I was looking for something interesting that would work in a relatively small format. Then I remembered the bighorn skulls I had come across at the museum. I had not been sure about drawing one, but looking at them again, I decided to give it a try. Visually, those horns are extremely interesting, and biologically, they are an impressive adaptation. Have you ever tried walking around with ten percent or so of your body weight strapped to your head? I can’t say I have, but I am fairly sure my neck would object – and that’s before I tried to head-butt other people

[Children, do not try this at home. This skull is built for head butting. Yours is not.]

Unsurprisingly, the feature that makes the skull interesting is also what had put me off drawing it initially. The horns have not just ridges and furrows, they have longitudinal striae and cracks, and on top of the complex texture, they have to look hard and smooth.

To try and capture all that, I had to work in layers, but in the end, it was not as challenging as I had expected. Working in a small (9″ x 12″) format kept the task manageable, and once I figured out how the pattern works, it was not that hard. In fact, looking at the final drawing, it seems I got a little overconfident. I all-but lost one of the dark bands. That is something I could have easily avoided by cross-checking again with the specimen.

Pencil, 9" x 12"

For this particular drawing, a fully-faithful rendering was not required, so the discrepancy is no problem. It is definitely something to keep in mind for the future though. Nature is forever variable. Just because you think you understand what something looks like, that doesn’t mean you are getting it right!