Long ago while living in Japan, when Chuy was just three years old, he asked me to tell him a story about “Kimono Dragons.” What was a simple slip of the tongue, fired my imagination envisioning a large and terrible lizard dressed impeccably as Geisha…
Soon after, I Googled “Kimono Dragon” and found one or two artists who had created paintings and prints of such creature, but they were clumsier than I imagined. I wrote down the idea at that point in time, but it was not until now – almost three years later – that I fully developed it.
She must be a dragon; fierce and terrible looking. She grips with big and sharp talons, and with wide and strong claws. With a long tail and an even longer tongue, she possesses the refined repose of Geisha. However, she must not bulge from or rip out of her kimono. Also, since Japan is an excellent country which accommodates for total convenience, even something like her Tabi socks must have the holes allowing her talons to poke through.
I referred to my vast collection of Geisha photos for posing ideas. I sketched her playing a Shamisen (or three-stringed musical instrument). The juxtaposition between her powerful claws, and the skillful dexterity needed to play beautiful melodies was one I liked. I knew I wanted her tail visible, but it would be carefully curled around her and refrained from thrashing about.
I watched many videos of Komodo dragons in the wild, in zoos and studied photos, illustrations and cartoons of them. You know what? I was not aware of how many zoos in the U.S. have a Komodo dragon exhibit! I decided to go for a more illustrative look to my dragon, rather than a cartoon one. It is quite realistic, but I enlarged and softened the eyes for some Kawaii (cute) personification.
She is playing her shamisen by the round window frequently seen in Japanese gardens. It is set in the summertime with bamboo flutter in the moonlit air just outside the Kangetsudai (Moon Viewing Pavilion). It is also set in the nighttime because the daytime would be too distressing, for those enjoying the calm and peace of a Japanese garden, to all of a sudden stumble upon a dragon. Even if she were in a kimono and behaving herself, it would still be quite a sight! She is respectful and would not want to alarm anyone, so she keeps her playing limited to the moonlit nights.
I resisted the urge to add all of the Japanese things I love like screens, stone lanterns, stone carvings, etc. and kept the accessories to one handheld lantern which she would use to see while walking about the garden at night.
Developing this story further, I must admit that when no one is around she does, in fact, take off her kimono, Obi and Katsura (hair wig). Folding them carefully on a bench, she then slips into the lake to bathe and devour fish. Occasionally, she will take down a small deer – but only during culling season. After all, she has the restraint of a proper Geisha…