Drawing seashells: A background

My sea shell drawings are detailed studies of color relationships and intricate patterns using worldwide shells, beach-worn fragments, and other sea-related items. The flamboyant colors in shells rival and even surpass those in flowers, butterflies, and beetles. My work plays upon this inspiration and is the natural culmination of a lifetime attachment to the sea, an eye for fine detail, complex design and color patterns, and a desire to show the unusual aspects of nature through art. I try to do the same with flowers.

Pictured here are sea shell fragments that I’ve found on beaches in North Carolina, England, Scotland, Mexico, various Caribbean islands, Costa Rica, and of course, New England. They will make their way into drawings with their beautiful patterns.

“Clams, snails, and squids, oh my!” Author Alvin Powell presents an overview of this new exhibit (visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History), a colorful depiction of the diverse mollusk branch. 

Gathering seashells

While growing up on the North Carolina coast, I spent summers beach-combing for sea shells, sea glass, and driftwood, great subjects for drawings and paintings. After college, I went to art school in Sarasota, Florida where I continued to live for seventeen years. Scuba diving became a favorite way to view shells in their natural habitat. After joining many shell clubs, I displayed my shell drawings for several decades, won numerous awards, and received hundreds of commissions from worldwide sea shell collectors, museum curators, shell book authors, and The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Sanibel among others. Drawings were sold in seaside galleries, marine science centers, and gift shops from Palm Beach to Malibu, throughout New England, and in over thirty states.

I have been an art judge for several decades at numerous national shell shows; most notably in Sanibel, Sarasota, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and St. Pete. The Sanibel Shell Fair, one of the best known in the country, draws large crowds nationally and internationally.

Seashell related links


To buy a giclée print or COMMISSION a drawing, CONTACT Mathilde Duffy.

See ABOUT for her biography and art background.