Animal Skull

This is the second project my Intro to Oil Painting students do, on an 11 x 16″ canvas, using a limited palette and an animal skull as still life. Strong spot light is used, with a darkened space (black box) in which to place the object so that we can see better contrast.

Initially, a tonal drawing is created, here is one of my students:


On a toned burnt sienna canvas, over a vine charcoal compositional grid, a grisaille underpainting is then applied. Shannon’s example:


Lourdes’ grisaille:


A first and second color pass is then applied. The limited palette used is burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and cadmium yellow light (mixed only with the burnt sienna, not with the blue). Lourdes’ example below:


Fat over lean layers are sequentially glazed, using the burnt sienna towards the bottom and front of the skull, to create a warm and advancing space, with the blue behind the skull, for a cool and receding space. Both of these colors are used in values the skull is painted with.

Layers and glazes are “fat over lean” which translates into: more fatty layers have more oil or medium in them, not more paint. More translucency, and opportunity for beautiful light to reflect in and around the painting.

Good job!

2 thoughts on “Animal Skull

    1. Hi there; thank you for your comment! The animal skull is used as an object to paint in classical studies, because of it’s neutral bone color, and interesting shape. We always cast a strong light on the form, to better see shapes and value. I find the skulls here in Arizona. I will write more in detail about the skulls this Fall, when my new group of painters will begin. Keep tuned!

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