This is not a large whitetail buck. However, he is a VERY important one. Not to just one person but to an entire family. And the most important beaded skull art piece I have ever had the privilege of creating.
This buck is in memory of Devon Kurzhals. He was a very loved young man who was taken from this world too soon. His father and he were especially close hunting and fishing buddies. And this is the last deer Devon took on his grandparents’ property.
Only once before have I named a beaded skull art piece before I started working with it. But this is the first time one has been named before I had even held it. Before getting Devon’s buck from his father my husband and I were talking about Devon’s story and his family. And my husband thought of a name that made us both tear up. However, this is such a special situation I wanted to make sure his family would approve. When we met David, we asked what he thought of the name and I will never forget his smile.
This is “Devon’s Legacy”.
To get started, as with every skull I work with Devon’s buck got a bath. However, there was just a bit of debris in some deep crevices. David did a great job taking good care of him.
He had lost a couple of teeth but David found some replacements in the “treasures” he keeps and glued them in before I got him. Nice job David!
There was very little to clean on the outside of his teeth. So it only took an hour or so to pick the debris out.
Ready to start the clay process!
Clay Work Process
Clay work is coming along nicely. I was happy the small bones in front were just loose and not missing. Therefore they secured in place very well.
The left side is finished save a few spots I will blend in as I work with the right. In this case it was necessary to use some clay below the antler base as there was a bit of cracking. And so I’ll do the same on the right side.
The cartilage in the eye sockets is always cracked as it is very delicate. Therefore it breaks easily meaning more clay work. However, Devon’s Legacy is gladly cooperating and nothing has broken. Strong young buck.
I’ll post more images when the clay process is complete.
Finished with clay! Well, almost. The center needs to be fitted to the focal bead when it arrives. I have already started “flattening” the area so it shouldn’t take much to complete.
I painted the inside cavities before finishing the underside clay. So, while waiting for the that to dry I worked on the antlers. To address the discoloration, since they were on the whiter side, I had originally thought to simply give them a white-wash. I started that process; however, it didn’t take long to change my mind. It would have taken more white than I liked to cover some blemishes and I kept thinking of the chosen color scheme. This was not going to work. So, I washed the white-wash off.
After Devon’s Legacy and I sat together for a while, I decided to start with a light tan and medium brown. That was better but still not quite right. So, I added a bit of deep brown and that was the ticket. Now his antlers will blend just right with the color scheme.
Next up, paint! Although I won’t be able to finish until final claying is done for the focal bead. But I can get started.
Final Clay/Paint/Focal Bead
So grateful the beads arrived with only a couple of days delay compared to “normal times”!
With the focal bead in hand I finished the clay work and painting as quickly as possible. Though still taking enough time to allow everything to dry properly.
Ready to start designing this layout!
Before the beads arrived, I had several thoughts in my head for this design. But from experience I know things change depending on so many factors including the skulls’ dimensions, the size and shape of the focal and other beads selected and, most importantly the FEEL of the project.
I was so excited when they arrived because this color scheme is amazing! I started by laying them out side by side in different successions against the beautiful focal bead. And I found three colors I loved the balance of with it. Perfection!
Then I tried all kinds of layouts I’d had in my head before getting them. Why, I have no idea because in the end I came right back to the way I’d laid them out when I first got them. This is definitely a “heart” over “head” project! I’m listening now, Devon! Moving on to laying out the design on the skull. Doing this helps me envision how it sits on the skull and where other beads will fit in. And then the exciting part of this beaded skull art piece…the beading begins!
In this first image you can see how I start this process by placing the beads for the main design layout onto a temporary “pattern” on the skull. I don’t attempt to add all the beads here, just enough for me to get an idea how they will sit and where other beads will fit in according to their shape, size and/or color. Because it is a very rough visual representation of the design at this stage, it is difficult for others to see where I’m going with it. But in my mind, I see much more. Sometimes I have to put more beads on than other times to get the “vision” I need. This time it didn’t take much.
I was going to show an image of Devon’s deer with the design just to the point of the first image but changed my mind. I really wanted Devon’s family to see the main design as I “saw” it in my mind. The only thing that changed was I moved the line of tiny dark blue beads to the other side of the skull.
I still have a bit to do on the main design on the back and sides of the skull, though it wouldn’t be visible at this angle anyway. Then it’s on to all the details, which is the time-consuming part. So, Devon’s family, this is going to take a while. Please know I’ll be working diligently to get this precious skull back to you as quickly as possible. I’ll let you know just as soon as Devon’s Legacy is finished.
“Devon’s Legacy” is complete!
“Devon’s Legacy” is finally complete! And my husband and I had the great pleasure of delivery him safely back to David, Devon’s dad and Grandma Jean (Devon’s paternal grandmother).
Before saying anything else I want to say how much I appreciated the opportunity to meet in person Grandma Jean, who came wearing her signature turquoise. Love it! I SO wanted to hug her, but in the current circumstances that contact had to unfortunately be restrained. However, I got to see her face and smile and feel her energy and love for Devon. So thankful we met, Grandma Jean! Maybe we’ll still get to hug one day.
The image here does not do “Devon’s Legacy” justice and I am excited that professional photos by Byran Bosch (find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Photography-by-Bryan-Bosch-234421813426482 ) are on the way! Because of Devon’s and his family’s love of the outdoors, I had these photos taken outdoors in a woodland setting. As soon as I am able, I will create a page on my gallery with many of the images displayed here in the “The Making of Devon’s Legacy” section as well as the professional photos.
And that would normally be the end of this story…happy clients, happy life, right? But it was not the end for me.
As we drove home after delivery “Devon’s Legacy” to his family the thought struck me that I would never see that deer again. My eyes suddenly welled up and startled, I shook off the thought. I’ve never had that thought or that feeling of sad separation before with any of my artwork. Later that evening it returned to me and I allowed the thought and feelings to linger. As a lump formed in my throat and tears came to my eyes something very profound struck me. It was not about the deer. It was about Devon. Whatever loss I felt, the small tears that I shed were but a literal drop in the bucket to the monsoon of tears this family has shed and the life constricting emotions they have felt for the loss of Devon.
Dear Devon’s family, I pray this small piece of Devon’s life, that you have given a “new life” to brings happy memories to you all for many, many years to come. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your and Devon’s journey here, and beyond.