Sumatran rhinoceros

Sumatran rhinoceros watercolor


I googled “strong endangered species 2021” and read an article about the Sixth Mass Extinction. I felt very sad and hopeless after reading it, but I liked the accompanying rhinoceros photo. I searched for other photos of the Sumatran rhinoceros, and chose a reference photo from save the That’s also an excellent site for learning about the animal and its peril. I will be making a donation to them.


what attracts me to this image is the texture of this lovely creature’s skin – ragged, overlapping edges, extra skin around the neck, the lines on the face and around the eye, the shaggy tips of the ears. I’m pondering, right now, what color palette to use. I’m seeing a sort of gray green realistically, but I could go in almost any direction as long as I represent the appropriate values.

The only white to save is the catch light in the eye, but it is lighter on top and more shadowed underneath. Notice the light skin on the curl of the lip!

Painting strategy will be to block in the background, choose a palette for the rhinoceros and do a very light layer of base color. Then I can start building up texture and volume.

That plan worked well. I chose to work with blues and purples for the rhino. I alternated painting background and foreground.

Alexis Jenson helped with the rhino’s left ear. I was tired, but wanted to add some blue. Sometimes asking for help shows strength.


  • I am becoming more confident that, when I make a mistake, I know how to “fix” it (by adding water and taking out some color).
  • Rhinos have a solid strength to them. It’s not openly dangerous (like a tiger), but bring the sense of stored power.
  • Working with my favorite colors make the project more fun, though I wouldn’t want to limit myself to blues and purples.
  • Choosing snippets from this painting showed me how important the qualities of watercolor are to this painting. Yay for that!

Posted on

June 25, 2021


  1. Warren

    It’s interesting. I think of the Woolly Mammoth in somewhat the same way — solid strength, stored power, but not openly dangerous.

    I also think of both animals as being wise elders — maybe equating size with age and wisdom? Although interestingly, at the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, S.D., which the Woollies visited some years back, the mammoth bodies recovered from the sinkhole were nearly all teenage males. Hmm. Teenage daredevils. Who’d have thought.

    • Kate

      Thanks, Warren, for adding to our thinking about strength. At this point, I think of most animals as being wise elders compared to our brash species. Too bad we will be the death of so many of them. I hope that we grow up fast enough to save some of the wild world around us.


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