Next Clam (watercolour)

2 April finds my mind briefly recoiling, saying "I don't want to have to do this part", faced with the picayune details necessary to render a likeness of the shell in front of me. But each detail I notice is like a command - "paint this now" - and absolute obedience is required, no getting out of it. Sometimes it requires a few separate steps, or a correction of what I had already laid down, but I'm always forced to the utmost of my skill, with no shirking allowed.

I can walk away and make tea, or apply the chain saw to part of our pile of logs, or lie down with my eyes closed - and when I return I can paint a simpler part of the shell - but there's no getting out of tackling the difficult bits. 

I'm learning to persevere, because procrastination only prolongs the anxiety and boredom of not making much progress. In obedience to the imperative of the reality of the shell before me, I pick up my brush, apply it to the palette, and recreate the colours commanded by my subject, in the exact proportion and detail which is the only way to make the puzzle pieces fit. 

Taking a deep breath and hunching to stretch tight shoulders, I can then reward myself with broad, confident strokes where these are possible, enjoying that moment of recognition as the image leaps ahead, becoming that much more the twin of its subject. Then I bend again to attend to the next challenging bit so that in the end, the painting will be justified by the clam. This one, on its way to completion before I lose the daylight, is another endangered species, Pleurobema coccinneum.  

Fred and I both find a mysterious appeal in each of these watercolours before the illustration is completed - herein is art, like a poem that leaves something to your imagination, which would have been made explicit in prose. So I present my uncompleted paintings for your enjoyment as art, then submit the completed illustrations to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to represent the species in their publications.


  1. There's a song about Aleta's painting process that contains the lines:

    "Watch the snake behind the brush
    Stand up on the page,
    You can almost see it crawl,
    but you've got to do it all.
    Pencil scales and paint the eye,
    But your tea is cold...

    Bind another species' spirit to your own."


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