Turtle Prints and Watercolors

by Brian Gordy

Something I discovered fairly quickly is that turtles are not snobs.  They hang frequently and quite symbiotically with other turtle species.  Today's sighting, though, surprised me. The surprise came when the final piece of the composition crawled up on the log in front of the Red-eared Slider, and the Painted Turtle...well what do you know... It's a Stinkpot!  

The Stinkpot, more officially sternotherus odoratus, and more accurately, Common Musk Turtle, is not generally a river turtle.  They prefer ponds, mucky wetlands, and small, slow moving creeks. But, here he was today, on my river.  The nickname "stinkpot" comes from the foul smell secreted from glands on the back of its shell, presumably in the face of a threat - raccoon, coyote, dog, human, etc. While it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between aquatic species of turtles in this region - similar size, subtle differences in shell and flesh markings, similar general shapes - there is no doubt we are looking at a unique character in the Stinkpot. 

In this painting, the glassy, waxy, platter-like character of the Red-eared Slider(in the middle), shows the subtle sub-surface color and the segmented structure of its shell, while the Stinkpot's helmet shaped shell presents very differently - domed, monochromatic - with inconspicuous segmentation. Even the feet of a Stinkpot are shaped differently - built more for gripping and scooping I suppose than fast water antics.  In fact, the Stinkpot is known to be a skilled climber, often seen basking on branches well above water level. 

Watercolor Notes: My favorite part of this painting is the whole painting... in other words, the composition. The criss-crossing direction of the turtles' heads go a long way in providing both movement and balance.  The most influential element, the shell of the middle turtle, creates a dominant diagonal line while hauling in the viewers attention with color and pattern.  This shape, positioned a little more heavily to the right, creates tension that is then mitigated by the stretch of its own neck, and the two parallel  turtles facing the opposite direction...  the bulk of their forms heavy to the left .  The neck and head of the Painted Turtle in the back create an anchor in the composition through the use of contrast, and its position relative to the heavy dark area created by the head of the Red-eared Slider and the shadow below.

Written by Brian Gordy — March 17, 2014

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

All of the images you’ll find on this site were created in watercolor. All prints are giclees (jee-clays) printed on acid free, heavy weight “fine art” paper using permanent, light- fast inks. Each signed and numbered giclee is published in an edition of 100 images each per listed size. Prints are available unframed, or matted and framed with ebony stained wood frame and natural white mat (see "Framing Examples" below).

Recent Blog Posts

Brian Gordy Watercolors: Walk with Drawing, Run with Paint

Griffy Lake Morning - Drawing/Watercolor by Brian Gordy Walk with Drawing Run with Paint I have been a teacher and practitioner of watercolor painting for almost 40 years.  Many of...

Turtle Paintings: Finding Balance

 Finding Balance:  After observing basking turtles for many years,  I've come to understand that the shell (carapace), while a huge advantage to the turtle's ability to survive the millions...

Turtle Painting: Baking off the Winter Mud

Baking Off The Winter Mud (Excerpt from artist journal March 1, 2005)    It’s not really clear to me what brings the turtles up from under the mud of the river...