Bubble Raft Snail, Janthina exigua


The Bubble Raft Snail is a pelagic, small invertebrate that spends its life wandering the seas. As snails cannot truly swim for lack of appropriate appendages etc., it excretes layers of chitin around bubbles that it makes. Chitin is a tough, flexible material protecting the bubbles from damage. The snail sticks to the chitin covered bubbles and floats along the surface. The population is distributed worldwide.


First, I had to narrow down references for specifically Janthina exigua, both pictorial and verbal. Using a conglomerate of images, I was able to ascertain an average shape and colour for the species, both shell and body. Like with every illustration there are multiple preliminary sketches that are created and then one is finalised. As for this particular species, there is not a huge variety of positions this animal could be in in order to show all the parts. There is only the angle to take into consideration, and the clearest way to show all the parts is face on. White acrylic was laid on black pastel board where the body and shell would be. Masking tape and paper was laid down to minimise dust and damage to the rest of the board. I transferred my preliminary drawing of the shell over the top of the acrylic to guide my painting. I then laid gouache in a stripe fashion indicating the rough and fairly uneven ridges. I was unable to get the colour simply by gouache so I then overlaid with colour pencil, and then watercolour and went back and forth until I had the desired effect. Finally, in order to get the luminescent quality on the body and highlights on the shell, I used white acrylic with only a watercolour on top.