On Australian beaches in summer a frequent sight is the transparent blue bubble and trailing tentacles of bluebottles – Portuguese Man ‘o War jellyfish. It is rare to see just one, sometimes there are hundreds, and seeing them on the beach is a strong message not to enter the water. The float is about the size of my thumb but the tentacles can be up to 10 metres long – a very good reason to keep out of the water, as they are hard to spot and the sting can be very painful.
I have taken many photos of bluebottles over the years, and find the variations of shape fascinating, both the transparent float, which is different for every one, and the lumpy, almost umbilical cord shapes of the tentacles. This exercise started as a miniature, and this is based on that drawing. I was looking for ways to exaggerate and develop the form, but I seem to have not strayed far from the real shape of the creature, maybe because it is so unique anyway. The colour is mostly a bright ultramarine blue, but with purple and bright pink highlights. My drawing makes it look softer and more cloud-like, which is an anomaly.
The viewpoint of this one gives it a monumental feel, and it does have a sense of a warship in full sail, or an iceberg, both of which have great intrinsic power, the ability to crush anything that gets in their way, but a certain beauty too. A creature in control of its domain.
This is the miniature original drawing, using Prismacolor pencils, on Arches hot press paper, 12 cm x 9 cm (4.75 in x 3.5 in). The large drawing is done with a mix of Caran d’Ache Pablos and Prismacolors, 42 cm x 30 cm (16.5 in x 11.5 in) on Daler Rowney hot press drawing paper.