Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book

Sadly, all the pictures I drew myself that went with this post vanished into the inter-ether. As I threw away my drawings and deleted them from my computer, there isn't much I can do about it.

I believe firmly that a few gentle tips can make a huge difference to a beginning artist. For instance, when I was little, my mother drew an endless succession of paper doll princesses for me to color, all with their arms stuck out at 45 degree angles. Being a good, docile child, I thought this was how the human form should be drawn until I was 14/15, when finally someone asked, "why do all your people have their arms sticking out at 45 degree angles?" It was incredibly liberating to move arms around. Likewise, when I was nine I was given "How to draw horses." Almost immediately, my horse's rear legs went from this to this. Definite progress, although more is needed-- my horses to this day are all standing still and looking left.

On occasion I draw dragons for my boys to color (strangely they don't want princess paper dolls). I have lots of stuffed models to copy, but I feel tremendously inadequate when I attempt the writhing, horn-festooned dragons of high fantasy. So I approached Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book (2007, Charlesbridge) in a hopeful spirit. (Masiello is also the illustrator of Jerry Pallotta's alphabet books, which are being requested incessantly these days at my house. Despite this, until I read the fly leaf I didn't have a clue who Masiello was. Other households must pay more attention to the names of illustrators...He has also done bug, dinosaur, and ocean drawing books, which makes sense, as each of these topics has its alphabet book).

The Dragon Drawing Book is lovely to look at. Masiello includes colorful finished dragons of his own, and very nice they are. I also liked the Useful Map showing where all the dragons he draws can be found--these are not just your common garden European dragon, but rather Dragons of Many Lands. I for one am greatful for every opportunity to promote geography and multi-cultural appreciation.

Masiello's approach is to go line by line, until suddenly you've drawn the lines and have the dragon. This is in marked contrast to the "find the geometric shapes" approach I've seen in other drawing books, where you block the figure out and then add detail and erase. Presumably the user of this book could sketch the basic shape on their own, and then add the clear lines Masiello suggests. In my "after" picture, I didn't do this, but perhaps should have.

Even though my kids are too young to do the drawings as outlined, they liked leafing through the book, and perhaps it will inspire them. My six year old ranks himself 3rd in his class at Dragon Drawing, and, not that I'm competitive on my children's behalf or anything, tied for best would also be nice. Especially since only three of them draw dragons.

Here is my Before picture:
This is "Raineater." He looks like a stuffed animal because he is.

Here is my After picture, drawn quite quickly in pen with no erasing:

I ran into two specific problems. For each drawing, Masiello provides lines to copy. In the beginning, it is not at all clear what the line is supposed to be, and so what seems like a small difference between your version and his can end up being more problematic than it might seem. That's why my tail is so scrawny--I thought it was ok to end it early, not realizing it was supposed to continue. I should have studied the final product, sketched it a bit, gotten some idea of what I was trying to draw.

My other problem is that I am really bad at repeating abstract patterns, which is why the scaly part down the tummy gets pretty out of focus on mine, and which is also why I chose not to include scales. However, I think, if I practiced, I could draw pretty good copies of his dragons, and then I would have a repertoire of 11 cool dragons.

Would I, at that point, be a better "dragon draw-er?" I think yes--I already feel a bit more ready to tackle wing structure. A book like this is perhaps the drawing equivalent of learning to dance by standing on someone else's feet--by copying their steps/lines, you get a feel for how things should go.

Charlesbridge is holding a really cool dragon drawing competition in honor of this book --see here; sadly, I'm too old.

NB: I received my copy of this book from the publisher.


  1. The after picture is very impressive, but the first one is not without its charms!

  2. Hey there! Thanks for using my Dragon book. It definitely is of a higher level of skill than my Bug Drawing Book or my Ocean Drawing Book. I have tested all these on much younger kids than the target audience of this particular book and many of them were quite able create a nice dragon. It is so cool to watch kids create their own dragons. They add so much more to theirs than I could in my book, which is precisely what I hope for. I don't want clones of my work. I want my books to be like "stepping-stones" to their own creations. See what I created, then create your own in your own way. In fact, I really love that your Wyvern drawing is NOT exactly like mine. The quirkiness of the lines are what give it personality of its own.
    My personal favorite in the book is the Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent. It is simple, colorful and fun to draw.
    I hope you'll look at my next drawing book which will be published in 2008. It is The Ancient Egypt Drawing Book. After that one, I think I may do "Aliens". What do you think?
    Your artist friend,
    Ralph Masiello

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Masiello! That is exciting news about the Ancient Egypt Drawing book! We are looking forward to it--after dragons, my son's greatest interest is Ancient Egypt. He has been working on his dragon drawing, taking ideas from the book, and now feels that he is tied for second.

  4. I could send you a picture or 2 from the Egypt book, if you like. I think it may be the best one of the series so far!
    I do have a few on the "gallery" page on my website.


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