My friend is an amazing artist.  That is an understatement.  She really has talent, and she went to school to develop that skill, following the advice of teachers and graduating into a truly noteworthy painter.  She has paintings that have sold for large sums, she has had prints made of paintings she did, and she had a family and lived in an expensive city and she retired on the beach in Mexico.

While in Mexico she started a new hobby, but one closely related to her love of large canvas paintings.  She collected shells on her daily walks and started painting inside the shells.  We lived in Mexico at the time and I recall she always had dozens of finished shells sitting around the house.  They were gifts for people whenever she needed gifts.  They added color to bookshelves and bathroom vanities in her home.  They seemed to be everywhere!  

A few years have passed, and I find myself wondering how she got the ideas for all those shell paintings.  It seems like there were never two the same.  I remember geckos and turtles and cacti.  There were flowers and trees, and even women in hats.  Where do creative people get their creative juices from?

The answer is actually quite simple.  She took me on a tour of some shells she has painted recently in her home in Toronto.  

A shell is not large enough to be complicated, so keep it simple.  Have only one focal point.  That was her first advice to me.  You can see in these shells she has followed that advice; just one focal point and a colorful background.  





When she lived in Mexico her inspiration was Mexico.  The people or the beach.  These two shells with people have a faint background.  The focus is drawn to the point of interest: the people.










Rules are meant to be broken so she tries different things.  On these shells there is more than one focal point.  One is based on a painting she saw in Toronto, done by the group of seven.  The one on the right is actually from a photo she took herself.  It’s the city of Toronto taken from Toronto Island.  These two are more crowded but her skill still leaves me in awe.


The artist tells me she looks for colors.  What is something colorful?  Flowers of course, so paint a flower and choose a complimentary color for the background.  Try a colorful background and a muted flower if you want.  Here is another good example, the ocean sunset.  Notice the focal point is right in the center of the shell.  We have the sun and the person walking right in the middle.  Some bright colors to add warmth and depth make it sound very simple.

Toronto is not full of seashells like Mexico is, but rocks work just the same way.  Experiment with different rocks to find one that you like.  Perhaps the texture of a rock will even give you the inspiration for what to paint on it.  The shape of the rock may make you want to paint a ladybug or a frog; don’t always do what is expected.  Look at photos you have taken, or art you have found inspirational.  Personally, I love grass - it’s my favorite plant.  If done well, simple things can be beautiful.  The stars, the sky, the flowers, the beach, the fields, the city.  I think the challenge for this type of canvas is going to be keeping it simple.  One focal point.

Good advice for our project together this week.