Crabby crustaceans

As part of the Sketchbook Project, an idea for painting crustaceans – crabs mostly – came to fruition.

When wandering through the wonderful Daisu in Melbourne, I chanced upon a small ream of blank music paper. Being a devotee of paper, I thought it’d be useful for a painting. Duly purchased, I popped it into my stuffed-to-the-gills craft cupboard for future use.

The Sketchbook Project was a good reason to fish it out. My initial thought was to draw musical notes and paint a creature over the top. The idea evolved into two pages showcasing crustaceans and shells found on our local beach on Phillip Island, plus a way to incorporate tiny shoes that weren’t too obvious.

Getting it done

Fortunately I learned music for decades in my youth, so crafting clefs and notes wasn’t too difficult. It did give me an appreciation for composers though. How tedious drawing all those notes. I haven’t played either tune on the piano – I suspect it’ll be very discordant.

Sourcing sea urchins and shells was easy as I’d collected them from our beach over the years. The tricky part was determining the best ones to use. In the end laziness won out and I used the first ones that came to hand.

I had a number of very fragile upper “shells” from deceased sand crabs so used those as a main point of reference. Sadly some shells didn’t make it through the process – you only had to move one and it’d shatter. Bit crushing really (I do like the odd pun).

Soldier crabs scatter themselves along our beach in their millions so it was a case of sneaking along to take photos. I’ve recently bought a Canon digital camera with 65x zoom so it’s brilliant for sneaky photographing of creatures in the distance. Can’t be bothered fiddling with changing lenses and all that fanatical cleaning, so this was an excellent compromise.

And so the drawing developed. The music paper was surprisingly robust and didn’t buckle too much until I went to adhere it to the journal (as you will see below). Still, it was better than painting watercolour on the actual journal pages – they’re such poor quality, they buckle if you happen to sneeze.

The drawing of the Sergeant and Lieutenant Soldier Crab is about four times actual size, while Monsieur Sand Crab is actual size. Call this artistic license!

Here’s the finished paintings.  Oh, and by the way, see if you can spot the shoes.

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Sand crab

Firstly the initial idea is worked out …

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How will the music around the crab work?

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Then it’s drawn in more detail and the first washes added.

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The music is left in pencil at this stage as I don’t want the notes to show under the crab.

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More detail is added and the notes are drawn in waterproof black pen.

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And here’s the final sand crab painting.

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Soldier crabs & sea urchins

Again, the detail is worked out first.  The final pencil drawing comes together.  At this point I have shells, sea urchins, crab shells and the iPad all clamouring for space on the desk.

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The final pencil drawing is copied over in black waterproof pen.

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The washes and detail are slowly added.

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And the final painting …

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Enter the Sketchbook Project

One thing about retirement, you need to have a plan. Otherwise the days drift past in a marvellous soiree of enjoyment upon which you’ve achieved nothing much at all.

It’s actually rather nice for a while, but then you realise you’re going to reach dead and nothing much will’ve happened. It’d be the most boring funeral – “Denise sat in a comfortable chair and slept for the last 30 years of her life”.

A plan is found

In the spirit of need for a challenging plan, I researched. On the internet, such a wonderful resource, I soon found the Brooklyn Art Library in New York had the splendid idea of getting you to pay them lots of money (bearing in mind Australians pay an additional 30% for anything bought in the USA). In exchange, they kindly send you a cheap looking A5 sketchbook into which you add your idea of art.

They’ve called it the Sketchbook Project and despite the lousy quality and size of the sketchbook, it’s a very fine idea. You only have to look at what others have done to get an idea of the range of bright and bleak creative minds lurking out there. Movie directors could use some of them for ideas on horror film plots.

The big advantage of the project is when you send your finished sketchbook back, it’s digitised and everyone in the wide and changing world can get a look at your hard work.

A plan evolves

You have to choose a theme for your sketchbook. Because my fav thing is drawing and painting wildlife and botanical things, I decided ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was totally appropriate. I’d paint the wildlife that’s around me, right here and now.

As a little quirk, and because I happen to fancy beautiful shoes (not that you’d know this from looking at my feet because they’re usually encased in slippers, running shoes or thongs), I’d incorporate a bit of footwear into every masterpiece.

High heel shoe in watercolour

My first attempt at using watercolour directly onto the sketchbook left the paper buckled and in a very grim state indeed. I forsaw the problem but thought I’d try just in case I was dead wrong about the paper quality. Buzzzzz … fail … end of that idea.

From this slight debacle, I realised you can’t draw or paint across two pages as the image shows through to the other side. I note others have gotten around this drawback by painting one side only, but I haven’t paid out a fortune in Australian dollars to only paint half the book.

So I’ve devised a cunning plan. I’ll paint on other types of paper and use photo tabs to attach the work of art onto the paper.  So far, it’s been an interesting outcome.

A plan in process

I’m about half way through the sketchbook and it’s proving to be outstanding at chewing through the hours. An afternoon flies by faster than a kangaroo racing from a bush fire. It’s a state as close to bliss as you can get.

Not all my attempts are particularly good but I’m going to add whatever I paint, no matter the outcome. It’s giving me a chance to try different styles which I’m truly enjoying and in the end, the point is to have fun and not die on a chair.

One of the interesting outcomes is I’m determined to learn more and another cunning plan has been devised.  I shall go on a painting trip to an Asian country with other like-minded folk.  This is particularly appealing because it’s so much closer and cheaper than Europe or the USA.

The next few blog entries will show some pages as I complete them. I’ve seen all these creatures in their own environment except for the Great White Shark … it’s not a creature I feel a need to encounter.

Happy reading …