key deer

key deer watercolor painting


Thinking about weakness, I got the image of the delicacy and innocence of a deer. Googling, I discovered that there is an endangered deer, the Key deer. It lives in Florida. They are a subspecies of the white-tailed deer, but are smaller, only 24 to 32 inches at the shoulder.

Image source:

The parts of this image that seem most delicate to me are the large ears and then ankles. I thought about painting the whole image, but I need to make the painting fairly quickly. I don’t currently have a morning PCA, and that means less painting time. It seems appropriate that my dependence and weakness play a part in the creation of this painting. So I decided to paint just the neck, head, and ears. Slicing the photo, I discovered that I would also be painting the back.


I completed this painting in about three hours, split over two sessions – about half the time I usually spend. As I was painting the head, I noticed a tendency to make the head and face more human. It was a pull I had to resist.

It bugs me that:

  • There is not more value contrast in this painting. I wish I had time to make the greens darker so the deer stood out.
  • The nose is so big.
  • The eyes are smeary because – again – I kept wanting to make them human shaped (but see below).

I’m happy about:

  • The smeariness and lack of contrast create a dreamlike quality that I like.
  • The body of the deer is there. It has volume and depth.
  • Being able to paint this month, even under difficult circumstances.


  • Attempting to work more quickly added to the impressionistic style of this painting which I like.
  • Look for photos that are not head-on. I think it would be easier to avoid anthropomorphism.
  • Before calling a painting “done,” think about contrast.
  • Every attempt at painting gives you practice in self-compassion. Unless you are incredibly skilled, the image in your head doesn’t translate into reality. Every painting session is about giving up control. You get to choose how you respond to the surprises that occur – frustration? Curiosity? Delight? You choose – very much a practice in open hearted living.


Posted on

May 23, 2023

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