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on 30 October 2008
FORGING DRAGONS by JOHN HOWE.

My first impression of this book is that it is very colourful and as soon as you open the book you want to read everything at once. There are more dragons in this book than you can shake a stick at.

On closer inspection the book lives up to my expectations. John shows us works in progress, full colour completed paintings and some amazing sketches and pencil work. This book is worth the money for the pictures alone. The text that accompanies the art work is interesting and informative and gives me the desire to read in further detail the myths and legends that John talks about. There is everything from the ancient classic tales of Beowulf and Fafnir to more modern classics such as The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, with wonderful depictions of Smaug and the dark, scary Fell Beasts.

With a foreword by Guillermo Del Toro , director of the upcoming Hobbit movies, and contributions by writers Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobb, this book has something for everyone with an interest in dragons. Whilst John explains some of his methods of drawing and painting the book is by no means a step by step guide to creating dragons but more a jumping off point for your own imagination and creativity. The delicate knot work with interlacing dragons on almost every page is delightful too.

This book is a great companion to John's previous book, Fantasy Art Workshop, and I hope that there will be more books like this in the not too distant future to grace my bookshelves.
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on 5 November 2008
I've always been a fan of John Howe and love the whole genre of fantasy art.This book didn't dissapoint and was filled with legends from all over the world about dragons and also book illustrations that John Howe has done.He really is in a league of his own,I also liked that you get some insight into how he produces the pictures.The only thing that bugged me a little(and I mean a tiny bit)was that I also have John's other book the Fantasy Workshop and a few of the pictures etc are repeated but having said that I still would recommend this book 100%,it's well worth a look if your into Tolkien,Art or Dragons.
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on 18 January 2009
As the title states, this book is about dragons. However, it is not simply about dragons, it really IS dragons, their appearance, their stories, their meanings. John Howe, known worldwide for his illustrations of Tolkien's writings, has delivered a masterpiece.
Already the foreword by Guillermo del Toro speaks of the fascination that dragons have always exerted on people all around the world. This fascination gets clearer in the following introduction by the author with many examples for his inspiration, some well-known, some maybe less well-known - who would have guessed that the Danes put dragons on top of their stock exchange?
This book has various layers. Obviously, there are the dragons: marvellous pictures, double-sided in high-quality colour print, and I could sit and look at them for ages. The spirit of the dragons and warriors portrayed catches the viewer, it seems that in the very next moment, they will come to life, start to move, continue their deadly fights.
The second layer is the forging: Howe explains in detail how he composed, sketched and coloured the pictures, why he is content with them or what he would still improve, even though the reader will think that there is nothing to improve, these pictures are great just as they are. Upon reading these explanations, one cannot help the impulse to grab the next pencil and try forging a dragon, and even though simply reading this book does not make a perfect dragon illustrator from any ingenuous reader, it nevertheless provides useful and interesting hints on how it once might work.
But this is not all. If it were only about arts, it would be just another "how-to"-book, an outstandingly beautiful one of course, but still, this book is more than that - it tells the stories that belong to the dragons. It recounts old myths and legends, tales of ancient times. Modern fantasy with new views on dragons gets its place, too. In two very interesting contributions, authors Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobb write about their dragons that are also brought to life by John Howe. The reader gets to know all kinds of dragons, travelling through times and cultures from Babylon to Yggdrasil, often accompanied by photos of ancient artworks about the very same dragons. The information in the texts is well-researched and detailed.
These stories, combined with the pictures, draw a complete image of dragons as they are in people's minds. In addition, for Tolkien-fans the pictures of Smaug together with del Toro's foreword might already provide a glimpse of what Smaug the Magnificient might look like in the upcoming Hobbit movie.
Forging Dragons does not attempt to prove or disprove the existence of dragons, it does not come up with crude cryptozoological theories, it does not speak to the scientist - it speaks to the dreamer within us.
I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to join in this journey, be it just for the fascination of dragons or be it on the search for inspiration or techniques, and let us hope that John Howe will in the future provide more such dragons to fuel our imagination: "Thanks be for forging dragons"
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on 7 November 2008
This is the book I had been waiting for, during the past 25 years or more. I wish I could have read a book like this when I started to notice this urge to draw dragons as a 15 year old student, scribbling on her school books.

This may sound biaised since I am a long time fan of John Howe's art, but on the other hand it is exactly what drew me to his work. When discovering the black dragon sitting on the cathedral of Strasbourg in a book I was leafing through in 1994, I immediately recognised a fellow dracologist, one who knows exactly how a dragon ticks...

So, how does it tick? Is there such a thing as the anatomy of a myth? Not as such according to John Howe, who rather sees his dragons as the results of the wanderings of his pencil on paper. Nevertheless it requires a good deal of knowledge in animal anatomy. To make an imaginary creature believable you need to understand how bones and tendons and muscles interact. Only then can you come up with a diversity of dragons.

But this book is much more than an artbook. It gives us a summary of dragonlore through the ages and cultures, such as has been rarely seen before. Having read many publications on the subject, I was very pleased to see some themes introduced here that had never or seldom been tackled in previous works.
Allegorical or mystical, mythical or legendary, metaphorical or fantasmagorical, modern and ancient lore, every aspect of this vast subject is exposed in short but informative sections, accompanied by old and new art and seasoned with some insights into the creation of each piece of art.

If you have never read a book about dragons, this may be a bit too much information in one go. But don't let it deter you, you will have lots of pieces of information that you can go back to and that may give you new ideas on what to read next. And slowly get to be familiar with these creatures that none of us have ever seen but that we all know somehow.
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on 2 December 2008
In Forging Dragons John leads the reader out of the worlds of narrative and history and onto the illustrated page. The book is divided into broad chapters (`Cosmic Dragons', `Monsters & Heroes' and `Dragons of Other Worlds'); these divisions are not simply based on aesthetic categories (as these sorts of books might be) but on geographical, narratological and historical traditions. It is as if one is peering into other worlds, into a hidden bestiary of impossible beasts, and for this reason this is not just a book about drawing and painting dragons but a book about dragons themselves. In addition to being an illustrator John is also a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and there is a lot to read here, from the story of the 11th century manuscript of Beowulf which survived the fire at the Cotton library in 1731 to the cosmic serpent Apep in Egypt who tried to swallow the sun. His introductions to the dragons, serpents and wyrms of legend, story and fantasy are fascinating, erudite and very readable indeed.

From a technical perspective the book is helpful, but don't think it's a colour-by-numbers book with those `sphere plus cone equals dragon's head' diagrams. Rather it is a rambling repository of facts and images and the book is filled with little notes and pieces of advice, often including a `behind-the-scenes' look at some specific paintings. More often than not John will divulge both how his imagination and his pencil have moved to create a scene or sketch, offering important insight into the whole creation process. The book provides many of John's own sketches and drafts (his composite image of the Norse cosmos keeps surfacing in my mind in new forms).

John's lucid prose and beautiful illustrations make you want to start scribbling dragons in the margins straightaway, so keep some paper next to you and get to it!
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on 16 February 2009
This is the second of John's books I have bought. The other was Fantasy Art Workshop. There is a little overlap between the two but here John goes deeper in depth with his discussion on his journey with drawing/painting dragons. The first book is more of a summary where Dragons are concerned

This is not a how to book. He will not give you instructions with lines and circles on how to draw your own dragons. But his passion for drawing will get you itching to pick up a pencil and take it for a wander.

He reminds us that perfection takes time and practice.

I consider this book a pep talk, which I keep going back to.

It is also full of wonderful pictures - including my favourite Dragon in the Woods. (Cover for a Robin Hobb Book)

These pictures are accompanied by this thoughts and descriptions of what he was trying to achieve and how he went about getting there.

I love this book and would buy it again.
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on 30 January 2011
John Howe a popular fantasy artist gives us a look at drawing dragons, although not a straight tutorial book, but more rather an inspirational one which slightly touches on the insights and influences of the artist John Howe. There are pencil drawings and sketches which inspire and then there are finished paintings that are explored through the mythology of dragons to which John knows a lot about as he goes through different mythological dragons that have appeared in many fables and stories that we remember such as St Georges Dragon and Smaug from The Hobbit and even the Nazgul from The Lord of the Rings.

The book reads like an inspirational journey rather than a proper fantasy art tutorial and I recommend that any artist who creates art from their imagination follow this journey as it is a really insightful and rewarding one. Artist John Howe explains his influences and inspirations really well here.

A top book.
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on 14 May 2010
When I get 'artist's block' with a blank sheet of paper, I tend to paint a dragon using ideas from mental images and books....and this is proving to be a brilliant source of ideas....not only for designs, but on the 'how-to' aspect.
The author is very talented, as seen from his other publications, and his writings instil confidence in anyone wishing to try their hand.
A delightful book to look at, even if you have no plans to paint a dragon. Thoroughly recommended to anyone with dragon interests.
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on 21 November 2012
a really good quality book with a lot of insight into the author / artists way of doing things and clearly detailed images, stories and inspiration throughout. Very good book, worth buying for any who love dragons. It really helped with my dragon art project at college
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on 5 September 2013
Book arrived in great condition and I looked very much forward to receiving it. It is an addition to my growing collection of John Howe books which are full of stunning paintings and drawings and tips from the artist himself. Amazing.
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