Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back To The Bases

Or The Tale of The Dragon

Who can remember when they first heard of dragons? Those monstrous, scary, fire-breathing creatures of legend..... maiden snatching, treasure hoarding, terrorizers of the land! It seems they are etched into the very deepest parts of our consciousness, as though they were the residual image of dinosaurs that once preyed upon our first human generations so long ago that the real has become the mythical. EVERYBODY recognizes a dragon when they see one! So it can be no surprise to anyone that they show up in art all through the ages. Here is a simple version I painted when in my twenties..... I was thinking of the Worm Oroborous who swallows his tail......
And throughout the ages, there have been heroes willing to take on the challenge of fighting the dragons that capture maidens and terrorize the land. Below is a medieval illumination of St. George slaying the dragon..... he is by far the most famous dragon slayer... although there were plenty of others who succeeded too. This was painted in the early fifteenth century and is from "The Hours of Catherine of Cleves." I am afraid that this particular dragon is not as terrifying as one would imagine!

The medieval illuminators of manuscripts are well known for their great imaginations. They filled the margins and borders of the book pages with endless variety of subjects both religious and secular, humorous and strange, real and imagined. So it is no wonder that the same book that shows St. George slaying his dragon, on another page in the border margin shows a dragon being ridden by a harp playing dwarf!

And in my own lifetime dragons have gone from the Scary and Evil Smaug, who the Hobbits overcame, to the mystical Puff the Magic Dragon of childhood dreams, and on to the dragons of Harry Potter's wizarding world.
So, is it any wonder that from an early age I have been drawing and painting dragons?
Here is one from that book I was illuminating in my teen years.

And the partner to that on the other side of the same page....

And really, while SOME folks would NOT call these fellows dragons at all.... I think if you were a very small beetle, you might think otherwise.......

These were also painted in that same book in my teen years.

So, what on earth do Dragons have to do with bases you are wondering? Well, if I may be allowed to suggest that the tales of dragons are some of the most BASIC tales in our common wealth of stories, and that they go DEEP into our subconscious memories, providing the FOUNDATION for countless tales of courage, growth, triumph over evil, and even redemption.... then maybe you will see that, if you will bear with me, there is some BASIS of connection with BASES.

Okay, so lets get to the bases!

You may recall that when I first started to re-build the Lovely Old Dollhouse, the very first thing I did was to build a base for it. Really, this is a very essential (or basic!) part of a dollhouse. Any house needs a foundation to give it sturdiness and a small amount of elevation off the floor. All the very oldest dollhouses were built in cabinets, usually on a stand or a base which raised it off the floor for ease of viewing and arranging furnishings. So I envisioned eventually adding some ornamental legs.... but for starters I just built the platform. This allows for running electrical wires underneath and gives it that foundation that the house originally was lacking.

Here you can see the base, sort of....

I have not photographed it well, but it does show the raised effect.

And when I built the Castle Dollhouse, I knew that it would need a base to tie the parts together and give it stability and the elevation that makes it easier to work and play with.

Before I built the base, the Castle was perched atop a long, low shelf.......
but this was rather precarious and only temporary.......
You can see this arrangement below.

Here is a picture showing the Castle as it is currently.... very much in mid-construction!

And because the base was pretty boring to build I didn't take any pictures of that part!
I decided that it needed to sit solidly on the ground as the Castle is so large, no additional height is needed! And once I had constructed the BASIC box for the Castle to sit on, with structural walls dividing it into three sections for strength, I realized that it really looked like CAVES down underneath the Castle! Hmmmm.... caves could be used for all sorts of things! Merlin had a cave...... Ali Baba had a cave, Aladdin had a cave...... Smaug had a cave..... you get the picture........

Here you see the Castle on the base...... with the Caves mostly being temporarily used for storage........

But wait.... look closer, I think this one has been occupied!

Hmmmm........ he, or she, seems to have gathered most of the riches in the castle!

Ooooh, look again, it isn't just treasure it is guarding in there.........

there are BABY Dragons there too!

Do I see a bit of sibling rivalry here?

So, Deep Down inside, underneath everything else, there are a few Dragon Tales hiding!

Back to The Bases


  1. Firstly, I love the 20 something dragon. It is almost Oriental :). Do you know that an oriental dragon look quite different from a western one?

    I had to laughed at the dragon St George had slain, It's so weeny tiny :) and no, dragon flies are not dragons :) even if I am a small beetle.

    Bases for dolhouses have plagued me no end. I need to make it turn, it must be sturdy yet pretty. It must not take up too much space (haha!) I am really impress with yours! Great idea to create something where you can store some pieces as well. :)

  2. What a fun post, I love the tiny dragon St George killed and the other one with a dwarf on top is so hilarious!
    Your dragon looks terrific and justa s a dragon should be with many heads, one scarier than the other :-) And so many wonderful treasures it has gathered too!

    And again I love your paintings, you are so talented!

  3. Hi Sans! I do know what oriental dragons look like because my Grandmother had a sofa covered in fabric with Chinese dragons all over it, and she even needlepointed a cover to match for her footstool. It was very beautiful! What I don't know much about is the legends of Chinese dragons, or what to expect of their behavior! So I only talked about the western type of dragon that I know a little bit about.
    As for the subject of bases.... I have not done very well with them. I have no turntables.... and my dollhouses are a bit large to be swinging around anyway. And being the American style, they are open on the back side, but the front is the pretty side, so you don't want to put them against the wall. For now, they are facing the wall so I can work on the interiors. Really very awkward! The European style makes more sense to me! And as for the Castle, I really am in a bind with that one, because it is too big to move easily. and I can't get to the electrical wiring on the back side! I am going to have to get that figured out soon! If I had a bigger house.... I would just fill it with more dollhouses!:)So you can see it is a work in progress!

  4. Thank you Helene! I do think the way the Medieval artists dealt with the scary Dragons is very amusing..... there are so many different versions and so many improbable border details! I think there will be future posts to tell more stories about my Castle's Dragons... after all, once they have taken up residence in the Caves, SOMEONE in the Castle is bound to find out and try to do something about it!
    Thank you for your words of appreciation about my paintings..... I am happy you like them!

  5. Precioso libro con ilustraciones muy coloristas.
    Me encanta la ampliación del castillo. Esa base puede despertar tu imaginación :)
    Besos Clara

  6. Thanks, Clara! I'm glad you like my book! And the Castle! Thank you for your comments!

  7. I love your dragons hiding away in the base of your castle. :~) They are the real occupants of your house.

    I like your old house base too. It makes me think of older English dollshouses. Sturdy and secure.

  8. Thanks, Christine! Once I realized the base looked like caves.... there just had to be dragons.... and I think you're right... they are the real inhabitants of the Castle! They've been there since the beginning of time probably! :)