Ocean monster


On Australian beaches in summer a frequent sight is the transparent blue bubble and trailing tentacles of bluebottles – Portuguese Man ‘o War jellyfish. It is rare to see just one, sometimes there are hundreds, and seeing them on the beach is a strong message not to enter the water. The float is about the size of my thumb but the tentacles can be up to 10 metres long – a very good reason to keep out of the water, as they are hard to spot and the sting can be very painful.

I have taken many photos of bluebottles over the years, and find the variations of shape fascinating, both the transparent float, which is different for every one, and the lumpy, almost umbilical cord shapes of the tentacles. This exercise started as a miniature, and this is based on that drawing. I was looking for ways to exaggerate and develop the form, but I seem to have not strayed far from the real shape of the creature, maybe because it is so unique anyway. The colour is mostly a bright ultramarine blue, but with purple and bright pink highlights. My drawing makes it look softer and more cloud-like, which is an anomaly.

The viewpoint of this one gives it a monumental feel, and it does have a sense of a warship in full sail, or an iceberg, both of which have great intrinsic power, the ability to crush anything that gets in their way, but a certain beauty too. A creature in control of its domain.


This is the miniature original drawing, using Prismacolor pencils, on Arches hot press paper, 12 cm x 9 cm (4.75 in x 3.5 in). The large drawing is done with a mix of Caran d’Ache Pablos and Prismacolors, 42 cm x 30 cm (16.5 in x 11.5 in) on Daler Rowney hot press drawing paper.

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

18 thoughts

    1. Thanks Cathe – there is something mesmerising about them, such strange creatures. In fact, I have just discovered that they are not a single creature at all, but a symbiotic grouping of organisms that work together. Even weirder!


  1. This creature is something to be feared and yet you have made it quite lovely to behold. I like both drawings very much and they are quite different to one another. The miniature looks more like a true study while in the big drawing you have taken the original subject on a trip – where it has arrived at a new place.


    1. Thanks Julie – yes, the miniature version was much more a straight rendition. I looked at it again when I wrote this post, and was surprised at how different the large one was. I do think I could have taken it further, maybe one day I will. A few years ago I did a pen and ink drawing of another bluebottle which actually was much more abstracted. I don’t have a good photo of it though, I need to redo it, add it to the potential jellyfish series!


  2. Was stung by one as a teenager—like super stinging nettle. I have always found them beautiful, however. They are the pure distillation of their oceanic habitat in their variations of blue.


    1. Thank you Kathryn – they are wonderful oddities aren’t they? and so many varieties, even some tiny, tiny ones that are spectacularly beautiful. Thanks too for your good wishes, and the same to you, I hope it will be peaceful, happy and productive for you xx.


  3. What fascination sea dwellers have for us Anna ! Pulsing writhing and floating jellyfish with their delicate navigation through water is an incredible sight is it not … only viewed by me on natural history programmes mind 😉
    There’s a lovely quality of ethereal light in your pencil sketches .


    1. There is an endless fascination isn’t there? It must be the completely alien nature of these creatures and their environment… The way they look, that strange squishy way they move, and being almost transparent all adds to the oddity, then there is just the beauty of these strange collection of beings! Pulsing and writhing – beautifully put! Thank you Poppy!


    1. Thank you Elena. Yes, I like that sense too – the half waking, half dreaming feeling. But, I have to admit I have decided this drawing needs something more, so it is back on the drawing board for further development!


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