You know that I have been enjoying painting shells lately. You watched me draw oyster shells and I have raved on about other paintings I have done. So I found some limpet shells on the beach at Apollo Bay and was fascinated by their texture. Their tops are worn smooth and pearlescent while their sides are ridged and lined and multi-coloured.
I played around with watercolour pencils and created some smaller studies. They worked well, and went into my Etsy shop. If I am not happy with one of my works, I won’t put it up for sale.
I wanted to play with painting larger, A4 works, and I thought that I knew how to create one with watercolour pencils. I found out that I didn’t know after all!
There is always a time in a painting where I feel that it is just not working; that time when I feel like throwing a little tantie on the floor, kicking and screaming. In most cases I work through and find that things suddenly come together, and the painting is how I thought it would be. This was not one of those cases. So I left it and started to work on a watercolour version. Can you guess what the result of that one was?
Yep, another one that I wasn’t happy with. 😉
Now I am pondering why. I think there are three issues, but I would love to know what you think. (And in answer to my question in the title — in all fairness, the limpet shell is blameless. The frustration is all my own!)
- In both cases I lost the highlights. I loved the smaller ones because they were fresh and light. It is the white of the paper that gives watercolour life. Enlarging the shell encouraged me to add more pencil or paint to the ridges, covering the paper with colour. Can you see the second browny ridge from the left in the photo above? That’s the part of the painting that I like, because the white of the paper shows through. That’s how the rest should be.
- The follow on from that is if there are fewer highlights, there are fewer deep darks too. I was working in the mid-tone range too much. Nothing was jumping out, zinging.
- I went onto the detail too early. My artisitc default position is to go straight to the detail. I am always reminding myself to go from broad to fine, but I guess I just wasn’t listening. 😉 Then I tried to fix things by adding in details.
What do you think? I would love constructive feedback in the comments.
As for the next….well, I can do this, and I want to succeed. So my next painting is going to be a different limpet shell, one with less colour variation, probably in watercolour. I will let you know how I go!
[Remember, if you like something in my Etsy shop, you can buy it directly through me. Just let me know via this blog or email@example.com]
2 replies on “Why are limpet shells so frustrating?”
Mmmm, very challenging Anne. I rarely work with watercolour pencils, so I don’t have any good advice in that regard. Perhaps you could start with some less detailed pencil or charcoal sketches, or even simple watercolour washes – concentrating on the form and tonal differences before moving back onto the watercolour pencils… Good luck!!
Yes, you are right to suggest I concentrate on the tonal differences with a different medium. That may well be the way I begin the next one. Thanks Denise. [Drop into Denise’s Etsy shop to see her superb botanical art. https://www.etsy.com/shop/worksonpaper%5D