The Dragonfly – Long Before Dinosaurs, Dragons Filled The Sky

The Dragonfly Doodlewash and watercolor sketch on white background with shadow

Let’s head to the pond on our #NatureDoodlewash hike and take a peek at a dragonfly. I’ve always loved these creatures and would seek them out when I was a kid fishing with my grandparents. Even when I found out they were not actually tiny flying dragons, which I had originally thought they were, I still liked them. These incredible creatures have been on the planet for over 300 million years, predating dinosaurs. So that’s still pretty cool. Growing up, I knew some little girls who swore they were fairies, which is an easy mistake when seeing one fly, but once they land you can clearly see the dragon similarities.

Perhaps it was also my dream of wanting to fly myself that attracted me to dragonflies. They were impressive and would zoom by me at what seemed like an incredibly fast speed. I would later find out that one in Australia clocked in at 36 miles per hour (58 kpm). That’s basically only the speed of an entry-level Vespa, but that’s still pretty impressive for something less than 10 centimeters long. Back when they flew next to dinosaurs, however, they were actually rather huge. The largest fossil ever found was a dragonfly that had a wing span of 2.5 feet (76 cm). That would be perfectly terrifying.

There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies in the world today, so it’s possible there are even more out there yet to be discovered. Seeing one today is still a thrill for me, even if I’ve lost much of my childhood naiveté. As one buzzes past and then hovers in the air like a helicopter, I still stand in amazement. And looking closely, I’ll check just to confirm it’s not a little fairy like those little girls claimed. No, down by the pond you’ll find nothing of the sort. But if you squint your eyes just right, it is very possible you might be lucky enough to see a dragon.

Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month! 

World Watercolor Month is coming in July! Click here to learn more!


About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Maroon Perylene, Azo Orange, Quinacridone Gold, Cobalt Teal, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Green Pale, and Neutral Tint. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal

Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
59 Comments
  1. Phil Cooper 12 months ago

    We were talking about dragonflies today Charlie as we saw one whizz overhead. Jan was telling me about the giant prehistoric ones, they sound fabulous but frightening , I’m happier with that beautiful one you’ve painted 😉

    • Author

      Oh wow! That’s a coincidence! Yeah…those prehistoric ones sound scary!! Lol yikes! Glad ya liked mine, Phil!! Thanks! 😃

  2. Teri C 12 months ago

    Beautifully painted! I love seeing them and damselflies flitting my around.

    • Author

      Thanks Teri! 😃💕 Yes! Those too! Though it’s funny now… glancing at the word makes me think it’s “damn selfies” hehe

      • Teri C 12 months ago

        That too. Lol

  3. debiriley 12 months ago

    wonderful painting Charlie 🙂 love the intricate wings down to the tiny feelers on the legs… amazing! and boy, they are older than dirt. lol

  4. The colour combinations that our Mother Nature has created in these creatures is spectacular, coupled with the irridecence, will always make them a stop and watch creature, so I am with you Charlie, never growing out of those childhood moments, for me they are watching fairy’s fly. ……I don’t have one of these in my fossil collection yet?

  5. YesterdayAfter 12 months ago

    Very nice Charlie I like Dragonflies it is fun to paint them! well done 😉 I am here with my post today I made it! https://yesterdayafter.com/2016/06/04/hibiscus-naturedoodlewash/

    • Author

      Thanks Carolina!! 😃💕 And yours is soooo beautiful!! (Oh, if you can, add #NatureDoodlewash to your tags for the post as well. I’m tracking these in my reader. Hehe)

      • YesterdayAfter 12 months ago

        Oh yes I always do I tag it! Charlie thank you I am sooo happy that you like it! this month is going to be lots of fun like always 😉

  6. […] via The Dragonfly – Long Before Dinosaurs, Dragons Filled The Sky — Doodlewash […]

  7. Jodi 12 months ago

    your intricate details are amazing charlie o!!!

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Jodi!! 😃💕hehe…I love getting lost in little details. With painting…not the rest of my life. Lol

  8. Jacob 12 months ago

    This is, again, absurdly detailed Charlie – how ever long did those wings take? It’s absolutely beautiful. When you’ve done your cookbook, you clearly need to move onto some kind of insect encyclopedia.

    This must be another way of pulling you over to the Norfolk Broads, Charles – there are dragonflies aplenty here! Such a marvel they are, I used to be mesmerised by them as they scuttled over and between the reeds. (I still am, natch!)

    • Author

      Thanks Jacob! 😃Glad you liked this! It was done in the usual hour or so. I never have any more time than that, but some tries I get luckier than others! Lol hmmm…that’s a lot of books to write. I guess I should start at least one! And yay! Glad you have dragonflies all over, that would definitely be cool to see!

  9. Teresa Robeson 12 months ago

    Your dragonfly is a thing of beauty! <3 I once had a dragonfly circle around me as I mowed the lawn. It was creeping me out until years later, I figured out it probably wanted the bugs I stirred up while mowing. We had tons on our property here (no idea which varieties) and I love watching them. I'm glad, though, that they were not the Paleozoic or Mesozoic varieties! Yikes. 😀

  10. Margaret Parker Brown 12 months ago

    Beautiful little dragonfly, I love them, especially when I am at the river painting and they are everywhere. Seeing this little guy makes me think of painting. 🙂

    • Author

      Thanks Margaret! 😃💕And yay that this makes you think of painting! Cool! Though I don’t think you could actually stop thinking about painting if you tried! 😉

  11. M. L. Kappa 12 months ago

    Really got those wings right, Charlie! We have some fluorescent blue ones around here, I wonder if I could reproduce that? Not easy…

    • Author

      Aww thanks so much! 😃💕I love delving into the little details. You should try to reproduce those blue ones!! Sounds awesome!!

  12. jmnowak 12 months ago

    2.5ft wingspan, wow, I guess we’ll only be able to see those in some sci-fi CGI-laden movie! Everyone’s already said it, but love the details in those wings especially. Occasionally we have a few buzz about here; I always stop to look; often they come close to me to check me out too…lol

  13. Jill Kuhn 12 months ago

    I found one dead at the lake a couple of years ago, it’s body and wings intact. It was a larger dragonfly. I still have it as I find them to be amazing. WOWZA! Love your doodlewash today, Charlie! Especially how you painted the wings! 😍🎨💕🌈

    • Author

      Awww thanks Jill! 😃💕So glad you liked this little guy. It was so fun to doodlewash! And cool you find them amazing too… they’re such awesome creatures!!

  14. babybluesnowflake 12 months ago

    Beautiful doodlewash! I used to be that little girl… just that I believed fairies would ride the dragonflies like we humans horses 🙂

    • Author

      Thanks so much! 😃💕And cool! That’s a lovely memory… Our memories would match up if they were riding dragons! Hehe

  15. brushparkwatercolors 12 months ago

    Great doodlewash!!! You did a great job with all those details on the wings and the colors look great, too. I really love dragonflies since i saw the first one when is was a kid. At the at school 30 years ago we had to draw their larvae (which have awesome details, too) and it became some kind of obsession for some of us art students for a while. And what a coincidence – yesterday a painted a (very rough)watercolor sketch of a dragonfly, too. 🙂

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Carsten! That’s an awesome story… I bet that was hard to draw. I should try that. And cool! And yours is awesome… just looked for! Love it!😃

      • brushparkwatercolors 12 months ago

        Thank you so much, Charlie! It wasn´t too hard with the magnifying glass. They just have beautiful structures and it was a good practice. I should try to get some again – the larvae would make good watercolors, too. 🙂

  16. ann christina 12 months ago

    This is so pretty, and I appreciated reading your story to it very much! Love that you put this tiny bit of turquoise onto the yellowish wings, that gives it the glow dragonflies have. Happy Sunday to you and your family, Charlie! 🌞

  17. Rebecca 12 months ago

    Charlie, you always write so well for your beautiful illustrations. It’s a joy to find one of your posts waiting in the reader. 🙂

  18. Judith 12 months ago

    Wonderful doodlewash and fascinating info. Dragonflies are fun to see. It’s even fun to say the word…dragonfly. Has something almost magical about it. So does your doodlewash. 🙂

  19. Sharon Mann 12 months ago

    Well done Charlie, bravo. I like how you were able to paint the transparency in the dragonfly wings.

  20. anniedrawsthings 12 months ago

    This is so beautiful! I love the intricate pattern on the wings, lovely detail!

  21. Susan Feniak 12 months ago

    Awesome detail work Charlie!! 🙂

  22. Seriously crazy amazing details! You rock, my bro! 😀

  23. memadtwo 12 months ago

    I could never catch them with my butterfly net! Way too fast. You’ve caught the magic of their wings…(K)

  24. ybromfield 12 months ago

    Gorgeous, Charlie! The details.. OMG! I’ve always though dragonflies were so cool!

    • Author

      Thanks so much Kari!😃💕 I have 15 more minutes on the weekends and use it all to jam these full of more detail! lol Glad you liked it!

  25. Rediskot 12 months ago

    Amazing detail, I can’t believe something like that could be achieved in an hour! This looks like a great theme, I’m itching to participate! Hopefully I’ll be able to during one of the baby’s naps 😀

    • Author

      Thanks! I had an hour and 15 for this one since it’s the weekend! hehe… this and the dragonfly yesterday got some bonus time! That extra bit of time means a ton more detail because I can’t stop! lol And you should definitely join the hike! Just add #NatureDoodlewash in your tags I’ll definitely see it! 😉

  26. artandmoondreams 12 months ago

    Your post is fascinating and fun reading, always a delight conjuring memories and dreams…and smiles with bouts of laughter. I often get mesmerized watching the different colored dragonflies zoom around the garden, (who doesn’t love dragons in the garden eh?) and your painting has the same effect, it is stunning, your talent and attention to detail is dazzling. Thank you for sharing this lovely gem.

  27. The Leaf Diary 12 months ago

    This is brilliant! Love your nature illustrations 🙂 They will make a nice poster 😉

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