And now we're back to that first image I posted, the final roughed out grayscale.
Between this and step 3 I had actually gone to plain old pencil and paper for awhile and laid out the basic anatomy for the head, body, and wings. I'm not sure where that drawing is right now or I'd put it up...
Now that I knew I wanted my dragon to have a cetacean-like appearance it was time to nail down the anatomy. Getting there took a long time and a lot of reference. One great book for looking at animals is:
I was picking through cats, dogs, bats, birds, bears, whales, dolphins, sharks and all kinds of things trying to figure out a musculature that made sense and looked plausible. I was also looking at artists who do great dragons... Lars Grant-West had recently finished a beautiful painting called Autumn Dragon, and I studied closely how he fit the legs, wing and tail into the body. The anatomy looks so real to me and is definitely the direction that I want to be going with my own painting.
Todd Lockwood also has a wonderful diagram specifically on dragon musculature that looks like something straight out of a anatomy book. It can be found here, and I would highly recommend buying a print from him:
Th big difference between their's and mine however is probably the 4 limbs. Traditionally (at least in western culture) it seems that most dragons have 2 front legs, 2 hind legs, and 2 wings, and that's fine. But it's something that's never sat well with me personally. Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians all have 4 limbs and I don't see why a dragon should be any different.
Some common things that I do try to imitate are a thick, powerful neck and strong jaws to power a big head and bite, and large chest muscles to provide enough strength to the wings for actually lifting off the ground.
As for the cetacean elements, the head is still reptilian, but it's shaped something like a humpback and has the false eyepatch of an orca. The dorsal fin and big long back muscles are reminiscent of dolphins, and finally many of the skin details (bumps along the wings, barnacle-like chin tendrils) are similar to whales.