Same nautilus, new angle, new colors–after several attempts to paint the nautilus in it’s true colors, I think I understand why I keep changing them. The shell’s shadows are warmer colors than it’s highlights. Most real world objects have cooler shadows and warmer highlights. But the standards of the shell have warm local color while the base of the shell has cooler local color. Painting apricot shadows with cool blue and green highlights simply goes against the grain.
This time I ignored the natural color of the shell entirely and simply painted the colors I felt like painting focusing entirely on value. I painted the marble to echo the center of the shell.
I reserved the highlights with mask. The palette is phthalo blue, dioxazine purple, new gamgee, a little quinacridone magenta, and burnt sienna to dull the blues and greens. The background is a wash of burnt sienna which I chose to contrast with the cooler shell. I mixed the colors in multiple transparent washes. I dropped some of the softer shadows wet into wet paint.
Nautilus with Glass Stones (10 x 11 watercolor) $150.00
My husband and I spent last weekend on the Oregon Coast. The weather was so fine we hardly even went inside at all. So on our last day having not set foot in a shop all weekend, it occurred to us we had bought nothing for our daughters. So we stopped in a shell shoppe. We did find some lovey sea urchins for the girls. But we also found something for us, a bisected nautilus shell. Stephen wanted it to display it, but I wanted to paint it. I’ve just finished painting it and it now lives on our mantle together with fossil shells and a free form hand made basket. But it will visit the studio again.
I took great liberties with the color of the nautilus which is really is really a dull orange in the outer chambers fading to blue green at the center. The color shift in my painting was driven by the decision to heavily under-paint the shell in phthalo blue to emphasize the depth of the shell. I over-painted with various mixtures of new gamgee yellow, quinacridone madder rose, and phthalo blue.
The left most of the glass stones resting in the shell is actually stone marble. But the green and rust of the actual marble would have clashed horribly with the rest of the painting, so I changed it to a blue glass marble.
The background is a wash of burnt sienna grayed down with phthalo blue.
My girls like to hunt for fossil shells on the beach. Once a middle aged fossil hunter with a German Sheppard stopped to to talk with them. It was a brief conference between enthusiasts. He was looking for fossilized fish and other rarer things. The four shared the boulder strewn beach under the cliffs while I watched the waves. Then the girls and I headed back up the beach for the warm hotel room. He caught up quickly and thrust a stone into my youngest’s hand and was gone before she could say thank you or even see what it was. It was the find of the day, a fossilized shell perfectly preserved on one side and rough rock on the other.
Joy! I popped it right down on the sand and photographed it. It lives on our mantle piece now.
After the Mask Came Off
I began the painting by masking the shell. Then I washed the background lightly first with yellow ochre, then with burnt sienna. I painted in the shadow of the shell with phthalo blue. After that I used an old toothbrush to splatter it with layer upon layer of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cerulean blue, and Prussian blue.
Next I removed the mask and painted the shell in burnt sienna, and cerulean blue. I added a few gouache white touches.
When I stepped back to look at it, I decided that the sand was too busy and had taken away from the picture. So I took the painting to the sink and scrubbed paint off it with a stiff brush under the tap. Washing a painting is a scary process, but sometimes it’s the only good fix. The result is softer, but still shows the effects of the splattering.
This is my on-line studio. Here, I post my paintings (and some of my failures) as I paint them. Most of the paintings shown here are for sale through this blog.
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