My Oyster

“The world is one’s oyster” is a saying that means a person feels like he or she can do anything.

That being said, I thought I would try a still life of an oyster shell I found on the beach.

Photography - Oyster Half Shell

First I drew a pen and ink sketch:

Sketch - My Oyster - Pen and Ink

Since the subject has two basic tones, yellow orange and gray, my next step was to approximate them by dabbing in the yellows and dark grays.  I started with gamboge yellow, which is more orange than yellow (Daniel Smith), and the darker areas with ivory black. There were details that required gray to parallel the yellow veins of the shell, particularly at the lower part of the shell as well as the part on the upper right.

Watercolor Preliminary Sketch - My Oyster - Yellows and Blacks

I thought I could unify the details by glazing. The left part of the shell is brighter than the right side, so I thought a lemon yellow glaze would be appropriate. As for the right side, I first glazed with a bit of neutral tint. I wasn’t certain that this was a transparent pigment, but since any pigment sufficiently watered down, can be transparent, I used a watery dilution. After drying the neutral tint, I glazed the right side with Prussian blue, which I know is transparent.

I re-painted more of the details and glazed again, hoping for a luminous effect.

Overall, the oyster shell was too dark, so I used an elephant-ear sponge to lighten up some of the highlights.

Unfortunately, during this process, I smudged a bit onto the background (the not-oyster part of the sketch). To remedy this, I figured, I would just paint the entire background.  Big mistake. Although the paper is a 4″x6″ block, only two edges are attached. Normally all four sides of the paper are glued down, so soaking the paper will not cause it to buckle. Unfortunately, one of the glued-down sides of the paper became detached and it curled up. It became unworkable.

Here is the final result:

Watercolor Final Sketch - My Oyster

My Oyster
6″x4″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I would put this sketch in the they-can’t-all-be-winners category.  Live and learn…

Let me just say that the world in not my oyster today.

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