I’m taking a break from trying to draw skulls. Though I’ve drawn many a face in my day I haven’t drawn a ton of skulls. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never learned to draw skulls but faces seem a lot easier to draw. Probably because they have a lot more leeway built into them. I can draw eyes a dozen different weird ways and they’ll still easily read as eyes but how about eye sockets? Maybe people who draw skulls all the time have a dozen different stylized ways to draw eye sockets but I don’t. So far I only have a couple of different ways. One is triangular and one is round. Those are the two shapes I’m riffing off right now.

Teeth are another thing I don’t have down yet when it comes to skulls. Teeth in general are problematic in art. They don’t quite belong in drawing and painting. Teeth belong in photography where they don’t take much extra thought but in drawing and painting they need their own special technique and there isn’t a grand tradition of teeth techniques. “They look like Chiclets” is the thing I’ve often heard about anyone’s badly drawn teeth over the years. I wonder what today’s saying is since Chiclets have mostly left pop culture? It’s usually easiest to keep the mouth shut in a drawing.

The only teeth I’ve been drawing lately have been monster teeth. It’s usually a good idea to give monsters big, sharp, and pointy teeth and it’s fairly easy to pull off. They’re supposed to be jagged and unattractive and I find that easier to do with teeth than making them pretty. I’ve only been doing the monster teeth in ink though and not paint. The way I often draw monster teeth is a battered brush technique that makes a lot of rough lines all at once. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time and I like the look of it. My alternate technique is to draw some teeth out of jagged and rough lines. Nothing complicated.

The problem with those teeth and these skulls is that I’ll be making paintings and not ink drawings. Neither of those two techniques will work in paint the same way they do in ink. Plus the drawing I’m working on now are too small for teeth techniques. The final paintings will be fairly small at eight by ten inches but right not I’m working on the drawings at two and a half by three and a half inches. I’m just getting the basic gesture of the teeth in there at that size. And figuring out that basic gesture is not easy when I don’t have a lot of those arrows in my quiver.

I like working at a small size at first. I find it a lot easier than starting off at an eight by ten inch size. In general I like to work large but at the beginning small is better. I’m trying to figure out the basic composition and shapes. That’s easier to do when it takes less time to erase and move things around. If I don’t get an eye in the right place it’s a minor matter to move it around. Plus I’m not using much drawing technique at this point. When figuring out basic composition stuff at a larger size I often get caught up in making a good drawing of an eye rather than figuring out where it should go. It sucks to spend time on the drawing of an eye, like the way it came out, and then notice it’s not in the right place compositionally. It needs to drop down a quarter of an inch. That’s a tough erase.

My noses are a bit similar too but since skulls don’t really have noses it’s tough to do something with them. They are just holes in the skull. I’ve been going with two slender triangles next to one and other for the nasal cavities but that’s going to get tiresome. I’ve been varying the three points on the triangles and that seems to be all I can do. The nose is important in drawing a skull in that it can’t be there but I think the eyes and teeth have a lot more impact on the drawing. Maybe that’s why I’ve been mostly ignoring the noses.

In glancing at the drawings I have already done one thing I notice it that the skulls look a little too cute. I want them to have a bit more menace but so far I’ve got none of that in there. That might have to do with the way I’m drawing them though. I’m keeping them simple and using basic shapes. It’s the skull as a graphic translation and I’m not sure how much room for menace there is in there. I think most skull based menace comes from realism and scratchy lines. The scariest skulls I’ve seen are made with lots of hatching and cross hatching. But I’m not using any of that. I’m unsure of if I’ll be able to get any menace in them at all. I’m usually not very good at cute either but I think skulls without menace are cute by default.

Since the skulls are going to be paintings they’re going to be color and since it’s me they’re going to be colorful. I usually use bright colors in all my paintings and these will probably have them too but I’m not sure yet. It’s early in the process and I’ve never painted skulls before. I’m not sure where the idea even came from. The bright colors will probably not add very much menace to the skulls so maybe it’s a pipe dream to try and get any kind of menace into the drawings.

One thing I’m trying to avoid is Day of the Dead skulls. I’ve seen some pretty cool ones and they’re nice in general but I’m a little tired of them. And they’re pretty well associated with the Day of the Dead so I won’t be able to do my own thing. The way things are going I haven’t found what my own thing with skulls is but we’ll see.