I Call it Possum, You Call it Opossum

I love it when my friends think of me in their travels.  I don’t want the usual gifts…..scarfs, postcards, magnets…..  No, bring me something different and really unique to the area.  So I am completely grateful for Howard, my world traveler friend, who brought back an Australian Possum skull and then lent it to me to draw.

Before we get to the drawing you might be wondering, “What is the difference between a Possum and an Opossum?”  Well, here in the USA we call the marsupial an opossum.  But Down Under they are called Possums, or if you want to be really accurate,  Phalangeridae.  Scientifically the American O/possum is called Didelphimorphia.  So the two are not the same. The Phalangeridae (Australian) has more forward pointing teeth like a squirrel, while the Didelphimorphia (American) is more bat-like in its dentition.

 
Australian Possum
 
American Possum
 When I first started to draw this small skull (it’s only about 3.5″ in length) I was really interested in its teeth and how they articulated and wanted to draw this in profile.  I was also interested in the way the hinge of the lower jaw seemed to sit in the region of the eye socket.  This is so unlike other skulls that I’m familiar with.  To make sure that what I was seeing was infact correct, I called my local Natural History Museum and spoke with the scientist there.  He told me that while it looks like the hinge (think TMJ – Temporomandibular Joint) sits in the region of the eyeball, it actually sits outside that area.  But that drawing didn’t turn out very well and ended up in the trash.  That was actually one of the challenges of working with such a small skull and worrying about its fragility.  Tendons break down the lower and upper jaw seperate so it kept falling over and I didn’t want to fuss too much with it.   Too much information????  Well I won’t add more, but for me, very interesting.
So instead, I set the skull up as if you were looking at the Aussie Possum from about this angle
I break the drawing down in to 3 distinct stages.  Working in charcoal and white pastel on a fawnish color Mi-Tientes paper, Stage 1 is the basic outline of the form itself and noting the light and dark regions.  The paper is the middle tone.
Stage 2 is more developed.  I’m also going to continue to make corrections –and will continue to throughout the whole process.
And finally, stage 3 is the finished drawing
Hope you like it!
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3 thoughts on “I Call it Possum, You Call it Opossum

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