Freshwater Shells

May 20, 2009

shell2Univalves reveal a spiral design that has fascinated artists, biologists and mathematicians throughout the ages.  The mathematical equation on which the proportions of this design are based is known as the Golden Mean, Golden Section and the Golden Ratio. 

Although the most excellent example of this ratio is the shell of the Chambered Nautilus, the spirals found in these simple freshwater shells also aspire to similar proportions.

These drawings were made with colored pencils. 

freshwater shell

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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.

albell-echinoderms1

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.

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Moon Shell

March 28, 2009

moon-shell

There’s something about moon shells that sparks my imagination.  In the drawing above, I used the design of a Northern Moon Snail as a starting point for some rainbow-like colour combinations and patterns. 

Colored pencils were employed on heavy textured paper.

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