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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