In August I visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. 

Hanging in a hallway were many delightful paintings of lobster. They were painted by children.

The children had clearly thought (and been well taught) about the parts of a lobster, the colors of a lobster, the symmetry of a lobster.

These paintings made me think about the relationship between observation and creativity. 

Even though everyone was painting the same subject, each painting was unique. 

The artist was visible as well as the subject. 

Some lobsters were tidy.

And some were intense.

Each one had some especially pleasing detail such as these antennae that look like a beaded necklace.

Or this one with the varied legs, the rainbow shoulder, the fringe on the tail fins.

It is hard to draw something real. It takes looking with your eyes, and sometimes overriding what you think you know. Even though I draw constantly, drawing from life is always challenging.

It can take several tries.

Even the most careful drawing of the actual world is an act of creation as well as depiction.

And every act of imagination also benefits from close observation of the real world.

These lobster paintings are as strange and beautiful as lobsters themselves. And each painting is as individual and extraordinary as the child who painted it.

Here is an excerpt from The Lobster- Poem by Howard Nemerov.

To read, or to hear, the whole wonderful and haunting poem, please click here.

To find out more about the arts education at the Farnsworth Museum, please click here.

To experience the beauty and strangeness of the world, try drawing something you think you know.





16 responses to “Lobstervations

  1. Wonderful! I loved this, Julie.

  2. Love these so much! And the same is true of writing–we can all observe the same thing yet each writing about it would be different–in tone, in detail, in style. This was one of my favorite exercises with students–to choose one thing for all to observe (a painting, an object, a person, a setting, for example) and describe it in writing, realistically or abstractly or fictionally. The results were eye-opening for all. Each was unique in its own way.

    • What a great idea for a writing exercise!
      I used to teach art to 3,4 and 5 graders. Drawing from life was always scary for them – they were afraid of getting it wrong. I tried to give them the tools and scaffolding to get over that fear – and then they did such amazing drawings.

  3. Cathy Ballou Mealey

    This wonderful post wins the Internet today. Those kids! What artists! What observers! Bravo to the instructor(s) who inspired them to create these masterpieces.

  4. I was doubly impressed by these as I once had “lobster” on my Pictionary card and my weird blobby attempt has gone down in history as worst Pictionary sketch EVER.

  5. wonderful post! one of my favorites so far.

  6. Julie , This is one on the most extraordinary group of painting s that I have ever seen!
    I have copied them to my computer to remind myself of invention and variation I will forward this blog onto dozens of people I know, a wake-up call to all of us.
    Thank you for this gift!
    Marjorie Masel

    • Thanks for your comment. The Farnsworth is a great museum. We saw paintings by Hartley, Ipcar and Wyeth and sculpture by Ai Wei Wei. But these lobsters were my favorite works in the museum.

  7. Another killer Julie Paschkis post


  8. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia

    That was a joy to behold, Julie. I love how these many of these kids drew how the lobster made them feel, rather than an exact, anatomically correct version. This is where painting and drawing beats photographic realism every time!
    Speaking of vintage horror movies, down in Tasmania, we have gigantic freshwater crayfish (you would call them lobsters!) that can grow to the size of a cocker spaniel! They stomp across paddocks in search of dams and creeks, and sheep jump out of their way! People who tried to catch them for their dinner, were in danger of having their arms broken by their huge pincers. You’re not allowed to eat them anymore. I really don’t fancy eating a monumental creature that lives to be 80 years old- the guilt would outweigh the pleasure!

  9. Wow, Julie – observation + imagination = creation. I love the paintings and your thoughts about them. Thanks! [The Nemerov poem is perfect, too.]

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