Shell Decay

Matt Woodward’s drawings appeal to me in that the materials are so evident in his final images. I also like how he can make a small decorative figure into something monumental which draws attention to its ephemerality. I thought of conch shells and how they are personal symbols for me for the continuity of familly and the passing down of ritual and familial celebration through generations. I wanted to show in these pieces how some aspects of civilization endure while some rot away.

I had watercolor drawings of conch shells on heavy, rough watercolor paper. I took two of these and scrubbed them with a wire brush under water to fade the drawings, then I covered the paper with gesso that had whiting added to it.

Conch shell watercolor

Conch shell watercolor

Watercolor covered with gesso

Watercolor covered with gesso

On one of these boards I drew into the gesso with charcoal. I did a contour drawing of another shell that was given to me by a mentor.

Mary Eda's shell

Mary Eda’s shell

I taped the boards to a wrought iron table and left them in the rain to see how they would distress.

I selected charcoal drawings of a conch shell to cover the images on the heavy paper. I soaked the lighter weight drawing paper in water while I spread acrylic medium on the drawings on the gessoed watercolor paper. I placed pieces of string amid the acrylic medium and pressed the wet drawings into the medium, sandwiching the string between the drawings.

shell drawing soaking in water

shell drawing soaking in water

Finally, I pulled the string up through the first drawing, tearing the drawing and revealing the first drawing and sections of the original watercolor that had bled through. This gives me a two-layer history of my symbolic shell with a reminder that paper, just like life itself, is fragile.shell decay st 6shell decay C

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