Painting a deer skull with watercolor & Daniel Smith paint-porn.

Royally iced in today – the sound of the sleet outside was actually rather nice.


I’ve been taking advantage of the unexpected break from the universe by throwing myself into painting again. I haven’t been doing this nearly enough lately opting for the easier to pick-up/put-down convenience of graphite and pen and ink.

Today I started and finished this little deer skull painting – yep, “that” deer skull. My work schedule has been so screwy lately because of the whole polar vortex that I haven’t gotten much time to work on the classroom demo I shared a few posts back (though I have worked on it since then at least). Because of this I’ve been itching to work on it and entirely unable to do so… so, I did the next best thing. I started a new one. A smaller one though.

Here are some progression shots of the 6×9 painting that I started and finished today.

deer skull - progression

I started with a nice graphite drawing and by blocking in the areas I wanted to preserve while doing the background wash in Indigo Hue (Grumbacher). Once the frisket was dry I worked wet-in-wet with the Indigo all over the ground then went back in with white gouache mixed with Indigo in the interior of the medallion. When this was completely dry I scrubbed off the frisket (and then redrew some of the skull that “rubbed off” too) and went in with some chromatic grey washes (Alizarin and Pthalo Green) to create a nice grisaille underpainting.

Once this was completed I used a glaze of Quinacridone Burnt Orange (Da Vinci) and Yellow Ocher (Grambacher) over the skull and then went back in with a bit more of the orange and amped up some of the lighter areas with some white gouache – pulling up the watercolor to blend into the overall tones. Afterward, I touched up the skull with a few more areas of chromatic grey. For the medallion I drew in the design with pencil, touched up the haloed circle with more Indigo and a light wash of violet mixed with white gouache, and then back in with various mixtures of tinted white gouache for the flowers. I erased the stray pencil marks at the end and there you have it.

deer skull - blue

I’ve been so energized lately when it comes to watercolor that I went online last night and started looking for some nice reticulation and granulating paints. I found one of each and a nice greenish black (to compliment my favorite Indigo) from Daniel Smith. I ordered the following three tubes tonight and look forward to their arrival.

daniel smith paint order

And honestly, if you love color as much as I do you really should check out the Daniel Smith website and select “granulating” in the search options – the spread of beautiful chemical and gemstone based paints in their catalog are mouth watering AND – their descriptions read like a J. Peterman catalog (Seinfeld reference).

Cascade Green

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