Weddell  seals – Leptonychotes wedelli

Image reference:

from 11 photos of affectionate animals, US Department of the Interior

Fact sheet:


True confessions: I’m not sure these animals are endangered. It’s a cute photo and shows two animals being affectionate. It’s also easy to imagine oneself as the mama seal (especially if you’ve been a tired parent). [The photo shows this more than the painting does.]

It is a winter scene appropriate for December. That will be the challenge of this painting: maintaining whites and portraying body shape using only shades of gray.


This was a simple painting since I didn’t need to worry about background. I roughed in the baby seal one day, mama the next, then worked on faces and added some layers to get darker shades. I didn’t want to add much since the first painting session left some areas white to portray snow on top of the seals’ bodies.


  • with watercolor, it’s impossible to correct initial mistakes. The baby’s head is not at the right angle, but I didn’t see any way to change it without starting over. Similarly, mama’s eyes are to wide open; in the photo they are tired slits. I decided those aren’t fatal errors.
  • I painted in dots of gray on the mama’s back, trying to leave some white to represent the snow on top of her fur. I’m pleased with the way it came out. (Contemplating the photo, I ordered some resist so I could save the whites. It still hasn’t arrived, but I will be able to use it in later paintings, especially to help with catch lights in animal eyes.)
  • We imagine love as a human activity. Looking at animal photos is a good way to remind ourselves that love is part of being a living creature.

Posted on

November 23, 2022

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