Skull 03

The third skull!

Skull 03 – 12×16″

Skull 03


I will admit right away that this one was pretty frustrating to me – if you watch the timelapse for this one, I think you might be able to catch certain very frustrating points. I’ve heard that one of the worst, or at least hardest, things you can do while painting is to change your scope – your composition – your general plan. That happened here somewhat accidentally, and instead of trying to stick to my original idea, I wanted to see what would happen. If you don’t go out on that limb, you’ll never get the fruit, I thought… well, perhaps I should have just tried it in a separate painting.

For all my griping, I’m not really displeased with the final result (though I can definitely give more critique on this one), but the process was much more frustrating. I started out wanting something like a skull face protruding from the canvas – much of the canvas would stay white, in fact, and the eyes and mouth and areas around the face would be purple (or pink-purple-blue shades like I do have here). I wanted it to be almost like there was a skull under a white sheet (you can even see in the timelapse that I got some white fabric out so I could reference it for folds and shape). I don’t know exactly when I changed my mind, but I think it partly had to do with the angle of the skull and the way I was trying to merge it with the background. Neither felt right, and it’s a little painful to watch the timelapse and see me struggling between my original idea (“mostly white” ) and my new idea (the flowing, swirling background with a lot more color than I had originally planned). I realized that if you have a skull under fabric, the skull would have to be more face-on to get the look I was imagining, and the fabric would drape a certain way… both of which would really require me to start over (at the point I realized it, at least) because the eyes, nose, mouth were in the wrong place for what I had intended.

So I had doomed my composition from the start by trying to angle the head the wrong way, and I even kept trying to angle it in my head (and I see now some of what I was trying to transpose in my head got to the canvas, as the shapes of the skull don’t match my reference). Some part of me was telling me it was wrong, but not how to fix it. I don’t want to dwell on this too long, but if you’re an artist and you’re reading this, let me know how you get around this obstacle – what happens when your composition is just wrong but you’ve already gone too far? Do you start over, do you give up and move on to another, do you change your composition? Long story short, I tried my best to make something neat out of it, but I think it could have been better if I had fully committed to this idea in the beginning, or realized my mistake for the original idea earlier. If you’ve done the same, please share with me your disasters and triumphs! I’d love to see how others approach this problem!


Music for Video: “Ghost Dance” by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (



Spooky Film: Today’s spooky film of the day is “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.”  Yep, Elvira!  I had actually watched this during dinner on the day that I worked on this painting.  I needed something funny and cute in-between working on this frustrating painting.  And the movie did help me get in a better mood so I could get back to figuring out how to save it, so if you ever need an adorable silly spooky movie to cheer you up, consider watching Elvira!


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