A Study of Tropical Shells

April 25, 2009

small-conch-shellIf you truly would wish to learn about any thing in nature, one excellent way to go about it would be to attempt a drawing of it in pencil.  Paints and watercolors can be forgiving of detail in a way that pencils cannot.  A pencil drawing demands an exact understanding of the subject.

These three images are all part of one large drawing I made when I was an art student.  Looking at them now, many years later, I see where I substituted exactness with fogginess in some areas, in order to save time and effort.   

My instructor at the time told the class that in order to become master draughtsmen, we’d have to create a minimum of 10,000 drawings first.  This idea is very similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule in ‘Outliers,’ his recent book about the factors that contribute to high levels of success. 

shell-studyGladwell’s discovery is a disappointment to anyone who thinks that there is a shortcut to success.  Persistence and hard work are more important than talent.  I think people who are gifted acquire satisfaction with less effort in the beginning, and so are encouraged to do more.  But it is their ongoing practice that helps them achieve success.

As a child I spent countless hours drawing.  Compared to my peers, I did a lot less of other things.  But it was time well spent because I learned so much about nature in the process. 

shells-studyDrawing is a quiet activity that gives both children and adults an opportunity to observe and study nature up close.  Nothing more is needed other than a piece of blank paper, a pencil and… patience, something that is only learned through practice.

These drawings were made with a terra cotta charcoal pencil on manila paper.

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4 Responses to “A Study of Tropical Shells”

  1. caroltaylor Says:

    I enjoyed these tropical shell charcoal drawings, particularly the 3rd. one (excellent composition and rendering of the conch), and reading your accompanying thoughts. I share your interest in drawing from nature. You may enjoy reading my “Musings of a Confirmed Beachcomber” at: http://chiaroscuromagazine.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/musings-of-a-confirmed-beachcomber/
    and viewing my charcoal pencil drawings at my website:
    http://www.caroltaylorblackandwhite.com
    Carol Taylor

  2. flandrumhill Says:

    Thanks for your comments Carol. I share your love for beachcombing and enjoyed reading your musings. I especially liked the drawing of the Calico Bass you made in black and white. It always amazes me how artists may both see and love the same things in nature, but render them so differently in their art work.


  3. Drawing makes me happy and I don’t worry too much about what others think, but any compliments are also good! I agree with your comment above…we all create our art so differently.
    I like the bottom picture best here…all the swirls on that conch look so interesting- I think you captured it well.

    • flandrumhill Says:

      Thanks millhill. Drawing makes me happy too 🙂 Engaging in an art activity is supposed to release endorphins that make us feel good. It doesn’t matter if you’re using oil paints or sidewalk chalk.


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