dragon design from Victor Dagatan

full view of the dragon ice sculpture carved during a demo by Victor Dagatan
Victor Dagatan sculpted this dragon during a demo in about 2 hours. No word on why there’s netting in front of it.

You might be aware that I have a special affinity for dragons; I named my ice sculpting company “ice dragon ice sculptures” and I did an especially detailed dragon sculpture some time back. So when I saw what Victor Dagatan sculpted during a two hour demo a little while back, I immediately asked him if I could post the pictures and design. The dragon features a great “sail” or crest on the back of its neck that gives it a really distinctive look. Now it’s taken me a little bit of time to get everything together, as I’ve been working on the overhaul of the site, but here it is.

dragon ice sculpture design by Victor Dagatan
I reinked and scanned Victor’s original design. I also added a backside horn and lower leg, but that’s about it.

a little bit about Victor Dagatan

Few ice sculptors have carried themselves as well as Victor has in recent months. From the Philippines and now based in Atlanta, he’s distinguished himself as a fantastic ice sculptor and an even better person. Lately, he’s won a lot of competitions, such as taking first place in Alaska for both the single block and multi-block. And he almost pulled off a remarkable win at the Olympic ice sculpting event in Russia. He took the silver, but he managed that even without having his tools for much of the competition. His tools arrived partway through and he was able to finish strong with them. This Olympic event was by many accounts a challenging situation, but Victor conducted himself with class, dignity, and a never-give-up attitude. His commitment and drive have definitely paid dividends.

about the dragon

Victor carved the dragon at a live demonstration in only two hours. He used a little more than two standard Clinebell-style blocks of ice. If you look at the basic block breakdown below, you’ll see that one block was split into two approximately 10”x10”x40” sections and then the ice was stacked, with one of the cut sections at the bottom and the other on top. There is also a small base of extra ice at the bottom that should measure at least 20”x15”x4”.

ice block breakdown for Victor Dagatan's dragon ice sculpture
Here’s the basic block layout of the piece. Clearly, most of the tail has to be cut from the extra ice.

Now two hours is not very much time to carve something so ambitious. We’ll assume that he stacked the ice ahead of the demo start, but that still means that you have to weld on at least six pieces of ice. And that’s not counting the sphere for his left claw. Victor though, has lots of practice at efficient demo and competition sculpting and a nice armada of tools to speed up the work. Instead of tediously carving the dragon’s scales, which can take a very long time and is kind of boring for a live demo, he detailed the dragon with a bubble bit. This matches up pretty well with the detailing in the original design and is MUCH quicker than sculpting fishy or reptilian scales.

rear quarter view of Victor Dagatan's dragon ice sculpture
a good look at the dragon’s cool sail

getting everything out of the ice

As it turns out, Victor didn’t follow his own design exactly. That’s not surprising; during demos and competitions, all sorts of minor adjustments and design changes occur. The main difference that you’ll notice is that the tail is different in the photo. When you look at the templates, you’ll see how hard it is to get everything out of the available ice; almost every significant chunk is utilized in some way. I don’t know exactly how Victor got the extra pieces out of his ice; the templates are my best guess. But I had to struggle a bit to find places to fit everything in. The only sizable portions left are under the jaw (part of which I’d recommend using as a support strut during carving) and the thin sections that would result when you cut away ice from the front and back of the sail to make it thinner than the dragon’s body.

ice utilization diagram for Victor Dagatan's dragon

sculpting tips

Obviously, you have to have a good weld at the neck, as the head is heavy and extends out a bit. Victor did this demo at room temperature, but he indicated that he used dry ice during sculpting and probably had blocks that were pretty cold to begin with. The neck weld is pretty tight, so he probably used aluminum to perfect the weld surfaces. Just to be safe, I’ve included a strut in the design work that can be cut out at the end of sculpting. If you did this during a demo, it’s not a bad bit of drama to play up a strut cutout. (Consider, for example, Junichi’s big crash in Alaska. That’s turned out pretty well for him despite the sculpture collapse!)

In the diagram above, I’ve indicated a way to get the tail out of the middle block: cut out the extra ice and split it, using the two pieces to make the tail in the original design. You’ll have to get a good weld here, so leave some extra ice around the weld that you can trim away towards the end. It’s generally a good idea to do as much welding as possible early in the carving if you’re sculpting in warmer temperatures, so once the ice is stacked, you should turn to getting the pieces for welding out and getting them welded on to the main structure. The two exceptions to this would be the horns and the sphere. The horns should be added late as they’re very thin and you should be able to simply place the sphere in the dragon’s claw as a final added touch.

Here’s a possible weld sequence, not counting initial stacking of the ice.
  • cut out and split main tail section
  • rough cut tail and weld pieces together (put horns away for later)
  • cut out and weld on L claw
  • cut out and weld on R claw
  • attach tail assembly to sculpture after trimming down the top of the tail (so that it’s not as top heavy)
  • late in sculpting: attach R horn
  • late in sculpting: attach L horn
  • place sphere
If you’re not comfortable getting the horns out of the tail section, then there are lots of other places to get them, since the horns are so thin. A good place might be somewhere on the back side of the dragon’s sail. You’d want to go with the back, since the main template would presumably be on the front while you’re carving. You could also get them out of the excess ice near the support strut; lots of possibilities.

the templates

Most times, I add dotted lines on the templates to help out if you decided not to use a template but instead decided to draw the design directly on the ice. In this case, I think you’d be foolish not to use a template, since the ice usage is pretty tight and there’s a lot going on. So no dotted lines this time.

the template for the head of Victor Dagatan's dragon

the main body template for Victor Dagatan's dragon

the lower body template for Victor Dagatan's dragon

tail top template for Victor Dagatan's dragon

Finally, a big thanks to Victor for sharing his photos and artwork! Victor is the owner of the drawings and photos in this entry. He’s made them available as reference material for recreating this sculpture or similar sculptures. If you have any questions about their usage for other purposes, they should be directed to Victor.

related pages

There’s a bit more dragon-related stuff on the site, if that’s your thing:

Asian dragon ice sculpture design, 2 blocks    ice dragon ice sculpture with blue lights    Asian dragon ice sculpture design, 1 block

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