Pogona Vitticeps

Second painting in the texture series

Pogona Vitticeps is the scientific term for the bearded dragon, a lizard native to much of Australia, but also a common reptilian pet in the U.S. Lizards in general have been my favorite animal since I was a child, I remember begging my mother for a pet lizard while she’d drive me to kindergarten. When I turned 15, this childhood dream finally came true and I adopted my reptilian sidekick, Ryuu. Although many might not believe me when I say it, Ryuu is a very intelligent, adoring, and sassy lizard. Her personality is impossible for me to ignore, and she has been the inspiration for some of my artwork since I adopted her in 2016. I have tried to capture her unique texture that coats every inch of her body with my acrylic paints for years now. Bearded dragons are named after their unique scaling; they have rigid and bumpy typical lizard-like scales sure, but they also have uniquely scaled throats that puff out and darken as a form of communication. Referred to as their “beard”, they will expand this neck area to demonstrate territory, while hunting, to impress a mate, to ward off predators, and in Ryuu’s case at least, when she’s feeling silly-goofy towards her human mother and wants me to chase her in a game of get-away tag. Her back is the part of her body that probably has the most scale diversity; she has smaller triangular shaped scales, enlarged bumpier scales, flat diamond scales, patterns of darker scales following the outline of where her ribcage is, lighter scales breaking the distance between these near “striped” scales, and spiny protruding spikes alongside where her back meets her softer underbelly. When rubbed in the right direction, these spikes feel rubber, almost smooth. When she puffs herself out in defense and these are brushed the opposite direction, the are sharper. For this series, I really wanted to capture her tough, reptilian texture while focusing on these different scale types on her back.

To execute painting this unique texture, I used a stippling effect with my paintbrush, and kept a dryer brush when I did incorporate actual strokes. I also heavily worked in layers; areas of her back that are more dense in both color and texture I included heavier globs of paint, leaving them to dry upwards with a slightly risen texture. I also relied on a stippling technique to accent the highlights and shadows on her back. These areas included not just the “stripe” like pattern rippling down her entire back, but also the wrinkled folds of her reptilian skin that follow her ribs. About four to five layers of stippling make up this reptilian back, while only about three layers make up the sliver of front and back legs I included in the painting. Her legs are less heavily textured and have only smaller, similar sized scales which is why I kept the layering to a minimum in these areas. Lastly, I used a tiny brush with globs of white paint to replicate the rubber-y texture of the spines along her side. These spines come in a variety of sizes, and when she is relaxed, extend in every-which direction. After finishing the white base of each of them, I went back in with the same paint brush and either added or elaborated to the spines in deep greys, or yellow-greys were she had medium tones.

Overall, I am happy with how this painting turned out, not only was it a painting I have wanted to create for awhile now, but it was very fun to work on and play with a very different texture. Incorporating the texture of Ryuu as my second series painting actually does have a connection to my first series painting which features a portion of the human intestinal track that complicated my quality of life while I was in high school. Ryuu came into my life around the time I was diagnosed and kept me company while I was sick. She would sit on my shoulder or cling to my calf while I drew or painted through the pain I was experiencing. To me, these paintings both share the memories of my early high school experience and relate to both positive and negative aspects of this time in my life. I was grateful to be able to paint the pet that I looked forward to returning home to from doctors appointments and tests.

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