A clam is a clam is a clam. Except for size and shape, they’re basically the same. As are mussels, scallops and other forms of mollusks, except for oysters. Scrub away the mud in which they grew for years, and possible seaweed bits, and revealed will be sculptural forms and colors that are surprising in their variety, complexity, and even beauty.After I noticed these characteristics less than a year ago, I naturally wanted to make pastel “portraits” of them. So began the selection of special shells from among those companions and I had eaten.
Those “portraits” are amazingly difficult. The shells are as challenging as any landscape I had painted before. Shifts in natural light or a slightly different angle or light source presented new convolutions or shades that had been previously unobserved. Although this was disconcerting at first, I later used those effects to clarify and strengthen my understanding of the shell’s forms or colors.
Black papers and backgrounds seemed appropriate: presenting this humble creature so dramatically emphasized the visual uniqueness of each shell. Opting for black mats, rather than more traditional white ones, further focused the viewers’ attention on the oyster’s forms. Cherry frames are used to subtly relate the portrait to room in which it is being shown.