy. (Cory Godbey was there. Thanks Cory.) I had realized what I needed. I needed some kind of further context; some kind of irony.  

Like most people I read books, and when I do, I find myself imagining myself as the hero, the dude, the gunslinger, the knight. Who is it who is imagining himself as this giant, fire-breathing dragon?  And that is where this little chameleon comes in.

Now the piece makes more sense. It has a story to it.  It wasn’t much of an addition, but it works better now.

All in all I was much happier with the final piece and I think it did better at the convention for it. (We sold out the first run!) So I guess the lesson here is don’t be afraid to stop and think about the message in your piece before finishing it. Even if you have to do some reworking. Make it tell something good that touches us in some way.

We need more than just a picture of someone who is real angry.


ALSO: More shameless self-promotion: I am selling the second run of prints on etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/JustinGerard.