Julian Jardine Ceramics - the making of a Red Dragon
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Julian Jardine - the making of a Red Dragon.

Lots of people ask me when I will next be making a dragon, always popular and known for being possibly the best trophy in the Magic the Gathering trading card game after I made a huge green one for the Scottish Nationals. Well I finally got round to putting another together and here is how it came about.

© Julian Jardine Normally I have an idea in my head, I simply pick up a piece of clay and try and get it into the shape I can visualise then go from there. However for this piece I had sketched out a very rough idea of what I wanted to do, many people find sketching out ideas first a great advantage so if it works for you give it a go.

© Julian Jardine The shots above show the initial stages of the build, basically sculpted round a hollow tube; you will see a vertical slab which helps take the weight of the neck and head. The large support underneath is gradually whittled away as the piece dries, cut away latter but kept in place during the firing to stop the piece slumping under its own weight.

© Julian Jardine With the body very roughly built in by adding pinches of clay to the tube and eventually sealing it up to trap the air, I am now moving on to roughing out the wings. These are left unattached so they can be fired separately (as my kiln is not this big). This also has the advantage that they can be removed to allow the hidden body parts to be finished.

© Julian Jardine I gradually build up the wings, then leave them for a few hours an build them up a bit more. This allows the clay to firm slightly so they don't constantly collapse.

© Julian Jardine In order to fix the underside of the dragon I need to work the support loose early. To do this I rest the piece on top of a bin liner filled with packing chips, like a soft bean bag it allows you to settle the piece into it without causing damage. I can now add in detailing below before gently resting it back on its supports.

© Julian Jardine I remove the wings and set them to one side while I concentrate on the body. I initially made the head like this but later altered it as this was not the look I was hoping for. The rest of the tail has been added as a long gradually narrowing coil of clay.

© Julian Jardine Spines are rolled out, inserted into the body with slip clay (wet runny clay) and fixed into place with a small sausage of clay to make it look like they protrude from the body.

© Julian Jardine The extremely lengthy job of scaling involves mapping out the pattern, then remove a small amount of clay from the front facing corner of each diamond. I use an old scalpel or scraper board tool to do this.

© Julian Jardine It is important to follow the flow of the scales down legs and vary the size to fit the location and give the surface texture a good and believable variation.

© Julian Jardine After drying for about 2 weeks the completed model is placed in the kiln and fired to 1150c. The dragon is then glued together using araldite and Milliput modelling putty is used to cover the join seamlessly with the body. Once dry this forms an extremely strong bond between the different elements. It is then undercoated in black completely so that all the recesses will be dark when I start painting it its final colours.

© Julian Jardine After covering the dragon in variations of dry brushed red, I work on the underside and inner wings with a kind of light leather/ parchment colour.

© Julian Jardine The spines, nails and teeth are all undercoated in flesh pink, once you apply additional ivory coloured layers the pink gives the horns an excellent health looking root. The final touch after doing the eyes and adding varnish to the spines is to very gently apply a small amount of gold rub to the piece to give it a nice metallic glint.

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