Wrapped up in the depths of Winter, we flung off the blankets and strode off to the breezy seaside for inspiration for our latest project, a spirited Shell Ring collage.
A quiet coastal cove, littered with skimming stones, small brightly coloured plastic pebbles dredged in from the sea, rock pools and sandy waves rippling over our chilly toes. Tiny little fingers dipped into the shallows of our memories and pulled out tales of days at the beach, picnics, giant sea monsters, fishing and sand castles. We collected key words and wrote a poem:
Sky, reflecting. Waves, crashing. Whitey-blue foam, rippling. Humpback whales, gliding. Bluish-turquoise, water.
Sitting in a circle, we passed around many different shells: small smooth yellow ones, large striped spikey ones too. The artists enjoyed holding, feeling, listening to them as we sparked our imaginations away from the dreary dark January afternoon.
To warm up our fingers and minds, we coloured in shell sheets, followed the outlines of their shapes and watched artist Louise Pasquill demonstrate the three processes we would need to complete our own project:-
1. make a selection of small and large moulded shells;
2. decorate damp paper with powder paint to imitate a sandy beach; and
3. paint a watery rock pool full of amazing, shimmering, seaweedy plants and shellfish.
We talked about the coastal environment: questioning how to help keep our beaches tidy and marine life healthy, clear of plastics and litter. We watched a short youtube clip of “Blue Planet Live” and many of the class knew so much about the Oceans and their inhabitants. To delve deeper, we studied colour prints of drawings, paintings and photographs of a variety of shells: cylinders, isosceles triangles, conical cones and scalloped semi-circles.
The traditional sculptured “Madeline” cake shape was the perfect place to start. We used a silicon baking tray to cast cockles and mussels from Plaster of Paris.
After we measured the proportions of plaster to water, we worked quickly to mix them into a silky smooth, runny paste, using a mixing bowl and a cooking spatula. The chemical reaction that takes place when the water is added to the powder, releases heat energy, so everybody took turns to pour their mixture into the mould and feel the warmth through the silicone. Squidge!
Whilst they were drying, we used watercolour paints on beautifully pressed watercolour paper, to create layers of marine textures, as if we were looking through a mask into a watery pool. We looked at pictures of anemones, seaweed, rocks, sea creatures such as hermit crabs, urchins, lobsters, crustaceans and shoals of fish. Splash!
On a separate piece of paper we experimented with powder paints, to imitate sandy, drier textures, that made us think about the sand crunching in between our toes. Scrunch!
Our beautiful shells are dry, time to decorate them with watercolour paints using dainty brush strokes making delicate patterns. To give them a shimmer, we sprinkled organic glitter and polished them with acrylic varnish.
Now it’s time to mount all of our work into a Shell Ring collage. To cut our beautiful rock pool painting into sea shells and creatures, we drew a pencil outline on the back of the paper and cut out the shape. When turned over we saw the delicate watery patterns added to the design. Finally, a few pencil lines added dimension to the shapes.
Someone is catching a lift to the sea!
For further information about Art and the Sea, look up Damien Hirst’s project “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”.