“Drawing is taking a line for a walk.”
— Paul Klee

Moon snail shells # 4 and 5; pen and ink drawings

Moon snail shells # 4 and 5; pen and ink drawings

What are the rules for my 100 Snail Shells Project?  I suppose I’ll be making them up as I go along. (After all, it is my project!)

The first question is whether or not I should show you all of my attempts to draw or paint my shell.  Or should I discard the obviously bad ones and count only those that won’t embarrass me too much?

I’m going to put myself out on a limb and show you all of my moon snail shells — the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And I will post them in the order that I create them, even though this will most likely mean jumping back and forth between drawings and paintings and who knows what else.

I want to see how my skills and observations evolve, and this might mean repeating myself — using the same techniques over and over again.  I trust that I will be learning something each time.  I take comfort in knowing that famous painters often revisited the same subjects — think of Monet’s haystacks or water lilies.  “When Claude Monet painted his three-hundredth canvas of a water lily, was he merely repeating himself?”  (James Hillman, from The Force of Character)

Today’s ink sketches were drawn with a Faber Castell  Pitt artist pen (black 199).  I remember learning about contour line drawing in Mr. Dvorak’s seventh grade art class.  It’s a great technique for slowing down and really forcing yourself to look at the object you are drawing.  I wasn’t able to draw my moon snail shells blind, without glancing at my paper.  I also failed to use just one, continuous line.

There is lots of room for improvement.

Starting something is not an event; it’s a series of events. . . . Keep starting until you finish.”
— Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Moon snail shell on frosty leaves

Moon snail shell on frosty leaves

This month I will be sharing my latest project, 100 moon snail shells drawn, painted, and captured on paper. (Photographs won’t count.)  The germ of this idea entered my consciousness many years ago when I first read Everyday Sacred:  A Woman’s Journey Home by Sue Bender (1996).  In it, Bender mentions an art exercise that her friend Gale was teaching called The 100 Drawings Project:

“The task of the class was to find and draw one hundred times, one simple, familiar object, portable enough to bring to class each time.  It had to be neutral in content, not religious, not a family heirloom, nor an object that held any sentimental value. . . . Making one hundred drawings of the same object forced Gale to find new techniques, materials, and ways to work.  The goal here was to take risks and exceed limits.  Hopefully, along the way, a personal style would emerge.”

The idea of drawing a single object 100 times intrigued me then and many, many years later it still pulls me.  This year I decided to commit and actually do it.  I had some ideas for getting started, but I didn’t know if I would eventually “hit the wall” and run into artist’s block.  Starting out, I was also curious about what directions this challenge would take me.  I will share my steps along the way in this blog.

Here are my first three watercolor sketches:

Moon snail shells # 1, 2 and 3; watercolor sketches

Moon snail shells # 1, 2 and 3; watercolor sketches

Snail’s Pace

August 29, 2009

Horned snail

Horned snail (photo 2008)

Snail nestled in huechera

Snail nestled in huechera (photo 2008)

After the rain shower (photo 2008)

After the rain shower (photo 2008)

“Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.”
     — Ivan Turgenev

Life in the Slow Lane

May 13, 2009

Snails after a Seattle rain

Snails after a Seattle rain

Life in the slow lane

Life in the slow lane

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find the profusion of Spring’s gifts to be too much.  The season is hurtling past at an accelerated pace this year.  I seem to have missed the tulips. I’ve barely had time to smell the lilacs.  The blossoms are falling from the trees.  And now I’m seeing signs of peonies and poppies! 

I’ve been feeling behind ever since I’ve returned from my trip to Minnesota.  My library books are piled up unread.  The lawn hasn’t been touched since I left town on April 28th.  I can’t keep up with the rhubarb.  And the house needs a thorough Spring cleaning.  I’m overwhelmed.

Still, taking the time to make daily posts to this blog has been a lifesaving, grounding experience.  It’s become my daily meditation practice.  When I start feeling overwhelmed, I try to focus on just one thing.  For today, it’s the trio of snails I saw on the sidewalk after a typical Seattle rain shower.  They are my reminder to live life in the slow lane as much as I can.