200 DRAGONS ELENA HUTCHINSON
200 DRAGONS IMAGES AND STORIES ABOUT CREATURES WITH WINGS AND CLAWS
THE PROJECT DURING my sophomore year of college, I took my first Design class. I went in thinking I was going to be photoshopping up a storm — back then I didn’t know what InDesign was, and thought Illustrator was a niche tool for the masochistic weirdos who liked to trace celebrity photos for kudos on DeviantArt. I had all the wrong expectations. Mostly we just mixed colors in gouache and painted 4x4 squares of bristol board. Not going to lie, it was a little bit miserable. After making color wheels by hand, mixing greyscales and tertiary color scales, we were finally given a little bit of freedom with our final projects. One of them was known as the infamous “200 Sketches” project, wherein, somewhat obviously, we were forced to make 200 sketches before choosing a final composition. At the time, 200 sketches was an unconscionable sum. I was convinced that I didn’t need ten, let alone 200 iterations to make my best work. I was rather wrong, but it would take me many projects to realize that.
THE PROCESS I FEEL most creative when I’m making a mess. There’s something electric about cutting and splashing and scratching. I guess that’s why I decided to revisit this project. I spend too much time at my computer, pulling digital images around my backlit LCD. I missed the energy of making things by hand. I missed transforming into a human tornado of ink-stained knees and papercut fingers. The first time I did this project I was sharing an apartment with four other girls, and I drove them absolutely insane. I splashed our kitchen table with India Ink; art supplies prevented people from sitting in chairs; my cutting mat was either conspicuously splayed across the floor or occupying a place where somebody wanted to eat their dinner. Needless to say, I was universally hated, and maybe rightly so. I think it’s essential as an artist to have a space that is yours, to respect and destroy as you will. Worry makes you afraid, and fear padlocks your creativity. You already have to worry about deadlines, about the quality of your work, so why worry about keeping things clean, too? Let loose. After a few hesitant sketches, the floodgates will open, and you’ll start making your best work.
WHERE TO EVEN START? Find a way to organize the madness. I like matrices, a lot. Basically, I come up with several different strategies, and then force myself to create a certain number of executions for each. In the 200 Dragons project, I decided that I would employ twenty techniques, and make ten compositions each. Hereâ€™s a sample to the right. 1. Inkblots blown with a straw, Stefan Boucher-style. 2. Lonely inkblots. 3. Fingerprints. 4. Palmprints. 5. Running inkblots (tilting the square). 6. Leaf prints. 7. Subtractive (water blots on black gouache). 8. Pipe cleaner prints. 9. Bubblewrap prints.
FÁFNIR PANTHEON: Norse RECORD: Volsunga Saga LONG AGO, there lived a drawf called Hreidmarr who had three sons. The oldest, Ótr, was gifted with the power to change his shape. He spent most of his days in the form of an otter, greedily eating fish by the riverbank. The second brother, Reginn, was a blacksmith, wise and deft of hand. He built for his father a great and beautiful house made of gleaming gold and gems. But the youngest dwarf, Fáfnir, was the strongest and most fearless of the three. He guarded his father’s house against all who would dare to steal its riches. ONE DAY, three of the great gods went hunting: Odin, the all-father; Hœnir, the man-maker; and Loki, the trickster. In their travels they stumbled across an otter, busily gorging itself on a fat fish beside a churning river. “Do you see that creature, there?” called Loki to his companions. “What say you that with just a flick of my hand, I can slay it with a stone?” “A silly boast, but do as you will,” snorted Odin. Loki picked a small pebble from the ground, squinted at his target, then threw. His aim was true. The stone struck the otter and crushed its skull, killing it instantly. The gods then gleefully skinned and ate it, keeping its pelt as a trophy. They continued on their way. Evening drew near, and the gods thought to seek
shelter for the night. As they searched the wood for a safe place to sleep, a glimmer of light caught Loki’s eye. He beckoned for his companions to follow. They approached the light, and soon they came upon a house of glittering gold, nestled in the thick of the woods. Odin knocked on the great gleaming door. It slowly swung open, and an old dwarf peered from within. “Ho there, old one! Have you room for three tavelers this cold and dark night?” bellowed Odin. The dwarf narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps,” he croaked. “Perhaps for a price.” Odin frowned. “I fear that we have not come with gold in our satchels. Perhaps you would be interested in the spoils of our hunt?” Loki grinned with pride and brought forth the otter’s pelt. But at the sight of the animal’s skin, the old dwarf’s eyes grew wide, and he let out a long and frightful wail. “Murderers!” he shrieked, raising a gnarled finger to accuse the bewildered gods. “You have slain my son!” “I have slain nought but a common river creature,” answered Loki indignantly. “Fool! My son was a skinshifter! You hold his dead flesh in your filthy, filthy hands!” The dward’s voice and hands quavered with rage and sorrow. As the old dwarf screamed, two other small and bearded figures shuffled into view from behind the great door, roused by the commotion. “Now see here,” began Hœnir, placing a hand on Loki’s shoulder to stay the hot-headed god’s rising temper. “My companion slew the otter — your son — without any knowledge of his true nature. Truly, it was an accident, and for that we beg your forgiveness.”
“Murder is murder!” cried the dwarf, flecks of spittle foaming his beard. “And murder has a price! Reginn!” One of the small figures nodded, and he quickly scuttled back into the depths of the house. Odin eyed the dwarves nervously. “Surely we can reach some sort of agreement,” he ventured. “What can we do to compensate you for your loss, to atone for our crimes?” The old dwarf’s eyes bulged, his lips pressed tightly together. “Weregild,” he whispered at length. “You will pay me with gold for the life of my son.” Loki scoffed. “Gold for the death of a stupid otter? All-father, why are we negotiating with this haggard old wretch? Let us be on our way.” Just as the scornful words left Loki’s lips, four golden chains issued from the darkness behind the door. They whipped around the arms and legs of Odin and Hœnir, pulling them to the ground and slowly dragging them into the house. The gods screamed. “All-father, break free!” shouted Loki with confusion. “Do you think I would lie writhing here if I could?” snarled Odin, struggling against his bindings. “But I don’t understand,” mumbled Loki. They were gods — few things in this world could hold them. The old dwarf turned his yellow eyes to the trickster god and pointed with a gnarled finger. “You, impudent one,” he croaked. “You will fetch me my weregild, or your companions will never go free. My son Reginn is a master blacksmith, and these chains forged by his hands will never break.” Loki nodded, speechless with disbelief. “I require as much gold as you can fill into the skin of my son,” spat the dwarf, eyeing the otter’s pelt with