I know – kind of a weird focus for this week’s blog. But I took a class this past weekend that gave me a chance to focus on using watercolors to capture animal skulls and I just got really engaged. The class, taught by expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin , was held at the Burke Museum here in Seattle, in conjunction with Maria’s current exhibition at the Nordic Heritage Museum entitled “Imaging the Arctic.”
There I was, with the walrus skull in front of me! The Burke was very generous with their collection and brought out many smaller skulls as well that students could use at the tables. But I was intrigued by the walrus – we’d seen some on our Arctic trip back in 2005 and I thought it would be good for me to work big.
As is often the case with my art work, I was not pleased with my class result. I felt that I’d not captured all the bones and shaded areas but had instead somehow made some short cuts – looking with my brain and not with my eyes. I’m learning that our brain really does add in what it expects and if I don’t keep looking at something, what I fill in does not match what is in front of me. So I took lots of photos before the end of the day and bought some extra paper from Maria and brought my project home – and today I finished it.
While there are still things that could be fixed, I’m pretty happy with this. I learned a lot about dark areas, shading and creating a bit of roundness through paint. Not all of those lessons are as visible as I’d like them to be, especially creating a bit more roundness, but I am starting to get the hang of this watercolor thing and moving past the frozen over the paper feeling I have when laying down paint. And I think someone looking at this would know it’s a walrus.
I had fun painting with my step-daughter Anna who first introduced me to Maria, and in part started me on this watercolor pathway. It was fun to take a class together and I’m just so impressed by how great her watercolor work is….below, her coyote skull.
Maria helped us with gesture sketches on Saturday as well and I’ve been practicing a bit each night, getting ready for our upcoming expeditionary trip to India. I want to be ready to sketch animals we might see, as well as capture sights in watercolor. As Maria says, practice, not perfection!