Spinner Dolphin Skull


Skull of a spinner dolphin, Stella longirostris, Order Cetacea, from the collection of the Burke Museum, University of Washington, Seattle.

Colored pencil on watercolor paper, cleaned up in Photoshop.

The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus is like a slightly smaller version of New York’s Museum of Natural History. The museum has excellent natural history exhibits as well as an incredible collection of skeletons, pelts and information about mammals, insects, reptiles and birds.

As I am interested in scientific illustration, Jeff, the Mammalogy Collection Manager, generously let me visit “backstage” and draw something from their collection. This spinner dolphin skull was sitting out from a previous researcher, so I decided to draw that.


One lovely part of the experience of drawing something for hours is really connecting with the thing it is you’re drawing. I fall in love with my subjects every time. Who was this dolphin? What was its life? What did it experience?