The Complexity of Simplicity

Delicate pink flowers with the classic Thatcheria
mirabilis shell and elegant Murex haustellum.

It is said that true understanding is when you reach the simplicity on the other side of complexity. The same could be said for the effort to create a pleasing still life composition. Speaking for myself at least, there seems to be quite of bit of experimentation with selection and turning things this way or that to try an arrive at the goal of classic artistic simplicity. As individual elements seashells and flowers have it all being graced with nature’s perfect symmetry and a geometry so pure that it must surely have its origin in the divine.

These images are from an earlier still life experimentation session from which I may draw upon another time or two for sharing. I hope that they are enjoyable to view and I am as interested in what doesn’t work as well as what does!!



Probably got carried away with this chain of shells and
flowers. The image features two types of Murex &
the Thatcheria shell.


This pairing is of the elegant Thatcheria mirabilis &
the spiny Murex pecten. The Murex as not an uncommon
species but is truly uncommonly beautiful. It has over
100 spines which protect the gastropod from predation.
This intricate safety feature earns the shell the
nickname of Venus Comb. This I collected in the 
Philippines in 1970.



 This one is for Linda Leinen who liked the grunged Thatcheria!

To simple joys in a complex world

Happy 2018!!



~ by Judy on January 7, 2018.

9 Responses to “The Complexity of Simplicity”

  1. What I really like of these compositions is the plain black background (suggesting all kinds of hidden goodies) and the reflective foreground. As you know, I do have a thing for reflections. And though I’ve said it before, I shall say it again: these still life’s of yours are very painterly. And yet are beyond that, and in many ways better.

    • Oh Gee and all my work on putting in backgrounds before!! 🙂 The plain background does allow a lot of freedom with an image if someone wanted to jazz it up, but sometimes simpler and more straightforward is better. I am glad you liked them. I find flowers and shells look wonderful just because of their inherent beauty and not anything anyone did. I used to be an avid shell collector and now much of what I have is in boxes I haven’t opened since 1970 when I packed them up in the Philippines. Have dreams once in awhile that one day I will get those out and cut open the boxes and spiders breeding in there since 1970 will come pouring out!!

      • Take them out of their boxes and find a way to display them. At least do more studies of them. But I think one reason I like the combination of shell and flower is that, while both are sinuous, curvaceous forms, one is hard, set, unchanging, while the other is transient. I see in that some of the qualities that persuaded our distant palaeolithic through neolithic ancestors to use wood to indicate the living, and stone to denote the ancestors

      • Umm interesting about the wood and stone!! Good point.

  2. I loved these photos, Judy.  The way the lighting and reflections are handled against the totally black background is stunning.  I am mesmerized by the Venus Comb shell you brought back from the Philippines.  I have never seen anything like it and feel sorry for any other sea creature who may have accidentally gotten too close for comfort. Hope you are well. Happy New Year, Maggie

    • That is true…feel sorry for the predators and the human hand fanning the sand which comes into contact with the thorny species. Oh well, I suppose the human shell collector is a predator too. We might not eat the shell, but to remove the body we cook them!! Carefully!! In the Philippines I talked my dentist out of some of his older dental tools so I could go in, hook and gently slide the cooked body out without damaging the shell. Luckily this shell while so exotic in appearance is a very common shell, not so common to have in perfect condition I suppose though.

      I am so happy that you enjoyed the lighting, reflections and background. I think I am finding that I don’t have to worry about lack of depth and adding background texture necessarily and that the black can be quite elegant and allow the subject to shine.

      I return wishes for a wonderful 2018 full of interesting pursuits and great friends.

  3. Oh,you know I’m just swooning over those shells! I like every presentation of them: grunged, ungrunged, reflective, simple as can be. I’m least fond of the black and white. I think the warmth of even a little color serves the shells well, and actually reveals their details more clearly.

    My impulse was to not like the flower/shell combinations, until I went back and looked again. The first photo, compositionally, seemed just right, but it still didn’t appeal — and I suddenly figured out what my issue with it is. It’s the color of the flowers. If the shells were combined with something like these faded hydrangea, I think the image would be even better. But that’s edging close to a purely personal taste issue — one of those little quirks that either allows or prevents us from responding to an image.

    • Your comment is fascinating as regards what big or little thing might prevent someone from responding to an image. And, it can be a very slight thing which mars appreciation. I can see that the hydrangea picture has more of the beige or pale yellow tones as the shells do and would look lovely in that palette. Whenever I set up the black screen, buy flowers and choose subjects it sometimes starts with a plan and goes completely off the rails when I see something different in this object or that. Not sure I will master planning the language of the art because I am so easily distracted. But, one thing for sure is that I really do love sea shells and like the contrast of their graceful, yet hard structure with the softness of a flower. And we get to marvel at the geometries of the natural world.

      • I love your comment about things going off the rails. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a blog entry, thinking I knew exactly where I was going. By the time I get to the end, I’m not only at a different destination, I’ve changed trains three times to get there! That’s part of the fun — there are surprises even for us!

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