The Making of GoGoDennis

This Summer, Norwich will be taken over by a blaze of 84 huge Dragons sculptures – the GoGoDragons. A follow on from the gorillas of 2013 and the elephants before that. 

GoGoDragons is an interactive art trail organised by Break charity (You can see their website and the excellent work they do here) and Wild in Art. Each sculpture is sponsored by a local company, and painted by a local (and sometimes not so local) artist. The sculptures all have Bluetooth sensors in them, so with the help of an app, you can complete the trail using a smartphone. You can also fill in the trail map and send it off the old-skool way to win a pair of flights from KLM. You can download the trail map here, or pick one up from the Forum, or Jarrolds.

My world map design was sponsored by Konectbus and Anglianbuses, and was inspired by medieval maps and the monsters who inhabited them. 

‘Here be Dragons’ is often believed to have been written on maps featuring ferocious beasts and mythological creatures to show dangerous or uncharted waters. There’s a wealth of monsters on medieval maps from around the world. Many of which are based on whales and other creatures while others are more far-fetched.  

Dotted around Dennis’ seas are 20+ sea monsters, most of which are inspired by monsters from medieval maps, including Olaus Magnus‘s Carta Marina (1539) and Abraham Ortelius’s 1598 map of Iceland.

Olaus Magus’ Carta Marina – the 1539 version

Olaus Magnus’ map became famed for it’s wealth of monsters and activity. I would have loved to have put more and more detail onto my design, but had to be a bit realistic with what I could achieve in the time available. 

I was always a little worried about the size of the dragons – and where to paint them – they were too wide to fit through my front door. Fortunately my mum offered up her house, so long as I wasn’t too messy. So I got to work with the base coats, and first layers of spray paint at the dragon warehouse. It was a bit chilly, but I got my first sneak peek at some of the completed dragons waiting for their clear coats.

To get the word map design onto the dragon I used a projector. I had contemplated doing it freehand, but it seemed quicker and easier to just project my design on, and rough it on with charcoal, altering it to fit as I went along. The more curved edges were a bit of a pain, but we got there in the end.

Once the land was all roughed out in charcoal, I went over all the lines with a Posca pen, and washed off all the charcoal. I used an airbrush to go around the edges of the coastlines and make them slightly darker. 

Now the messy bit was over, we bundled Dennis into the van and took him back to mums house. He looked quite at home in her kitchen. 

Painting in the land took a little while, I ended up having to do several coats to get a nice even finish on the colour.

The monsters and ships were all sketched out in a sketchbook to begin with and when it came to placing them, I took my favourites (There wasn’t enough room for them all) and blew them up to the right size on the printer. Using the kitchen window as a lightbox I pencilled up the back on the drawing ready to be arranged on the dragon. 

We delivered him back to the warehouse with the other dragons, after taking some photos in the sunny garden.

His sponsors Konectbus have been amazing. They ran a competition to name him (I’d been calling him ‘Herbie Dragon’ up until then) and they named him Dennis, after the company who makes their busses Alexander Dennis

He’s now in place near the St Stephens St roundabout, and will be there until the 5th September.

I’ve made him a monster spotters ‘guide too’. It has all his monsters on it, and the map (and date) that they originated from. It’s available to download here, and will soon be available at the bus station as a leaflet too. 




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