While I cannot claim to be mother (or father) of dragons, your confusion would be forgiven based on how many have slithered through PaperCuts recently; whether forming from the foam of a waterfall or relaxing at O-hanami.
Truth be told, I was more than a little nervous to start drawing these reptilian beasts. It's not that I don't like the wyrms, mind you. I do. They're charming. It's more that I really, really, very much didn't want to make a bad dragon. And it is so very easy to draw a bad dragon. In junior high school, I scribbled out dozens of terrible drakes blasting fire at adventurers, burning villages, or rending hapless knights to bits with claw and teeth. There are many brilliant dragons in art both old and new, but like their equally fantastic cousins the unicorn, it's more than a little bit of a challenge to make these beasts one's own. How does an artist imbue such a long-standing symbol with personal meaning?
It helps that the Cats & Dragons Exhibition, for which this piece was originally conceived, had such a unique theme. It takes a pretty fervent imagination to juxtapose kittens and reptiles so massive they would make a t-rex soil it's undies.
Over the course of a few months, I went through a dozen different concepts of varying levels of awfulness before alighting on an idea, or rather a query, that made my brain grin. Where does reality begin and fantasy end?
Which is more real: the solid, physical and mundane, or imagination, spirit, and raw emotion?
The cats at the bottom of the piece are connected to the dragon, cobbled together from tenuous strands. Are they the earthly avatars of the great beast? Or is this colorful drake nothing more than the playful fighting spirit of a litter of kittens. Also yes, the visual pun about cats and string is entirely intentional.
Visually, it is always fun to play around with solidity and intangibility. The dragon has weight and density to it. The cats are monochromatic, slightly immaterial; they are inconspicuous relative to the colorful bulk overhead.
The color of the wood is inspired by traditional Japanese 屏風 (Byōbu) screens, which were often painted on top of gold leaf.
As an added bit of whimsical symbolism, the eyes of the frolicking felines are reflected in the sharply ovoid shape of the dragon's scales.