View Full Version : Realistic beasts

John Keates
05 May 2005, 09:03 AM
I am drawing a dragon at the moment which is something I havn't done for a long time. My sense of anatomy has improved now which makes it difficult to continue. I can understand how a dragon could work if it had no fore-limbs, but I just can't get my head around the anatomy of an area with both wings and arms. It just wouldn't work.

Do you ever get fustrated by this?

Maybe it is because I am reading "what does a martian look like" which is about scientific specuations about alien life.

To me it seems important that my imagery is really believable. I think I am going to have to loose those arms...

05 May 2005, 09:14 AM
Hi :) i think you will do what you are doing now. I want ask you somethink. Can you give me a link of that book which are you reading now? Thanks a lot! Good luck and inspiration for you :)

John Keates
05 May 2005, 09:43 AM
Sure, there is a link to amazon here ( . But you are best off looking for the amazon of your country. There is a reference to a book by Schmidt...who ever he is which might be good to. I am finding the book generally quite good but a little rambling.

05 May 2005, 09:53 AM
a *dragon* is a mythical creature,although *komodo dragons* do exist,so i think ur free to make up most of it,the only significant thing that always stands out is the head.

do a google search for chinese dragons or sumthin,they are the best type.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:09 AM
Hi Noob,

The fact that is is mythical doesn't mean that I don't want it to be possible. Things mean so much more if they are possible.

Imagine a story where the good guy wins because he can just walk through an army of men shooting at him. It makes the story less good in my view. If it is believable then everything means more. I feel I can learn more from it.

Yeah, Chinese dragons are much better. They actually do exist in a kind of a way because people dress up as them and run about the place. I can't imagine anyone dressing in a flying dragon costume and flying around.

05 May 2005, 10:13 AM
lol i don't mean cos it mythical u shudn't draw it,i mean it is mythical so feel free to make it up urself,draw ur own idea of a dragon.theres no right way to draw a dragon.

05 May 2005, 10:16 AM
I've always thought that the best solution to that six-limb problem is just to stick to four. (But am I correct in assuming that you've solved the four-limbed dragon and now you want to go with the six-limbed one?)

Think about those pre-historic (probably more than just pre-historic) birds that climbed around with a claw in the second joint of the wing: that's what I'd go for in dragon anatomy.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:17 AM
Well, it has to fly and it has to pick things up... and I kind of want it to look like your bog standard dragon. I already layed out the composition and everyghing but now I am looking at it and thinking "this can't work". I think I will stick with it anyway as it is only a jokey peice but I was just wondering if other people had this kind of thought.

I guess it is a matter of drawing the line. You can't take physics too seriously because then you loose out on expression, but there has to be enough believability in there. I guess we all have our own thresholds.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:20 AM
Hi Kargokultti,

Is this a common problem then? The "six-limb problem" as you call it? I can see how a lot of people would come up against it.

Actually, I have this weeks new scientist and it has a picture of a beautifull fossil of a feathered dinosoar. I think I will use him as a model for my next dragon and leave this one looking improbable.

05 May 2005, 10:21 AM
hmm have u tried a google search?

05 May 2005, 10:23 AM
What if it picked stuff up with the hind legs? Like maidens? Hm. The poor lass would most certainly get the worst of it when the creature landed.

Yup, there's certainly many things pointing towards six limbs.

05 May 2005, 10:35 AM
I'm working on this very issue right now for a winged humanoid.

Something to consider is that insects have found no difficulty fitting in more than four limbs. This suggests a couple of possible solutions:

-Segmentation: I'm not suggesting segmentation exactly like an insect, but maybe add a third support structure akin to the hips/shoulders for the wings with appropriate underlying musculature.

-Partial exoskeleton for added support.

You could also go with reduced forelimbs that require less bulky musculature, like a T. rex, though this would limit it's carrying capacity.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:51 AM
I like the t-rex solution.

Certainly insects are far less limited, partly because of their segmentation but also because they are so much smaller. Physics works different for them and they don't need nearly as much muscle to get about.

Infact, there is a certain size below which insects don't have to worry about gravity and they can stick onto ceilings using the electro-static force. Most insects are below this threshold size.

However, insects can't get larger than the size of the largest stag beetles as they don't have a very efficient respirotary system. This was different millions of years ago though as there was much more oxygen in the air.

05 May 2005, 12:35 PM
This is a fun brainstormer! :)

OK, uhm...I'd go for double shoulder blades or a fixed one...make the neck somewhat shorter with a blunt head shape, maybe bulldoggish, the ribcage could come a little back relatively to allow fur muscles strapping over from fused bones belowand in front of the ribcage towards the muscles in the back. It's doable I say.

05 May 2005, 01:02 PM
Well the only problem actually is gravity. The way traditional dragons are represented at the sheer size they would collapse in on themselves. Check out the size of an elephant's leg bones. Could you imagine the power needed to get an elephant off the ground? Dragons must have used magic as turbo chargers to take off:).

I reckon you are worrying too much John. Its really good to be conserned bout accuracy but since dragons mainly exist in our flights of fancy let him go all the way. The thing I have noticed about most 'good looking' mosters is a general adherance to conventional anatomy with the hell tweaked out of the details.

Post it as a wip it would make a great title and I think you would generate lots of fascinating participation,... 'does this dragon exist'?

Good luck man and have fun:thumbsup:

John Keates
05 May 2005, 04:46 PM
Yeah, I am probably worrying too much. It's just the way my brain works. I am thinking of posting a WIP and will say here if I do.

05 May 2005, 04:54 PM
ill be honest here and i thought at first glance the topic was 'realistic breasts'.. a mans mind eh !


John Keates
05 May 2005, 05:56 PM
Yes, I would say that gravity is the main consideration when portraying realistic breasts. Of course insects don't have such a problem.

05 May 2005, 08:07 AM
Why not just give it two rib cages? One for the wings, the other for the arms. Or an elongated ribcage so it will have enough room for two sets of arm/wing muscles.

05 May 2005, 11:12 AM
dammit!! i thought the post said 'realistic breasts' :sad:

05 May 2005, 03:57 PM
Damn you, John Keates! Now I can't help imagining the evolution of a dragon! :banghead:
Here's what I've come up with:

Once a dragon hatches from its egg it has weak, immature wings. Like a bird, the wing muscles strengthen over time until the dragon is able to fly. The wings are in the place of a front set of legs so a baby dragon's skeleton is comparable to a bat's. It uses it's hind legs for grasping objects, including its prey (bugs, birds). The ability to fly keeps the baby dragon safe from foxes and other land bound predators.

Over the next 100 years, the dragon will grow considerably in size and weight. Its wing muscles will fully develop and the bones within will thicken to the point that it will become a foreleg. This dragon will no longer be able to fly, but will crawl on the ground. It's scaly skin will now be stronger than chain mail. Its sharp teeth, claws, tail and firy breath serve it well in both hunting and defending itself from any predators (or men) foolish enough to attack it.

This dragon is not to be confused with the Leapin' Lizard (see "Little Orphan Annie") which has connective tissue spanning from its front leg to its rear leg. The Leapin' Lizard literally leaps from trees and rocks and glides through the air with the greatest of ease.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:01 PM
I am reading an article about dinosoars. It turns out that loads of them had feathers. In fact, T.Rex evolved from a feathered dinosoar. Hows about that. Feathers were about before flying though so no flying T.Rexes.

05 May 2005, 11:47 PM
There's a book somewhere out on the market that I believe is called “Flight of the Dragon.” They treated dragons in the following manner. They were actually hydrogen balloons. The wings could be disproportionate because they were used for steering and thrust, but not for lift. It also explained the flame. When they choose to come closer to the ground, or needed to protect themselves, they could empty these bladders with some additional elements in their saliva to make furious flames. It has affected a lot of recent fantasy fiction.

P.S. As you can see, I used the double shoulder method myself.

05 May 2005, 01:20 AM
I think you are going to have to go down to the skeletal level if you are going to come up with a satisfactory solution. Just merge the shoulder/chest area of a large lizard skeleton with the necessary skeletal points from a bird (or flying dinosaur) to support the wings.

Without having really studied it, I would surmize that the biggest issue is setting the wings far enough away from the arms so that the massive pec and lat muscles for each don't overlap; The fairy-style wings mounted between the shoulder blades won't realistically work on such a large creature.

05 May 2005, 05:00 AM
this is my first post to the forum, but this topic has bothered me as well for quite some time.

years ago, i was trying as u did, to figure out how a dragon like creature will be possible. if anybody who is doing this will eventually get stuck, because we think that they are mamals like us.

kinda like elves for that matter. they can do all sorts of incredible things for their thin body types, because they are more effiecient in skeletal and musclature structure. in my mind, dragons are the same way. if u think along the 'mamal' way, there is no way something that size with that much power physically can fly with just two wings.

so in order for it to fly, their physcal attributes have to be different. dragons lay eggs, but have wings like bats. so it's a bird like mamal. but there has to be something different in their muscles and skeletons than ordinary mammals. perhaps their bones are mostly hollow which makes them light weight and structurally sound, or their musclature are much more effiecient than human beings. not even all mamals are alike in the way muscles and tendons attach to bones. like the arms of apes, their tendon connects at a much higher place on the bone than humans, that's why their arms are much more powerful than an adult male, but are much smaller in size. same reason why cats can jump higher and cheetahs can run faster.

with that said, one must decide whether a set of rules should apply or not to the creature that's being designed. if u attach the muscles like the muscles of the bat, obviously it wont work. because u don't have the extra spines and clavicle to support a set of working arms. i mean yes, the arms are attach to the clavicle and rests on the ribcage, which is supported by the shoulder blade that's connected to the spine via muscles. but the bats clavicle have much more range of motion. so *adding a ribcage for the wings isn't viable.

what i would suggest is instead of adding wings, try to add extra arms. because u need two sets of shoulder blades, one for the arms and one for the wings and it just doesn't work according to our understanding of mamalian skeletal structure. but if it's a bird, it's much doable, why? because the huge muscle and chest can be extended to allow a new set of arms to be added under the wing's armpit position. see where i'm going with this?

think of a man's skeleton, in the front view, u add an extra set of arms under the armpits, but in the side view, the upper set of arms(which are the wings) are further back towards the spine, the lower set of arms are aligned with the front end of the body's profile. you will have to change the curvature and size of the spine near the chest area, to accomodate for the second set of shoulder blade. and the ribcage has to change shapes as well. you will have an odd looking shape where the upper part of the rib cage rests(from the side view) in front of and below the upper set of arms, and extends to the front profile. kinda like birds where their chests points outwards and from the top the ribcage should form an oval curvature.

the upper clavicle are now attach closely to the spine with a lot of muscles, the second set of clavicle are modified bones from the ribcage, maybe the second or the third ribs. the second set of shoulder blades is supported by a few fused rib cage bones that are connected to the spine. *note that the fused ribs in the back does not extend fully to the front, at least not one of them, because the one that breaks forms the clavicle for the lower set of arms, which is connected to the sturnum. the sturnum is not flat, it should somehow be a shape that can support the protection needed due to the special shape of the ribcage.

in the front view the two shoulder blades should overlap in the vertical plane. from the side view, they offset each other because of the curvature of the spine, the upper in the back, the lower in the front.

muscles for the lower set of arms near the *clavicle(the modified rib) can either attach to the spine or the sturnum or both. it's entirely up to u. the muscles for the back can be a bit tricky. just make sure each one is accounted for and has a purpose. the wing should span downward, connect near or below the waist.

that's what i've come up with for the dragon type creature, at least it's workable for me. it's good to know that someone else shares the same enthusiam about fantasy creatures. hope this helps.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 10:25 AM
Hey, gsentineld,

That is an amazing analysis!... or at least what I followed of it was. Do you have any drawings that you can show us? I find it kinda hard to build a picture of what you are saying and I think that a diagram will speak a thousand words in this case.

05 May 2005, 04:58 AM
if i had a picture, u think i'll spend nearly an hour trying to type that reply????????

jsut kidding.. i have some old drawings somewhere, i'll have to look for it.

how about if i create a few bones in max to show u?

do u have a specific part that u need clarification on?

John Keates
05 May 2005, 09:34 AM
I will have another read before expecting you to construct something.... I didn't twig that you probably didn't have a sketch at hand.

05 May 2005, 09:43 AM
lol yeah i see ur problem ,subspecies souch as wywerns are easy to do burt dragons r six limbed, i myself found a way to go round it by attaching wings onto his shoulderblades, it is a good way o do so cause it leaves plenty of space to develop muscular structure. im making a fantasy comic so im trying to rethink the dreagon concept, there are possibilities of making dregon that makes natural sense in more than one way, i made one that is based on the movement of a squid and trust me it works, u see what im getting at, u can make it work as long as i have reality in mind, best of luck man

John Keates
05 May 2005, 09:58 AM
I just had a thought... If we are going to be REALLY anal about this then we should think about how the thing might have evolved. In which case, certain types of mutation are not possible. The thing would have to have viable stages running from whatever it started out as towards the dragon.

There are certain types of mirroring mutation which uccur. Siamese twins are an example of this. But I'm not sure if that would work in the way discribed.

It uccurs to me that this might have all been worked out before.

05 May 2005, 11:12 AM
Dragons Thread (

I'm not gonna give any answers...

I've not actually read through the whole thread...

But there's some great interpretations of dragons and dragons' anatomy on this thread over on concept art. I was thinking of adding to it myself...

05 May 2005, 06:04 AM
i'm not sure if i follow u on that siamese twins thing. did u mean that somehow a mutation occurred and the joined bodies are able to pass the genetic traits onto the offspring? and mutation keeps going until many generations later it takes on the appearance of a dragon?

please clarify, this is interesting..

i am working on a rig that somewhat resembles a winged dragon with four limbs. it's more of a practice for me to learn how to apply controllers and experiment with IK solvers. when i'm done, i'll post some pics, if ur interested.

John Keates
05 May 2005, 12:58 PM
I guess I was just thinking that a lot of mutations are to do with repetition and that siamese twins are an example of this. There is a line of symmetry that runs down most people (down the middle) and this line can be made to uccur at a different place or an extra mirror line may uccur. So extra limbs might be a possibility (indeed there have been people born with extra arms/legs).

John Keates
05 May 2005, 12:59 PM
dOh yeah, duddlebug, cool thread. Will have to study that one. And gsentineld, I would be interested in seeing your rig.

05 May 2005, 04:28 PM
I saw a program on channel 4 once that explained how dragons flew it was to do with the fact that certain bacteria creat hydorgen as a byproduct of well food, anyhow so if dragons had this in their stomachs as well as an extra set of lungs then they could probbably fly because the hydrogen would expand their stomack making them lighter this in turn would make it easy for their wings to get them into the air. I can't exactly remember all the details I think it was called the last dragon or something. Oh and to has how they breathed fire the answer for that is platinum, it acts as a catalyist to Hydrogen making it ignite. They then have a flap at the back of their throught to stop the back flash of fire. It was only sci-fi but it is based on scientific theories, so you never know??

John Keates
05 May 2005, 05:44 PM
I remember that being on but I missed it. It sounds interesting.

I have been thinking that it would be cool if there was a place on the net where people could discuss this kind of thing with scientists (probably is). Wouldn't it be great if there was a kind of creature workshop where whole eco systems etc are worked out?

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