Two Shells - Still life Drawing Number Forty-six
Posted 20th October 2006
After two larger drawings, there was something nice about doing the smallest one yet in the series today. It got me thinking about scale, and how odd it is that painters often price their work by the square inch. This one took half the time of yesterday's drawing, but is about a tenth of the size. It also got me thinking about how often large scale is used (in my view) to cover up for a dearth of meaning in some modern art. So this little four inch square drawing is my answer to Rachel Whiteread's huge installation in the Turbine room at the Tate. I like mine more, but of course I'm biased.
I was looking at textures today, the difference between the glass-like surface of the inside of the shell at the back, and the rougher surface of the outside of the other shell. Rough, but still very smooth. The point I'm trying to make is that the outside of the shell reflects light in a very different way than the inside, which shows the texture of the surface. Something I wanted to catch if I could. Perhaps the drawing is a little too small for me to make a convincing job of it, and it might have been easier to make the difference more marked with paint. Textures and edges will be as much a feature of the imminent series of monochrome still life paintings as the tone values.
Whilst I was doing this drawing, I was also thinking about how beautiful these little shells are. How drawing something brings you into such a close relationship with it, and how the spiral is reflected in so much natural phenomena. For the space of two hours this morning, these two little shells were my world, and drawing them left me feeling very calm. I know the shell at the front from this angle pretty well, having drawn it a few times now, but this the first time I've done the one at the back from the inside. Now I know it from both sides, and I can see it clearly and turn it over in my mind's eye.
I want to paint this one. Maybe a shade bigger, to give the brushes a bit more breathing space, but the subtle colouring of the shells really made me want to take this one a step further. It would be nice if I could do a good enough job of painting them that it would strike someone else how pretty they are, and how rarely we take the time to notice the beauty of small things. That seems to me to be a pretty good reason for painting something.
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