Broken shells


When I travel I collect, can’t help myself. Shells are prominent in the collections, but I have got to the point now where I find broken and misshapen ones are the most interesting. This drawing is based on some of these shells, but I have been very free in interpreting them, some are larger than life, others have gained twists and turns and extra texture. One thing I like is that they start to look like something else – maybe the inside of an ear or other internal organs, maybe a skull, but – strangely – still things from the natural world. These shells have a story to tell, they have had a tough life, tossed through the ocean and landing on a beach maybe far away from where they began. They are like messages in a bottle, if we can interpret the message they tell.

The drawing is approximately 45 x 30 cm, and is mainly various weights of graphite with elements of coloured pencil.

Author: anna warren portfolio

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

31 thoughts

  1. These are exceptionally beautiful. I said on FB that you were a good observer – but I realise (now that I read your post) that these are much more than observations because you add, subtract and change the forms. I do appreciate how you have presented the shells collectively too – so sensitively balanced on the page. Exquisite drawings.


    1. Thank you so much Julie – I actually find it almost impossible to stick to reality now when I draw, I really love the little idiosyncrasies that creep in when I am not looking. I step away for a little while and see another area that needs developing, and off it goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh for the love of broken shells! These drawings are so delicate and precise. I would love to see how you go about building up the intensity of values. So beautiful! I’m glad you see the beauty in broken shells, they are so interesting. I agree they look so internal, for a lack of a better way of saying it.


    1. They are ‘internal’ aren’t they, even without any help from me they have that feeling. I love whole shells too, but these broken ones somehow have a unique character. I build the intensity quite slowly, starting with a loose pencil sketch, then gradually working areas, starting with a 2B, then a 4B and then progressing sometimes to a 6B or 8B. Its quite random in a way, each bit dictating what comes next, and then I come back. I was fiddling with the earlier completed ones after doing the later ones. Thanks Cathe!


  3. What a great collection of drawings and thanks for giving us the detailed close ups as your work always stands up to a closer view. I like the way you enhance and vary what is there, so we can appreciate what you see and value I. The object, just beautiful and revealing. I can’t wait to see the sketches you make on your upcoming trip. Karen


  4. These are little jewels. I have a tiny shell collection and feathers and stones and sticks and…well! I love Nature. In the top pic, the bottom left shell has the ‘Scream’ face by Edvard Munch! And on the left, next to that, is one I would wear on my middle finger (yes I have delicate shell rings as well, from Hawai’i).


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