Last Ride


Hello all

This started out as a sketch of an old dragon that I just really liked, so I’m going to paint it. The idea is an old dragon and his rider about to take to the air one last time. It’s sunset, of course. I’ve gone back and forth a few times re the composition. Here are a few of the ideas; I’m hoping for some critique re the composition and colors. You’ll note the fist one is an animated gif, I’m not sure if the dragon should be leaning to the right and eager to fly, or holding back and leaning to the left a bit because it’s not about excitement anymore.

Thanks much



I love the last pic. Warm colors, isolated I think it fits perfectly.


nice mood you got, i dig the clouds and color pallet

but what bothers me a little and i think would greatly improve your character is giving the dragon some neck area. the way it is now just seems to me that the dragon has little or no neck and the rider is about to fall anytime, as if the dragon was bending down to expel it’s rider. i hope i was able to express myself and you get what i mean

anyways keep it up :slight_smile:


I think it’s because of the perspective. The “downward” curve of the neck is still hidden behind the head.


Ok, another sketch, detailing up the idea that Bouke liked a bit. I’m torn because compositionally the 1st one in my last post (the animated one) is probably stronger; but I also like the isolated feel in this one. More to ponder before I make a decision…
C+C always most welcome.



I feel the third one in your initial post had without a doubt the best feel and composition to it. In addition, I also prefer him leaning a bit to the right (our right) such as is the case in your most recent image.

I feel eternally frustrated looking at an image where both dragon and rider are looking/pointing off at something in the distance, even if all it is IS distance, but having the image end RIGHT where they’re pointing at just a foot or two away. Honestly, does anyone else not find that frustrating?

The third image in your initial post has a good sense of motion and flow to it, eye moves from dragon and rider, along the riders arm into a series of wonderful clouds (and perhaps a seaside view or whatever else is out there if the canvas was extended a bit farther to the right), into whatever else is out there - the sky, presumably, their destination.

I feel the pose with him leaning a little more to the right such as is in your last image, doesn’t necessarily make the dragon feel more confident, simply more solid. A bit more epic, and less wonky than leaning left as in some of the others.

Hope that helps.

Edit: In addition, one more reason I opt for the above, is that I don’t feel “isolation” is the intended feeling we’re supposed to recieve from the image. That type of isolation makes them both look defeated, broken, as if they’ve given up and are sitting on a rock for no other reason than sitting on a rock. In addition to the above, I’d perhaps stop the dragon from hunching over - perhaps give him a bit more of a neck and have him looking off in the direction his rider is pointing - are riders and their mounts not supposed to move, think, like one? Surely to have traveled so much together, they wouldn’t be at opposite ends - rider saying “off we go!”, Dragon saying “…hrmph.” Yes?



Thank you for your most thoughtful reply. Re the positioning: it is supposed to be frustrating :slight_smile: Traditionally, reading from right to left (as I do) leaves the image, and the story, ending abruptly as you’ve noted. One solution would be to have at least one of them looking back to the left, or as you’ve noted moving them wholesale to the left third of the image. Part of my thought in going against tradition here is that I want the story to end abruptly. They haven’t got a destination, well, besides dying that is. It’s not called “Last Ride” for nothing; they are both very very old and this will be the last time they go out, one way or another. Which is why neither of them look very perky or enthusiastic. Once I get to actually painting it their age and weariness will become, hopefully, more apparent. Of course that may not rationalise the unbalance and I may end up shifting them left anyway :slight_smile:

thanks again




Just a quick update, here is a sketch of the rider’s face. I was going for weary, a bit sad, or resigned. Not sure I managed it. Anyone who wants to paintover any spots to help me along is much appreciated !



Here, I suppose, is the source of my confusion.

If they’re both old, weary, and don’t want to go.

Why in the world are they going?

I can think of two reasons. The first being, they actually have something they need to accomplish, in which case I’d expect to see some sort of determination, even a glimpse of it, overriding their weariness.

The second being, that they know they’re approaching the end of their time, and fond memories of their adventures together have led them to want to go on “one last ride”. Which would make this a very important, if emotional, task. In which case I’d expect to see a hint of reminiscence - an attempt for one or both of them to find what little passion or youth they have left in order to accomplish this “one last ride”.

However, I fail to see either scenario. I just see two old, worn out creatures, who apparently don’t want to go anywhere. And that’s apparently what you’re going for. The old, the weary - those without drive, or passion. They DON’T go on “one last ride” just for the hell of it.

Which again, begs the question.

Why in the world, are they going?


The short answer: to die. In the air as riders at least, not on the ground.

I note your two possible ideas are inherently positive. Unfortunately, your view of possible reasons is, well, pollyanna-ish (I mean absolutely no personal disrespect when I say that). The world is far more complex, and far more murky than that for most people; and while I believe in hope and redemption, I can’t ignore what I see around me every day. Until very recently, historically, most people died in pain from infection, disease, starvation, murder, etc. Far too many still do, and not just in developing countries but in the west as well.

So the idea of fond memories can be one reason to take such a ride, but not everyone has them. Some people have just had existance, or duty. Some people have lived their lives in thrall to authority of some form or another, or have suffered abuse and degradation most of their lives, and come to believe they deserve it. Some aren’t strong enough to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and smile at the world. Sometimes, the only choice they feel they have is how, and when, to die.

I meet these people every day. It’s not completely pointless, but it is about choice and finding power where it can be found.

Having said all that, it’s only a small part of the image for me, part of the background of how I think; mostly I liked the idea and the original sketch, and just felt like painting it :slight_smile:

So, if you put your confusion aside, look at the face: have I captured the emotion I described in my last post?




His face is full of hesitation, though mostly out of fear as opposed to weariness or depression. Somewhat like a puppy sitting with his owner in a vet, who’s about to be put to sleep. Though I’m not sure that’s what you were going for.

I am not a stranger to the “murky complexities” of life. However, I fail to see how flying around is going to kill them or how anything in this world affects what’s going on in the painting. Unless they intend to just fly around until they can’t fly anymore and then plummet to the ground for the sake of it. In which case, great, I suppose. But there is still lack of reason. Why are they weary, or jaded to the point of wanting to die? They are not people in this world, they are two different beings with their own story that up to this point is blurry at best. It’s a rider and his mount. Most people would kill to have a dragon and ride around, yes? Where they meant for battle, have they experienced death after death, assisted in it perhaps?

Right now we have a dragon and his rider. Who apparently are going to fly around a whole bunch, and then die for some reason. Either by lightning strike or hurling themselves towards the ground or…something, because they want to. They’re supposed to be too tired and weary to really give a crap, but apparently have the drive to fly miles into the air so that they can somehow die as a result. How a rider and his dragon manage to get abused to the point of feeling worthless is beyond me. Then again, I suppose if you have your very own pet dragon and still manage to convince yourself you’re being abused and that life isn’t worth it, then perhaps dying for the same inexplicable reasons is very appropriate and fits the pattern.

In which case.

Anything really works. Because regardless of which people in THIS world want to be depressed, regardless of who can’t pull themselves up from the ground enough to smile, keeping in mind there are also those who can’t even pull themselves up enough to die, - the world we’re supposed to assume from the painting does not display or give any hint of these things.

I recommend fleshing out the appearance of rider and dragon a little bit more, in an attempt to give some semblance of information given their past, so that the painting as a whole fits the mood you’re going for. Such things as their outfit, scars, physical signs of abuse or warfare, etc. These things would be very helpful in getting the idea across.


Hi Twolisten

I think we’re going to just have to agree to disagree as to whether or not my conceptualization of their emotional state has validity. I think it does, because I’ve met these people. I don’t have a problem with viewers saying “Why does he have that expression on his face?” After all, it has certainly sparked a brisk conversation between us!

Having said that, thank you for the feedback on his expression -you are right, it does look apprehensive, and that is not what I was after.

thanks again



Cool… nice background!


Love the concept and idea. I am doing a similar style with a woman and her pet dragon. I hope this turns out fantastic, take care for now, can’t wait to see more!


Tremeroz and Shogun - thank you!

I’ve varied the face a bit, love the liquify tool ! A bit closer but still not quite I think…



A few people had commented on the dragon’s pose, so I did a quick zbrush model (using the zsphere dragon (available for free on their site) as my starting point. Not wonderful anatomy skills I know, but after doing this I do think the pose is believable as originally sketched. C+C always welcome.



Hello all

I’ve tried to look at grayscale thumbnails to see how they read with only dark/mid/light, to address Quigleyer’s concerns over on Also used it for an opportunity to look at different coastlines in the background. Any thoughts people could give me as to readability/composition much appreciated !



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