Orthoceras, graphite on Bristol

I wanted  to try something paleontological, so I composed this scene of a little orthoceras (a nautiloid) living among marine plants about 450 million years ago. So many  drawings of life in the Paleozoic era show lots of attacking going on, trying to show the survival of the fittest at work; I wanted my orthoceras to have a moment of peace, so I tucked him safely in some seaweed.

Black Bear Skull


Black Bear Skull, graphite on drawing paper

This is another drawing I made at the Burke this past Thursday.

My original plan¬†was to do a drawing of both a bear skull and a seal skull, because I’d learned on a recent whale watching trip¬†in the San Juan Islands that bears, sea lions and seals are all closely related. I was going to draw a bear skull and a seal skull to compare them.

But at the Burke, these skulls¬†looked¬†more¬†dissimilar than I had expected. A couple of those¬†differences¬†are that the bear’s skull is much larger, and that¬†the bear’s¬†back teeth are¬†meant for grinding, rather than the seal’s sharp back teeth, which are meant for tearing.

While the black bear skull was far larger than the seal skull, I was surprised that the black bear skull seemed much smaller than how¬†a bear’s head seems in real life. Jeff Bradley (from the Burke’s mammalogy collection) pointed out¬†that the muscles and all that fur add up to make a living¬†bear’s head much bigger.


I might still get to that seal skull, or maybe one of the cool seal skeletons they have there hanging from the back rooms at the Burke…

Sun Bear Skeleton


Sun Bear Skeleton, graphite on drawing paper

I again visited the collections at the Burke Museum Mammalogy department, and Jeff Bradley, the collection manager, generously took this skeleton of a sun bear down from a high shelf so I could draw it.


It came from the Woodland Park Zoo, but the Burke Museum is uncertain whether this particular bear actually lived at the zoo, or whether the zoo got this skeleton from another zoo. The zoo used this skeleton for educating kids and visitors. It had been handled quite a bit, so you can see it is missing a couple of feet!