octopus in coconut shell

Octopus in coconut shell watercolor painting


Since we humans are capable of working toward our own well-being, I wanted to find examples of animals that do. I googled “tool using animals” and found 10 animals that use tools. I wanted to paint someone I haven’t done before. I haven’t painted any octopi. The octopus in this image is using a coconut shall as a portable house. It carries the shell with it and uses it for shelter when needed. I searched for images of “octopus using coconut shell” and found this one.


My favorite watercolor paintings are created wet into wet, giving the painting a loose, watery look. It’s hard for me to use that much water on the paper since I need the surface to be tilted so I can reach it from the wheelchair. I wondered what would happen if I added water to one small part of the surface before I painted. I tried that for the background of this painting and was pleasantly surprised.

The most challenging part of the painting was the “suckers” on the arms. (I’m sure there is a more elegant description of that part of an octopus.) I not able to paint fine details; I can’t hold the brush steadily. I gave it a go and, looking at the result, I think it communicates.

For the body of the octopus, I used what I now think of as the Miyagi technique I discovered last month. You may remember Mr. Miyagi from the original Karate Kid. He trained his apprentice by having the boy wax his car. “Wax on. Wax off,” Mr. Miyagi said, demonstrating the arm movements. I wet a small section of the surface, then add full strength paint, dip the brush in water, touch it to a paper towel, and then touch it to the painting to suck away extra water. Some of the pigment comes along for the ride. Paint on. Paint off.


  • painting the background as I did is an example of the creativity embedded in living with a disability. I can’t do it the way most people do. What can I do to solve that problem?
  • Using the Miyagi technique brings me joy. It’s like having a delightful secret.
  • All life is amazing. The idea that humans are superior is simply hubris.

Posted on

February 2, 2021

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