30 in 30: Painting a shell in watercolor

Shell painting
January 4: Shell in window
Watercolor on Arches #300 hot press

I needed a change from cyclamen and orchids, so I chose a conch shell that reminds me of my years living in the tropical seas. During the chilly mountain winter I sometimes miss the torrid tropical heat.

This complicated subject really begs to be a long, painstakingly arduous still life. All the while maintaining the freshness of this hour-long sketch. Super exciting!

The secret to creating the glow of sun through shell is in making your dark values deep enough to contrast with the lights, all the while avoiding the chalkiness that sometimes comes from dark watercolor pigment. This means I had to lay down multiple translucent layers of progressively darker paint. I use Arches #300 paper because it soaks in the moisture and dries faster than the thinner papers. Try it; it’s worth the expense.

This is part of a series exploring one 1-hour painting (nearly) every day in January as part of Leslie Saeta’s series, Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days. To see my experience with the entire series, click on the category, 30 in 30, at right.