The Dragon's Breath: Art tutorial & step by step process.

The Chinese water dragon represents protection, the source of all knowledge. A guardian to the immense riches of the world.
The dragon's breath literally represents 'the essence of life'.
 This was a birthday commission for a strong, deeply intuitive lady. Someone who I felt carried within her a connection to that dragon energy.

A step by step guide to how I created this painting (the full image can be found below) follows...

1. The image of the woman standing to one side appeared in my head from the start, & I knew I wanted it to have a water dragon reference (as it is the chinese year of the dragon, & it also resonated with me for the client), so I set to work finding reference pictures to work from. I often merge numerous images to create the exact pose I want by piecing them together in photoshop, or drawing the original pose & then changing it.
 I begin with very rough scribbles & thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook to get the ideas from head to paper. Then I get it drawn onto the watercolour paper...

2.Using various blues (Prussian blue for the favourite!), I sprinkle some salt across the wet paint to represent the sea. It can be a bit hit & miss with salt, some pigments work better with it than others. Wait until it's dry to brush it off!

3.Loosely fill in the base colour on the clouds & her dress...

4. Now it's beginning to take shape & I can get a feel for how it wants to go. The sea greens of her dress & the dragon spirit really felt as though they needed no detail added...I liked the smokey, dreamy feel.

5. I painted the clouds in the same way I had previously in 'White Tara', with different hues & highlights, as the design was taken from ancient Chinese art. And I began to add detail to her hair with very thin strokes of creamy white & browns to give the effect of strands of hair. Add extra highlights in blocks to areas on the top, or the back to show the shape of the head, combined with darker shadow around the base and neck where it is naturally shadowy.

6. Using the same technique with a very thin brush, fill in tiny white strokes to give the impression of  transparent fabric. Use darker greys & blues to fill in the odd shadow to suggest a knee & a calf.

7. I had to reign myself in from adding too much detail with this piece, so once the stars were all added (using white gouache paint, as it is thicker than watercolour. I also use white acrylic.), I used gold leaf to bring the stars on her dress to life, and smudged some pastel pencils across the horizon for extra smokiness.

'The Dragon's Breath'
Watercolour & gold leaf

Reproduction art print can be purchased here..


  1. Wow. Amazing stuff.

    So very talented :)

  2. Thanks matey :) Year of the's a good one! xxx

  3. loved reading how you created this! I find it to be incredibly beautiful and mystical.

    when you sketch first on your page does the graphite smudge with your painting? I have trouble with this at times.

  4. A beautiful painting - I love the colours and the gold stars on her dress.

  5. Thanks Tammie, that's lovely to hear!
    In answer to your question, I've never had the graphite smudge with the paint, but I try to keep it very light and if it's too dark I take some off with a putty rubber first!
    I quite like artists who can leave pencil marks that show through, it can be very effective. :)

    Thank you for your lovely words Rowan! xxx

  6. Julia, this is simply lovely! Thank you for sharing your process and your talent!!

  7. Love your new blog totally :D

  8. Julia - loving the new blog! Fill of goodness already! Regarding the comment you left over at my blog about classic literature....
    Well, I think you should join me, pick something off the list and give it a go! I am 4 books in and really enjoying the experience, so much great writing and individual thinking, thee books are classics for good reasons and I do feel that I am expanding my mind as I go. Join in, I know you will enjoy it!
    My new blog, Killer Lit, has the reading list on it, it's at
    Hope to see you there, invite some friends too, it will be fun!

  9. Thanks Jo, 'tis good to see you here :)
    I do like the idea of a challenge...& checking out your book list I was slightly salivating already! haha
    The stack of fantasy fiction by my bed (& I do mean 'stack') is wailing at the thought of having more books added to the pile. lol
    But what the heck... :D

  10. Thank you for sharing so much of your work process, it's amazing :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts