Finding Buried Treasure

Beach Fun Seashells Shovel Sand Watercolor Illustration

For Day 23 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Beach Fun,” I thought about finding seashells on the beach. Not the shells that are simply sitting there in plain sight, waiting for anyone to see who happens by, but the more stealth version that ends up buried in the sand. The kind a child might discover while building sand castles. Though, I never experienced a proper beach until I was a teenager, I can imagine what the experience might be like. These seashells, to me, seem like the most magical of all. Actually, this is very often true for so many things in life. When something is in plain sight, it loses its mystique. But if it’s something that takes a bit of effort to find, that effort makes the thing more valuable and interesting. An idea that first comes to my mind might seem satisfying, but it’s the idea that strikes in the shower or in the middle of night after waking up from a dream that always holds the most allure. There’s just something a bit unexpected about these ideas, yet somehow they seem inevitable and exactly what needs to happen next. Indeed, when it comes to sketching stuff each day, I don’t worry over the technical aspects, I just want to bring that idea to life on paper.

As a kid, I would dream up impossible scenarios all of the time. At least, they seemed impossible at first. But, with a little perseverance, I could come up with a solution that made something happen. Admittedly, whatever I came up with was never as grand as the vision I had in my head. That, was likely impossible. Yet, coming up with a solution was such a fun and exhilarating experience that I never worried if the outcome didn’t quite match. And yeah, I was never a technician, even back then. I got a bit bored when things got too technical and my attention span started to fade. In my head I was screaming, “but it’s the idea that matters most! I just want to bring the idea to life!” But yes, indeed, there are some technical things to consider along the way. Later, I learned to consider them, but I still never worry or obsess over them. I know many of my sketches are done in a perfectly “wrong” fashion and that I’ve skipped layers in the interest of time, and scribbled in details with my brush at the last moment in order to get to a final result. For me, it’s just fun to sketch and color and as long as the idea is brought to life, it feels like a win. If you love and find yourself doing something over and over again, there’s a reason. And, even I know, in all of my childish impertinence, that it’s often a rather good idea to listen to reason.

Things that I’ve discovered on my art journey have been perfectly simple things that once seen can’t be unseen. Things like thicker, darker lines in the foreground will create a sense of depth and jabbing bits of dark color in places can further enhance that 3-dimensional feeling. If you like things that look less flat and more dimensional when it comes to watercolor sketching, then contrast is your best friend and the more contrast you add, the more things will pop up from the paper. See? It all sounds almost silly and childish, but if you like the way my sketches look, that’s the basic approach. There’s nothing difficult lurking there, just lots of little epiphanies I’ve uncovered over time (many I’ve shared in my first little activity book and yes, there are more to come!). For me, those little discoveries are my entire approach. If I apply them as needed, magical things can often happen. It’s not about a laborious, difficult process or an exact order of doing things, but just basic principles that I spin together as I go into a bit of artistic soup. For me, at least, throughout this wonderful and exciting journey, the best thing about art has been finding buried treasure.

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Beach Fun Seashells Shovel Sand Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail

Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. June Hadaway 3 years ago

    This is adorable. I especially like the colors and shine to your shells. Thanks for the hints…..patiently waiting for your next activity book with lots more of those helpful hints.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, June! 😃💕Glad you liked this! And yes, I’m definitely going to focus once World Watercolor Month ends on finishing that next book! 😊

  2. memadtwo 3 years ago

    I can tell that’s a magical shovel Charlie…bound to find treasures! (K)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Aww thanks, Kerfe! 😃💕 Glad you liked this… yeah… a saw the magic there. I was imagining it as that when I sketched this!

  3. Karen Fortier 3 years ago

    I love this Charlie! You are able to tell such a good story with a few lines and well placed color.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕 That’s such a lovely compliment! It’s what I hope to do and improve at each time.

  4. Sharon Nolfi 3 years ago

    I love how you’ve distilled the sketching process to simple truths and a lot of fun! Lovely shells.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Glad you liked this. Yeah… watercolor painting can be super hard, but sketching just isn’t. It’s fun and easy when you approach it that way!

  5. Lisa 3 years ago

    In my head I was screaming, “but it’s the idea that matters most! I just want to bring the idea to life!” And this, my friend, is where minions come in! I was always the idea gal, but I wasn’t the one who liked to do all the stuff that was involved to get me to the end product. So I worked hard to become the leader and have others work for me. Viola’, I delegate!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      haha! That’s awesome, Lisa! 😃💕 And likely why I became a Creative Director as a young age… hehe… I couldn’t possibly have made all of those crazy visions happen on my own!

  6. tangosbaking 3 years ago

    Thank you for the share. This really resonated with me! As a child, I am always like that dreaming about random, impossible scenarios as I am playing around. 😊 It does really make me miss my childhood.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much! 😃💕 So happy you enjoyed this post! Yeah, I miss my childhood as well, but realize it’s still in my heart so it’s never far. And I use that feeling every chance I can get in my art!

  7. Mary Roff 3 years ago

    Good post, Charlie! Absolutely nothing “wrong” with your sketches or your process. And, know that you’ve shown us all how to have fun painting. A rather incredible gift!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕 Yay to fun! I think that’s the real secret. Fun things are the things we want to do all of the time! 😉

  8. LoriCtoo 3 years ago

    Great info! I think being able to see where depth should be is half the battle. Your simple explanation on how to get there is frosting on the cake. Thank you! Love your seashells, makes me want to go hunting. 😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕 I forgot to mention squinting at your subject matter. lol When we squint at things only the lights and dark remain. See? All my hints are like they were written by a child! lol

      • LoriCtoo 3 years ago

        Thanks! I think there is something else you can do when squinting, but of course I can’t think of it now. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know. Probably doesn’t have anything to do with sketching/painting. Lol

  9. Robert J. Coleman 3 years ago

    Once again, you have shown that technique serves the idea and inspiration, not the other way around. So much in watercolor depends on good technique which must be second nature because of the way paint works with water. A painting that is all technique and no inspiration falls flat – yours do not, they fly!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Bob! 😃💕 What a wonderful compliment! Yeah… I think that’s definitely the best way to approach watercolor. My own method is just making a coloring book page in ink and then jumping in with color! It’s so fun!

  10. Robert J. Coleman 3 years ago

    P.S., that shovel looks pretty serious, like a military trenching tool! Plan to dig for pirate treasure?!! Nice!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      haha! Thanks! Yeah, I really wanted that shovel to be the focus! lol It’s serious magic! 😉

  11. SMZ 3 years ago


    First of all I’m logged in under an old login. It’s me. : )

    Your posts always have a double wow factor and that is true of this one too.

    Charlie says, “…long as the idea is brought to life, it feels like a win.”

    Not just a statement of art but also a statement of life. It is a great truism.

    I love the painting too. It takes me home!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      hehe! I recognized you from your words and then after the comment about the login, I realized what was happening. So lovely that I can recognize you from your words! 😃💕 Thanks so much!

      • SMZ 3 years ago

        My thanks to you!!

  12. Sandra Strait 3 years ago

    I love your beautiful seashells! As someone who has always lived within a couple hours of the beach, I’m always a bit shocked when someone says they never visited a proper beach until in their teens. While I understand the concept of landlocked, it just never seems real to me, lol.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 3 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕 hehe… yep… landlocked is a real thing indeed! Though, I have to admit, seeing a beach for the first time when I was practically an adult made it SO magical!

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