Ugin and the Dragonlords Custom Playmat

 Welcome back to another episode of attempting to fit large, flying, mythical creatures into a 12 by 24 inch space. Yes today we will be talking dragons (not literally becoming talking dragons – talking about them) as I look at the Ugin and the Dragonlords playmat.
Get Ugin and the five Dragons of Tarkir Dragonlords onto a mat (thats clearly a band name which explains why the colour scheme ends up very similar to the Blue Eyes Ultimatemat), the planeswalkers Sorin, Elspeth, and Sarkhan should be riding Ugin.
Initial Thoughts:
Right off the bat there is an issue of scale. If we make the walkers the central focus then theres not much room left for the dragons, conversely with the dragons as the focus the walkers will be end up being quite small. Best to keep this in mind while working on the sketches.
Secondly if the walkers are riding Ugin what does that mean? Do we draw him in a typical dragon flight pose with them on his back? How will that affect his look since he’s got more of a humanoid body layout?
Thirdly how the heck am I going to get all these wings on here and not end up obscuring more relevant details?
A great deal of time was spent drawing thumbnail sketches, trying out various layouts then narrowing down the list of options. Quite early on I discard the idea of having all the dragons flying along on some sort of sky background since then everyone ends up tiny to get everything in. Next out goes the idea if the walkers on Ugin’s back, I don’t like focus and there are some odd angles. For some reason I get inspiration from those WW2 American recruitment posters Ugin Needs You! So now the walkers are going to have to sit on his shoulders. He only has two and we are trying to avoid the image being too symmetrical so one is slightly further away from us that doesnt leave much space for three large people. Well he’s got a hand free theres an empty space in the lower right of the image that could work.
I’m finally getting a better sense of how I want these dragons personality’s to come across. Red / Black wants to be zooming along so lets try and get some sense of speed maybe a swooping motion. We have enough space available to have at least one pair of wings in full view, what do you mean she has two pairs?
Theres no way Blue / Black is going to be exerting much energy if he doesn’t have to, anywhere on the ground is fine.
They are dragons so there should probably be some breath attacks somewhere. Red / Green seems the best choice, fire and all that, also we want bulk and a sense of strength. Theres a large space in the bottom right free which means…
We need to balance out the image so the other bulky dragon has to go in the opposite top corner. Have a breath attack to mirror the other? Perhaps though Red / Blacks wings fill that role. Going to have to work the White / Green dragons pose around Ugin’s pointing finger though, perhaps landing? Reminder to look up falconry.
Which leaves Blue / White. Keep it flowing. Inquisitive, what do Planeswalkers taste like?
Final layout.
I’m going for something slightly different this time since the wings and breath attack form a useful box that draws your eye around the image BLACK. I mean there are still going to be spirals in it, duh, but they aren’t whats holding the layout together the RED lines show a number of them but there are vortices all over the image.
Ugin needs enough image space to have room for not only his own great bulk but for walkers to hang on. I decide to draw him being released from his cocoon since it means I wont have to draw his legs. One of the weird things about Ugin, and Bolas is that they have been depicted in art at a variety of scales from slightly larger than human to towering monstrosities. If I’m going to fit the Planeswalker’s on him then Ugin’s going to have to be closer to the later and if thats the case we can making him look bigger by placing our viewer lower in the image, as if we are looking up at him, BLUE. Since Ugin is also the main focus of the image we are going to have him as central as possible.
Hey look the GREEN lines show us everyone more or less fits within the rule of thirds its almost like I planed it that way. We are also trying to keep the dragons away from the page edges, its not entirely been possible since there are arms and wings going everywhere but for the most part their bodies don’t touch the edges.
Walking Through The Air.
I scan the mats into the computer to do most of these blog posts. As you can imagine an A4 scanner isn’t as large as a mat so it involves combining six separate scans into a cohesive whole. It also has the side effect of showing up the mats underlying fabric structure which while interesting in its own right does slightly distract from other details. The trade off of course is that if I just photographed the mats I may not get all the details in the first place. I think in the end it comes down to what your trying to show and for me and this post it apparently means beards and fly away hair.
In the above image we zoom right in to look at the details on the walkers, keep in mind these are really tiny details, in the face boxouts we are looking at areas somewhere in the region of 1cm square so theres not a lot of room. The main goal then is not to try and add as much detail as possible but to draw something that implies what you want it to when viewed at from a more natural distance.
Lets take Sorin’s head as an example. It’s a blue square with a dark line that may imply cheekbones, a ‘L’ shape that may be where the edge of the nose is, two dark ovals and a slightly lighter splodge where the eyes are expected, and a thin line that could be construed as a mouth. Its not really a head its a series of marks but because of the way our brains lie to us thats what we interpret it as. As an aside its always amusing to see who Facebook thinks characters you have drawn are, its sort of nice as an artist to know a computer at least thinks these marks on the page are vaguely human shaped.
The box next to that is interesting also since it shows how the fabric doesn’t always scan the same in each section. Putting the whole image together tends to be easier if you scan each section the same way up.
Whilst these areas are very small you can still use light and dark to try and recreate certain effects. If we draw little ‘>”s in a darker colour on Elspeth’s armour it gives the impression of scale mail. On the other hand the little black bump on the side of Sarkhan’s hand is probably just a tiny bit more detail than we actually need, its meant to be his thumb but we could probably expressed ‘hand’-ness without it. Its all about striking a balance, make sure to move between working close up and looking at you image from a distance.
Finally since they are riding a large once godlike dragon lets mess their hair up a bit to give more of a sense of movement. Elspeth may or may not also be slightly concerned about her armour melting. As she should, we are dealing with ‘Ugin and the Dragonlords’ they know how to turn it up to 11.
Until next time… I want to make a rock the dragon pun but the Dragonball mat was a few posts ago.

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