Today’s Serious Sea Shell


Another shell, today’s sustained drawing, this one using watercolor pencils.  The light outdoors and hence indoors was diffuse.  We had mostly cloudy, humid weather with scattered thunderstorms and a high temperature of 80 degrees F, here in the Washington DC suburbs.  So I started another drawing of the shell sitting on top my black desk. 

The shades of color and different densities of darkness inside the black are as fascinating as the shell itself.  As you can see, I didn’t get as far as to create a complete background for my shell, more of a vignette around the edges. 

There’s so much to look at in small things.  All the differences around the edges can carry you a long ways.

Shell Topography with Coffee

shell linear shell

I have  a shell I like to draw.  It’s my old friend, the subject I return to when I want to rediscover something.  When I want to find a new way of thinking about visual things, I go back to my shell.  It’s familiar shapes hold many mysteries — all new. 

Meanwhile turning from my “serious” drawing, I pause and have some coffee.   I doodle during my break.  I let my pen go willy-nilly along whatever paths whimsy chooses.  So I drew this while I sipped coffee.  It was my break from a longer, more studied drawing.  I tried to let my pen follow across the contours of the shell’s surface — along it matters not what directions — zig-zagging this way, that way.  The technical name is “cross-contour” drawing.  I was thinking along the lines too of something that computers are more adept at making, topological drawings.

In any case, these lines were lazy coffee, idle thoughts talking, stream of consciousness with a pen line,  taking a break, kind of drawing.

Chiaroscuro shell

sea shell in pencil

Today was a loose ends kind of day.  Did a little of this, little of that, but had few chances to do a sustained bit of anything.  Except I made this drawing.  Pencil is such a moody, smudgy medium.  Shiny too.  Have to love the way that graphite gives off light as well as absorbs it.

The shell, too, reflected my thoughts back to me as well as absorbed some of them.  The beauty of drawing is the way it lets your mind drift off to lazy, limitless, meditative places.

not epic hamster poetry (sort of)

blanca the rockstar hamster

Do not blame me, blame Paul Squires.  I could not get hamster poetry, so I was reduced to desperate measures.  (Not to add insult to injury, but that’s a pun.  Desperate measures.  Get it?) 

There once was a hamsta named Blanca

And after the boys she did hank ‘a

When babies she had,

Of course we were glad,

Though we’re not quite sure how we should thank ‘a

Now then, if you want to read real poetry, find that here.

For hamsters drawings, I recommend this blog.

And for famous chickens, check out this blog and this blog and this blog.  (Not fair!)

UPDATE:  The hamster/chicken rivalry has been further chronicled here.

By the sea, in thought

conch sea shell

Still collecting sea shells far from sea.  The colored pencil scribbles have won my heart.  The merits of any particular medium draw one in — but sometimes also the way that a tool resists helps one think.  The blunt ends of the pencil have made me look at all the edges in the picture as more porous than I had hitherto considered them.  And then the shell itself becomes porous as well.  It seems to enlarge in its associations.  Do I hear the sea inside its chambers?  Does its pearlescence tell of other kinds of light, of dawns and twilights in distant skies?  What lies behind the veil of any drawing — or more’s the point — what lies behind the veil of the object itself?  The photons it scatters into my vision.  And what is its meaning?  Especially after the creature who made it has long left it behind?

Sea Shells by the Seashore


sea shells two

She sells sea shells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Drawing with the left hand is a little like saying a tongue twister.  It shares many of the same difficulties as well as the same delights.  Meanwhile, after many trials, I’m beginning to think I am left handed and right brained!

sea shells two detail

Blanca Drawings! Voila!

carnet des desssin blanca by Ben

carnet des dessins blanca-and-family by Ben


Bénédicte of Carnet des dessins has made drawings of all the hamsters!  This is so fabulous!  I’ve got to tell the hamsters.  Wish I could get them to look at themselves on the internet (but though they are a dapper group of little fellows, they do somewhat lack culture).  She has portrayed them each so lovingly and captured each one’s “inner hamster.”

I was so hoping that someone would draw them — the hamsters are becoming famous!  — and I got my wish!  Is this great or what!

Merci beaucoup, Ben!

Go to Bénédicte’s site for an even better view.  Click on the picture (at her site) and you can see a larger version of this wonderful page from Ben’s notebook.


selfportrait in ink

Well, I had a rough night last night.  Where on earth did Blanca the hamster get the idea that she’s Steve McQueen in the Great Escape?  She got out of the cage!

It was 4 a.m.  I was lying in bed, tossing and turning a bit, as it happened.  Nevertheless, more asleep than awake, I lay there increasingly aware that something furry was next to my feet.  I leaped out of bed!  I thought it was a mouse!  Stood there gazing at the blankets, wondering what to do, when in the gloom I discerned a familiar white silhouette — not a mouse — but a big white hamster! 


I lunged for her, but she got away.  Had to awaken the whole household to retrieve her.  But we found her — or more particularly my daughter found her — in the closet.

Everyone returned to bed, but there was no sleep for me.  Made a quick pen drawing, afterwards to pass the time, of my disheveled self.  Don’t I look frazzled and just a bit miffed!

Drawing of something that is not a hamster

seashell in ink

Readers might wonder why I have offered up no drawings of the hamsters.  My reasons are many.  Ten, actually to be precise.  Hmm, with ten hamsters, I spend much of my discretional time cleaning cages.  I provide hamster janitorial services daily.  What hours of the day remain, I can be forgiven for devoting to other things, as for example to reading, or eating, or even sleeping. 

Then too, though I am a fairly patient person, especially as regards art, ten hamsters make for difficult drawing subjects.  Certainly a single hamster would be easier to draw than any hamster with several roommates.  With one animal, one watches and gradually observes and learns most of their repertoire of behaviors.  Usually animals, even ones that move around a lot, return habitually to some pose they adopted a few minutes earlier.  So while one needs to make many sketches on the fly — in highly interruptible sessions composed of numerous restarts — eventually with luck one gains enough swiftness of hand and knowledge of the particular anatomy to make a decent resemblance.  Or one can also draw an animal sleeping, when all else has failed.

That last resort fails, however, when one has ten hamsters — even divided up boys and girls,  into two cages of seven and three, respectively (a division that one hopes took place soon enough, if you catch my drift).  Take my situation today.  I began drawing one cute little fellow, lying in a huddle, his face up turned.  I had barely rendered a few silvery lines when one of his roomies steps over him and sits atop the aforementioned cute face.  After the interloper had moved on, my subject had shifted pose, scrunching his face under the fluff of a neighbor, and that chance was lost.

So I pick another customer.  The second face is not quite as cute as the first, but cute enough.  I make, I think, maybe three gestures with the pencil when a wakeful hamster among the group decides to shift through their aspen bedding, flinging bits of wood shavings this way and that.  One clump of wood sliver lands — guess where.

I’m a patient person, but I gave up.  I told the peaceful sleepers, “I’m drawing something that doesn’t move.  Hasta.”  It mattered little.  No visage was left visible to draw.  All the sleeping hamsters were now presenting surfaces of fur only, rolled up in clumps of undifferentiated hamster mass.

However I found something to steady my optic nerve!  I picked up a favorite little sea shell and made a fast drawing of pen lines.  I think my little study is as much about masses of lines as it is about a shell.  That should have worked with hamsters.  All those lines of gossamer fur! Perhaps it’s courage I lack!   Drawing challenge for brave hearts:  draw hamsters!

This is as much of a hamster as I have managed to draw so far:

hamster drawing pencil