Haunted Holidays: Bones

Haunted Holidays: Bones

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Week Eleven
December 12th through the 18th

Honestly, this prompt exists to give me a peaceful week at the end of my challenge. Bones and skulls are often the subjects of my work, so I threw this into the end of this three-month challenge because I knew I would be feeling fatigued by this point. 

Yet coming into this week, I did not feel satisfied just taking the straightforward route. I craved something more than my usual skull and bones aesthetic.

So I began searching for a theme that held a deeper, personal meaning. 

Expressing feelings through art often takes the form of metaphors. Learning to explore this type of work can be difficult. Having a tendency to be literal it can be a challenge to produce a metaphor that conveys my message. 

The process began by thinking of as many topics related to bones as I could. A saying came to mind: “Skin and Bones.” This triggered a memory for me about when I was at my lowest weight. Struggling mentally with body image, financially with affording food, and psychologically with an abusive relationship, I was quite literally nothing but skin and bones. 

And thus, a concept was born. 

Things that went well with this week’s art piece:

~ Her face is so beautiful

~ The green background

~ Hair technique

On the not so great end of things:

~ Anatomy

~ Dissolving

~ Accidental tint


I am absolutely in love with the way her face turned out. The shading is so good and her expression is moving. 


Something went wrong when I was cleaning my tools after working the previous week on the Coffin painting because there was a noticeable red tint to my applied paint. Feeling very annoyed at myself, I really really did not want to start this over again. Even though I was not very far into the painting and starting over would not have wasted much time, I was using new paper and did not wish to just throw it in the bin. 

The tint was noticeable but not profound and I convinced myself that since I planned the background to be green, the slight red tint to her skin would be a very interesting contrast. So I went with it. 


Another minor issue with this piece occurred when trying to make her arms dissolve into the weird smokey texture. It was just very difficult to get the dissolving part to be the same shade as her arms so that it appeared seamless. 


One of my very favorite things about this piece is the background. I chose the use Dusk Green Van Gogh watercolor, and it reacted strangely. Using a wet-on-wet technique, the paint appears an extremely dark green color when you first apply it. After spreading further into the water, it lightens up, like all watercolors. 

But as I began working the paint around the paper, some areas began turning black. The darkest parts of the background do not have added black paint. Something weird just happened to the pigment. Then, when the background dried, it appeared to have a cracked texture to it. 

Both things happened completely by accident, and I adore them.


While I like the dimension created from multiple layers of hair, I prefer this technique over the ones I have used in the past. Applying opaque black to build the shape and then adding lots of stray hairs for character. This technique takes far less time (remember the Graves painting hair took like six fucking hours) and looks fantastic. I even add in highlights using the same application I used in week four, but sparingly. 


This side-by-side comparison shows you the difference between a lined and unlined piece. On the right is the finished painting without the final outline. It looks good, just a little messy with a slightly unfinished feel. On the left is the completely finished piece. The black outline adds definition while cleaning up the edges and the white outline adds contrast and separation from the background. 

This is my favorite transformation in my creative process. 


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