Artist Brings out Beauty in Seashells by Paintings

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

If you hold these paintings to your ear, you might hear the ocean.

Leigh Murphy does exquisitely detailed watercolors of seashells.

Picking them off the beach is easy. Painting them is another matter, the Avondale resident said. They're harder to paint than flowers and even people because of their complex shapes and textures, Murphy said.

"You can approximate a person, and it will still be recognizable," she said. "You have to get shells dead-on perfect, or people won't know what they are."

Two of Murphy's watercolors will be exhibited at the Jacksonville Shell Club's 40th annual show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Morocco Shrine Center, 3800 St. Johns Bluff Road S. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children under 10.

The main attraction will be Mandarin resident Tom Duhon's seashell circus, a 7-by-14-foot three-ring extravaganza complete with moving carousels. The circus was last displayed at the shell show in 2003.

Shell enthusiast extraordinaire Gertrude Moller founded the club 47 years ago. Moller is exhibiting four cases of shell buttons. Fourteen dealers will sell arts and crafts and shells with a wide range of prices. There will even be a flea market, called "sand fleas," featuring affordable-type items such as shell-related clothing, jewelry, purses and dishes.

Jose Leal, curator of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Sanibel, will judge the scientific portion of the show while D.D. Jewell, the club's president, will judge the arts and crafts category. Expect "gorgeous" flowers, mirrors and shell-encrusted furniture, said Claire Newsome, the club's publicity director.

Newsome said many people have no concept of what goes into a shell show.

"The passion and the pride that people take in their displays is so impressive," she said. "You'll also see some of the most incredible and exquisite shells that nature has formed for us to enjoy."

Murphy has been a member of the club for 12 years. She's had a lifelong affinity for shells to the point that her father would joke that she had them on the brain. …