How to Create a Mixed-Media Shellscape

By Rusty Wahl in Art Tutorials > Other Tutorials

Being a saver (like most starving artists) I’ve been collecting seashells, antique jewelry, artificial flowers, glitter, sequins, etc, for many years. There are many beautiful crafts that can be created from items like these, and they always make unique gifts for family and friends.

Spreading everything out on a large table one day, I came up with an idea:

I would paint the background of a small canvas and place shells and other things around in a balanced, pleasing design. It worked so well I now give a workshop about once a year and supply the shells. The students bring everything else and classes are always filled.

I remember one enthused lady who after finishing her masterpiece said, “I am turning my garage into a workplace and creating shellscapes to sell!” I replied with one sentence: “Make sure you use your own designs.”

Now it’s your turn to have fun, relax and produce a gorgeous gift!

Here are the supplies you’ll need

• An 11×14 stretched canvas or canvas board
• A selection of real seashells in all sizes (sold in most art-craft stores)
• Glue, preferably E6000 industrial-strength adhesive
• Acrylic paint in tubes or bottles in any color you want
• One paintbrush or medium-size sponge brush
• A selection of beads, pearls, small artificial flowers, glitter or sequins
• Anything else you want to add (small plastic fish, underwater creature, etc)


NOTE: Large, medium and small sea shells are often sold in packages although you can purchase individual large shells separately.

How to make your shellscape

1. The placement of your shells is really up to you, and since most of you are artists you probably have a design in mind. Just sketch it on the painted canvas with a pencil, chalk or charcoal stick once your canvas is dry.

2. I chose the largest conch shell I had, put some glue on the dry canvas where I placed the shell (a little off center) and held it in place for a few seconds. You can use any side of the shell for placement, depending on what your design calls for.

3. On top of this large shell I glued a smaller one, holding it down to make sure it stays. Place the rest of your own shells the same way. A variety of shapes and sizes is best, so think of the entire design as you do this.

4. In the spaces between shells, glue small and larger flowers, beads (wooden or glass) some green artificial leaves and anything else you desire. Remember you can’t make a mistake. If you want gold leaves, paint them gold, and if you want shells to be another color paint them any color. Don’t be afraid!


NOTE: I found many of these things (beads, critters, flowers, etc) at Goodwill stores, and you can probably do the same.

5. I sprinkled glitter on the canvas to make it pop. It will be easiest to do this while the background paint is damp and the paint holds it down. However, you can also use something like Aleene’s Tacky Glue from a small bottle. This dries clear and quickly.

6. Look over your creation carefully and see if the design flows—there should be no large empty gaps or awkward groupings. If it needs more shells or flowers, glue them in now.

7. Let everything dry for 2-3 hours, then sign your name. Buy a white or black frame, and VOILA! You’ve created your own gorgeous shellscape!


To learn more about Rusty Wahl and her artwork, please visit her online portfolio.


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