Green Sea Turtle

May 4, 2009

Sea Turtle off Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Sea turtles are quiet, elusive creatures, still mysterious to humans after many years of study.  They are threatened worldwide due to hunting, pollution and loss of habitat.

A photograph one of my sons took while scuba diving off of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef provided the subject for this drawing.  It was created with colored pencils.

kip with turtle

Here is a photograph of the same turtle shown in the drawing.


Receive by email or subscribe in a reader


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.


The cold waters off Canada’s east coast may lack the colourful wildlife found in warmer seas, but we do have Purple Starfish and Green Sea Urchins. I’ve shown the urchin without its spines in order to reveal the star shaped design found on its shell. 

This painting was done in acrylics on masonite.

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Asymmetry in Lobsters

March 31, 2009


Lobsters are a good example of asymmetry in nature.  Often, their claws are not only found to be of different sizes, but also different shapes.


Lobsters will regenerate a claw if it is broken off, but it takes some time for the new one to grow back to its maximum size.  This may also account for an asymmetrical appearance. 

The photo I used as a guide to paint the lobster at top showed the right arm hidden under its body at the point where it is attached.  Its left arm was also tilted at an angle to show its narrowest side.  Both of these positions exaggerate the discrepancy in claw sizes.

The painting at top was created on masonite with acrylics while the drawing of the lobster was made with a fine point black marker.

The image of a Lobster on Rocks shown at top appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of the Arsenic Lobster poetry journal. 

The original painting is at The Inn at Fisherman’s Cove in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia.

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Sea Biscuits

March 12, 2009


Why do we usually reach for white paper when making drawings?  A colored background is a refreshing change.  If the paper is dark enough for us to use a white pencil instead of a black or grey one, we must adjust our focus to draw the highlights in a subject.  To do so is surprisingly uncomfortable if one is accustomed to always working in the shadows. 

Above is a Sea Biscuit, a small and simple type of Sand Dollar found on local beaches.

 Receive by email or subscribe in a reader