Category Archives: Skull

Vanitas I

meglyman_vanitasI_varnish

Vanitas I by Meg Lyman

12×6″ oil on canvas

Etsy listing

A quick study in the impermanence of beauty. This was my first time trying lead white (Rublev Lead White No. 2), and it was awesome. It really makes a difference with the textures and is great for painting skulls.

Below is the scan of the unvarnished version. Subtle but interesting differences.

meglyman_vanitasI_unvarnished

Nutria Flower

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Nutria Jaw by Meg Lyman

4×4″ oil on board

SOLD

I’m fascinated with the delightfully odd shape of nutria jaws. They remind me of flowers, so I made this one pink. Plus I wanted to try out my Old Holland Ultramarine Red-Pink.

Sweet Zombie Jesus

meglyman_bovid1_unvarnished

Bovid I by Meg Lyman

9×12″ oil on board

Etsy link

When I ordered this super awesome cow skull someone on Etsy found in the desert, I was excited. I was not, however, prepared for the sheer size of the thing. I pulled it out of the box, said “WOW,” and cradled it in my arms for an hour. I love it way more than I should. I wanted to paint it as soon as I laid eyes on it.

cowphoto

Note: larger than it looks

I set up to paint it on a cloudy day, with no lights on, just the nice north light overcast coming through the window. This limited my time – good practice for plein air. Plus I procrastinated and started after noon, but that’s neither here nor there.

cowskullsetup

Daylight… almost… gone…

I paid special attention to values on this, which is something I’ve always eyeballed, to the detriment of every painting I’ve ever made. I dusted off the value finder card and actually matched my paint to the values coming off the skull. I was surprised by the things I learned doing this, as is often the case when I actually pay attention.

The first thing I noticed is that the lightest value coming off the skull wasn’t the lightest value on the card, and ditto with the darkest. I would have painted it with the full value range if I hadn’t known that.

I have four tubes of Vasari paint – I love them very much – and I wanted to use them all on this, so they drove my color choices. I set up an orange cloth to get some nice, warm reflected light in the shadows. Then I laid out some color strings, matching them to the skull with the value finder.

cowpalette

Color strings being born

My colors were Vasari Raw Sienna, Naples Yellow Extra, Silver Point, and Cerulean Blue, plus some Blue Ridge Turkey Umber for the darks and some titanium white. The first three values of light blue I mixed were 9, 8, and 7, out of 10 on my value card. I tried to follow the very subtle shifts in value on the light side of the skull, which were totally obliterated by the camera shot above. And the one below.

cowwip

bad photo, sorry

So I know the photo is washed out here, but you can still see some of the value shifts if you squint. And you can see the second thing I learned today – the light blue values that looked pretty dark on my palette look absolutely white on my dark blue toned board. I’m certain the toned board would have caused me to push the value range too far on the light side of the skull if I hadn’t measured.

This stuff fascinates me! I bet that when I’m painting on a white surface, I do the same thing with darks – lose the subtlety of the value range because of the contrast with the ground. No wonder classical painters and the old masters toned their boards and did ebauche and all that fancy stuff. I had read about all that stuff but learning it the hard way really makes it stick. It also makes me excited to try it again next time.

p.s. this is one of those studies I was talking about – practice still life, plus skulls, will feature in a future larger scale painting. I promise.

 

The Lull

I have returned intact from the workshop, and now I’m so stuffed with knowledge I can barely move. Thanks to Kate for putting up with us and sharing her top secret techniques. I look forward to using her painting method on some upcoming still life practice.

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Cervid I by Meg Lyman

8×10″ oil on board

Etsy link

In honor of still life, here is a skull I painted. Before the workshop. Not only did I not use Kate’s technique, I painted it over an 8-year-old gouache painting on gessobord that was one of my very first paintings and was consequently horrible. Turns out you can use oil over gouache quite easily, although I know nothing about its longevity. All that aside, I believe it is a mule deer, advertised on Etsy as a found elk skull. People are really bad with taxonomy. I love identifying found skulls, but I admit I might be in the minority there.

Also, the first plug: come to see me at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend in Seattle! I’ll be at table LL-13. I may try painting between now and then, but these past two weeks have been all about learning and business.

La Ofrenda

meglyman_ofrenda

La Ofrenda by Meg Lyman

11×14″ gouache on paper

SOLD

This one was a labor of love. It taught me artistic patience, and that I will forever need extra tubes of M. Graham’s “Gamboge” gouache because I am maybe a little obsessed with it. In honesty, I am very pleased with parts of this and very displeased with others. I suppose that’s always how it is when you’re trying new things… but I bet you can’t tell which parts are which. If not… success!

Here’s a bit of a WIP: I drew it out on 11×14″ paper, transferred it to this glorious cold press paper, Strathmore Aquarius II. So velvety. I underpainted a sort of grisaille of magenta to help me remember light sources. It helped but I didn’t stick to it religiously.

ofrendaWIP

I chose a limited palette simply by picking only a few tubes of paint to use. Then, paint! Some of it is opaque and some transparent. The sugar skull was painted in opaque, and looked awful, so I scrubbed it with a paper towel and got this lovely transparent, textured finish. Also it didn’t buckle but a little bit, which was fixed by wetting the backside (once it was all done) and pressing it overnight. Paper love!

ofrendaX

Happy October!

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Cat Ghoul by Meg Lyman

1.25″x2.5″ oil on board

SOLD

October has to be my favorite month. Cloudy, blustery, beautiful colors everywhere… and Halloween. Skulls! Graveyards! Haunting! I’ve been doing some skull still life paintings for practice, so I’ll share them with you this month. This one is trying out three new oil colors I ordered and it’s on a teeny tiny piece of Stampbord. I really like the sturdy surface in those small sizes – they come as small as 1″ squared! It’s not necessarily made for oils, but it works quite well. The only thing I noticed is that it was pretty absorbent… but that could also be the new oils I was using.

On the recommendation of a WetCanvas forum, I decided to sample Williamsburg Nickel Yellow, Blockx Green Earth, and Maimeri Bitumen. All three brands were recommended as high quality oil paints. I honestly don’t feel experienced enough to say that I can tell a huge difference in the quality, but I do like that none of them were all stiff like some of the cheap ones are. The Bitumen also has a very weird quality to it… when you squeeze it out, it’s got sort of a thick, sticky core surrounded by thinner, more oily paint. It is reminiscent of tar and delightful to play with.