Revisiting "The Princess and the Dragon"

The Creative Time Machine

One of the constants I've learned over the years is that there are always new ideas to chase and old projects to revisit or continue. This is true for both my art and writing. I have projects that I consider complete, and plenty of others which remain in my own mind to have some degree of imperfection to them.

As the years roll by, it’s ever-more easy to become critical of them, to look back at old writing and cringe at its juvenile flaws, just as I sometimes page through old art and can see a wide range of inadequacies that seem blatant to my eye. This evolution is to be expected, certainly, but sometimes I find it difficult to appreciate some of my older work because the flaws seem to become more apparent to me with time, much like crackling bone set out in the sun to bake over the years and be exposed to the elements.

Amid trying to push my own art and writing forward, I still maintain a drive to selectively go back and “improve” certain old pieces. I don’t necessarily believe it’s always a good use of my time, and in many cases I've found that in trying to “rework” or “update” a truly ancient piece, I actually ends up losing something precious that was there to begin with.  But every now and then, I keep returning to an old piece and am tempted to try to draw out and improve whatever is innately nestled within.

This is one such piece, except in this rare case, it’s both art

and

writing intertwined.

"The Princess and the Dragon - 2013 Update" - Revisited on June 22, 2013

Curious Metrics

Over the years, I've posted over 300 pieces of art on DeviantART alone, and aside from the pieces which won Daily Deviations, the one piece that has consistently attracted the most engagement from viewers is a piece of art and writing I did way back in 2005. It's extremely touching to me that

so many

people have enjoyed it, but it actually has a much deeper story.

The History of the Princess and the Dragon

Many years ago, way back in 2005, I sketched a lot of dragons. Saying

a lot

is probably putting it lightly, but it was a phase I’ll admit that was brought upon by the desire to combine two things I really adored: oriental dragons, and

kudu

horns. They were everywhere, nestled in sketchbooks and hidden along the ruled edges of my college notes. It was never the same dragon twice, and none were really “characters,” per say, they were simply fun experiments with design. In September, this fella popped up in my sketchbook at a mere 4 by 5 inches:

"Oriental Kudu Dragon Sketch" - Completed on September 20, 2005

And while not intentionally a homage, I recalled that a few years earlier in January 2003 (which for anyone reading this entry, is over ten years ago: yikes!), I realized I’d doodled a dragon in a strikingly similar pose:

"The Light of the Dance - Sketch" - Completed on January 1, 2003

"The Light of the Dance" - Completed on January 9, 2003

During that era, I didn't do much in the way of digital art, and that’s putting it lightly. Nearly all of my art from that period was traditional art, and the vast majority of that was photographed (poorly) rather than scanned. So when

Emily Coleman

 hosted a contest to design our “dream sculpture” in 2005 my entry was a mish-mashing in Photoshop, certainly, but my intent behind the piece actually meant quite a lot to me, and what I wanted to do was to create a sense of scale between the dragon and the added castle and figure below.

"The Princess and the Dragon" - Completed on October 1, 2005

This tiny castle has faked perspective, with an emphasis on "fake."

I realize that figure really isn't to scale... >_>

Months later, my dear friend Jason actually commissioned

Emily

to create a sculpture based off of my art. It’s the first time someone had ever done something like this for me, and to see my 2D concept turned into a sculpture was just… incredible. It was like seeing a sketch come to life, and I just adore it!

"The Princess and the Dragon" by Emily Coleman - Completed in December 2005

Then, in 2006, I decided that I would try to digitally paint the original 2D art I'd submitted for the contest. I really had no idea what I was doing at the time, and I’d never really hunkered down on a piece in Photoshop before, but I gave it my best shot, and at the time I was generally really pleased with how it turned out.

"The Princess and the Dragon" - Completed on September 12, 2006

Over the years, I've had some nitpicks about it, and decided that this morning I’d take a couple hours and fix a few things on both the art and short story that had always bugged me so that I could share them with all of you.  I opted not to change either very much, because I didn't want to stray too far from the original versions. The story is intended to be a standalone piece.

The Princess and the Dragon Revisited

"The Princess and the Dragon - 2013 Update - Close- Up" - Revisited on June 22, 2013

I realized when I did this that I couldn't really get the story across between the two

 because of the massive difference in scale between the dragon and the Princess,

but hopefully the magic in the tower 

hints

 that something magical is taking place. :)

"The Princess and the Dragon" - By K. LeCrone 

Short Story Written on October 1, 2005

Revisited on June 22, 2013

Long ago, there lived a Princess, whose love to one of the castle guards was such legend that it was whispered about by both the royalty as well as the peasant-folk. While war loomed, however, the two knew they could never wed, but each worked as they might to bring an end to the fighting: he with his sword, and she, with her wise words which she shared with the king, and all who would listen.

When the war grew closer, the brave Knight was called out more frequently to defend their homeland, but for each time he answered the call of his countrymen, he was away for longer and longer periods of time. Regardless of what dangers awaited him, each time before he left he would gently kiss his lady on the hand and tell her how he loved her. He would speak certainly of how he would always return, and that she would always and forever been the one he returned to. "That is a promise I swear to, Milady," he'd say. And every evening, as the light began to fade, the Princess would climb to the highest tower in the castle, and look out: just hoping to get a glance of her knight riding home. It was there, high above the rest of the world that she would softly sing a tune the two of their heart's shared, as if it might perchance call him home if he couldn't find his way.

Days turned to weeks, turned to months, and she would pray for his safety, and hope for the day when the two of them could be reunited once more. Without fail, every evening she made her way up the spiraling stairs to the highest tower of the castle and sang out her wishes to the far horizon for her brave knight.

One day, however, a sinking feeling set upon her heart, and though she knew not why, she was certain ill-fortune had come to her knight. Not a moonturn later, she saw a rider-less horse slowly approach the castle, and she knew for sure there would be no happy ending to their story.

She wept, as a mother for the loss of her child, and though many consoled her with well-intentioned words, none of their words could soothe the hollow ache she felt deep within.

Daylight faded and the vibrant colors of dusk transpired to night and yet she stayed awake against her will. But as the first stars of the evening peered into the night sky, she crept once more to the tallest tower of the castle, as if she might yet find peace there that she lacked in her heart.

Her tear-filled face looked out over the eerily-still horizon. Though she knew there would be no brave figure crossing the grassy plains to return to her, she began to softly sing the tune she'd carried so often for her Knight. She closed her eyes and let the music fill her. Her heart poured into every syllable, and though her voice cracked and faltered, she would not let the melody be contained within her breast until the final phrase had passed through her soft lips and carried into the waiting darkness. Only then did silence again greet her.

But then, without explanation, a warm breeze caught her face and somehow bid her to look skyward. Heaven itself opened up and turned before her, pouring out light and a peculiar sense of otherworldly peace unlike anything she'd ever seen or felt before. As it did, a strange, ancient music seemed to play on the wind in tune to the rhythm of her beating heart. Like a dream, the heavens began to shimmer and move as if they were churned to live. And, like a ghost, they took shape before her eyes. A massive dragon's face and form manifested before her and floated effortlessly, watching her. Its huge, flowing mane moved gently with the wind, and its iridescent scales twinkled lightly. In one smooth movement, it wrapped its strong tail around the castle, and calmly looked down to the Princess, and smiled.

"Dear Lady, I've traveled through the lands of the living and the dead to find you again. Your song called to me, and even after a cruel sword felled my body, the song shook me and awakened who I truly am. I have the soul of a dragon, of the noble race that loves deeply and protects truly. And as in my last life, I pledge to you in this one: I will keep you safe from harm and always be with you. And when old age comes to you after so many more great deeds on this Earth, I will be here still, and on that day you will join me in the clouds, for you have the soul of a noble dragon as well."

The Princess looked up at the dragon, and through a tear-stained face she smiled, and believed.

The Princess and the Dragon Ten Years Later

This has been a journey in more ways than one, but it feels great sharing this art and story with a new audience. If you're interested in looking at the 2006 version of the art or short story, they are available

here on DeviantART

. There are also a wealth of questions I answered in the comments there, if you're curious about the inspirations for it.

I hope you enjoyed both the art, story, and their history!