Photograph of Tokay gecko

Tokay Gecko, courtesy of Nick Hobgood (via

I like reptiles.  I also like painting reptiles–on rocks. And though Tokay geckos are not my favorite sort of reptile, they are still geckos, which are my favorite kind of reptile. After surfing Bing for ideas, I noticed a Tokay gecko pose that caught my interest. I used it as inspiration for my painting, using other references I found to help me complete the critter: one of the basic pose, another for the tail, another for the head pose, others for color clarification and other such details.

Now I’ve heard that Tokay geckos are little brats of the gecko world, and there are far cuter geckos out there, but Tokay’s do have pretty colors. I hope to catch these elements in my painting.

I start with a rock. Generally I collect several rocks from the rock pile I’ve assembled out in my backyard, bring them inside, clean the grit off them, and ferry them into my room. There I lay them out on the floor alongside my laptop, and choose the rock that best fits the particular lizard I want to paint. Then, using a white chalk pencil, I draw in the lizard. This one took a little work as I got the proportions and pose right. A lot of it is hit-and-miss-and-adjust with new animals I haven’t drawn before. Once that was done, I blocked in the form of the gecko with the base color, the most common color in the animal, which happened to be light turquoise.

Since I haul my paints to and from college on occasion, I like to travel light. I pack everything but my plate (an old recycled microwave tray) into a shoebox sized plastic tub. All my paints, brushes, water glasses, sponges, sealer, varnishes, and paint trays fit inside. Because of this, I only carry the basic colors (of the rainbow, black, & white) with me, plus a few extras that are common colors in animals (grays, brown, gold, rose)–and some metallic colors, which are just fun. In order to get the light turquoise used above as the gecko base coat, I mixed white, blue, and a tad bit of green.

Anyhow, enough tangent. After the base coat I began to add in the details. Dark blue-gray, then white, then the orange markings over the top of some of the dark blue-gray spots. Then I painted in the mouth, eyes, and other details of the body, and added a shadow by mixing water into the black paint to give it a translucent quality.

Finished Tokay gecko painting on rock

Finished painting, more or less.

Then, for all painting purposes, it was done. But not yet. I wanted to protect the painting, somehow–which I usually do with a varnish of some sort. However, I needed something that was as matte as it comes, and even my matte varnish is quite shiny. So I decided to try a sealer.

It worked beautifully on the top, leaving a very matte protective covering over the painting that I knew would keep the rock and paint both safe. When I painted the bottom, however, I ran into a problem as it dried. Where it overlapped, it was shiny.

Now this annoyed me, because it looks sloppy. It looks like I tried to varnish it, and wasn’t paying attention. So I needed a way to fix it. Sand paper came to mind, but though I looked, I couldn’t find any in my apartment. I found matches and a hammer, but no sand paper.

I still think sand paper could work. My other option is to go ahead and varnish it, but I’m not ready to give up yet. Perhaps I will head home one weekend, pick up some sandpaper, see if I can’t clear up those shiny spots, then cover the entire rock with a few coats of my spray-on varnish which I conveniently left at home. That varnish is very matte. I can usually hardly even tell it’s there, once it dries.

But for the time being, the Tokay gecko is more or less finished. Here it is, with its coating of sealer. I’ll keep you updated of any adjustments.

Finished Tokay Gecko painting

The Finished Tokay Gecko.

God Bless.

Edit: With a little bit of sand paper and some touch-up sealer, I have fixed the shiny problem! It is now up for sale on my Etsy page: ZephyrCat Art.