My Favorite Family Keepsake

My Favorite Family Keepsake #WorldWatercolorGroup Brass Turtle Hotel Bell

I’m not sure if I truly have something I consider a precious family keepsake. Nothing seems to come to mind. The first thing that popped into my head was a brass hotel bell in the shape of a turtle that still sits on my mother’s front table in her house in Texas. A rather silly thing, to be sure, but it’s a fond memory of my childhood. If you’re not familiar with such bells, they were originally on the service desks of various places and used to get the attention of people working the front lobby. Simply wind a mechanism on its belly and then press either the head or tail for an amazingly loud and shrill ring. I loved playing with this thing as it fed my joy of all things mechnical and I was continually amazed by what it could do without the need for batteries. Plus, it was in the shape of a turtle, which pretty much sealed the deal as I love all types of animals and reptiles.

These types of bells were also magical because they were bizarrely ornate. I’ve avoided ever attempting to sketch one because of this, but figured I would just grab 3 colors and go for it to see what happened. It’s not perfect, but it gives me the same thrill looking at it that I had when I was a kid. I just want to press the little turtle head and hear that wonderful and equally awful sound. Each time I visit my mom, I can’t pass it without doing the same. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I ever learned the origin of this object. Origins don’t really matter as much when you’re a kid. You’re just focused on the thing itself and fascinated by what you can discover about it. Or, at least, this is the type of kid I was and the same adult I grew up to be today.

It made me think about the real tools of an artist. Fascination and curiosity. No matter how many art supplies we have, without these other two important tools, it would make painting a rather difficult task. I sketch and draw simply because it let’s me take a moment to explore something more deeply and look at things in a new way. It’s the process I cherish and the thing I made is posted here and then uncermoniously folded back into a sketchbook. My art is simply a side effect of my fascination and curiosity. I’m not trying to make any certain style or statement for the world. I’m just stopping to take a moment to truly see something as though it’s the first time. Even something random that catches my fancy, like this little brass bell, shaped like a tiny turtle.

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About the Doodlewash

M. Graham Watercolors: Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.

Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
36 Comments
  1. Curious to the Max 9 months ago

    You captured the brass perfectly. Love the turtle, one of my favorite critters, after elephants, otters and apes.

  2. twistedsisterweb 9 months ago

    Charlie, you continue to dazzle!

  3. Jodi 9 months ago

    those are some serious details on that turtle bell! Wow!!! 🙂

    • Author

      Thanks, Jodi! 😃💕 Don’t look too close though… they’re mostly scribbled in and are more of an illusion! hehe

      • Jodi 9 months ago

        Oh Puleeezzzze!!! 🙂

  4. Teri C 9 months ago

    That brass is awesomely painted! I’ve never seen anything like this so it was very interesting to hear the history.

    • Author

      Thanks, Teri! 😃💕 Yeah… these things are so cool! I didn’t know the history until just this past year actually!

  5. Laura (PA Pict) 9 months ago

    The sheen of the brass is perfectly rendered. Great job. I’m enjoying the tales behind your selection of subjects. I know hotel desk bells but have never seen a turtle one. That’s pretty cool. I can understand why you found it enchanting as a child. My Grandad had a dinner table gong that fascinated me. Your post made me remember that.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Laura! 😃💕 Glad you liked this post! And cool! I dinner table gong sounds awesome!! hehe I want one!

  6. Linda Murray 9 months ago

    Awesome! Love the detail on the shell!

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 9 months ago

    Such a little charmer your mom’s turtle is. I can see how it dazzled little Charlie when he was a tot.
    Well painted.

  8. That is one smart bell, fascinating things for children( and kid adults) especially when they don’t look like the tradional shape, my nan had a lady as a bell…not as beautiful as yours, I think this is well painted, so many little pieces to this brass beauty ❤️

    • Author

      Thanks, Rebecca! 😃💕 Yeah… there were a TON of little pieces… hehe…. I almost ditched it and moved on to something else. Glad I made it through it though!

  9. ann christina 9 months ago

    Wow, this looks gorgeous! Love how you captured that brass feel and its shinyness. Painting really changes the way we see the world. It kind of makes also the little things precious. Have a wonderful day! 🌞🌸

  10. artandmoondreams 9 months ago

    Gorgeous painting! The metallic reflections and intricate design so deftly painted make this treasured keepsake a real gem of a painting. I half expect to hear it ring…lol. Thank you for sharing.

    • Author

      Hehe… I wish it could ring!! Love the real thing! Glad you liked the doodlewash version, Haunani! Thanks! 😃💕

  11. janina 9 months ago

    I love this, Charlie! Superb rendition it looks so real. One of your best. I remember these, but they weren’t a bell, just a fun toy! 👌

  12. memadtwo 9 months ago

    Your turtle sparkles! I could use one of these myself…(K)

  13. Ellie 9 months ago

    As always, you are so inspirational! Wonderful detail in the painting (scribbled or whatever, they are fantastic!) and wonderful words. I also like that you limit your palette – something I am working toward.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Ellie! 😃💕 Glad you liked this one! Yeah… I really love a limited palette… it’s a fun challenge to see what colors you can force it to make! hehe

  14. Jacob 9 months ago

    Ding dong! What a glorious little curio it is, expertly doodlewashed as always… sparkling with kooky charm! I want this turtle! (I wonder if they made a seal one?) The loud chime only sweeten the deal 😉 How I would have loved to drive my parents and siblings mad with this as a youngster… 🙂

    • Author

      Hehe! Thanks, Jacob! 😃 ohhhhh a seal would be amazing!! I’ve only ever seen them as turtles, but a seal would awesome! Hehe…must invent that!

      • Jacob 9 months ago

        Yes! Time to put that Da Vinci cap on 😉

  15. anniedrawsthings 9 months ago

    Wow, Charlie, this is beautiful. The light on it is awesome, it looks so shiny and glittery. 🙂

    • Author

      Thanks, Annie!! 😃💕There was so much detail in pretty sure my eyes crossed trying to see it all. Hehe… Glad you liked it!

  16. dapplegrey 9 months ago

    Oh Charlie! – ‘I’m just stopping to take a moment to truly see something as though it’s the first time’ – that’s exactly, exactly why I draw things – there’s no better way to do it and the pleasure it brings is something so many people have yet to discover (though I think you’re pretty much getting the message across!) Lovely drawing, lovely post.

    • Author

      Thanks so much!! 😃💕 Yeah, it’s the truly observing something that I love most. I always see things I never knew were there before and the experience is so magical!!

  17. Jill Kuhn 9 months ago

    WOWZA! This is impressive, Charlie!! I don’t know how I missed this one! 😟 I like your attitude about daily doodlewashing. I’m finding I’m enjoying painting something in my art journal daily – like you to just try to capture the subject and truly SEE it. Thanks for inspiring me in your daily art! Your turtle is AMAZING!!! 😍💕🐢

    • Author

      Awww thanks, Jill!! 😃💕 I’m so glad you like this one! Bit of an obscure subject…hehe… But I love this thing! And yay to daily painting! It’s so rewarding! Even on the days it doesn’t quite turn out like we though! Hehe

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