Artist and FSCJ arts professor Dustin Harewood’s work is recognized far and wide for his deployment of textures and a bright, tropical-inspired palette born from the vibrancy of the Caribbean, and the work’s general whimsicality. Aside from showing at esteemed arts institutions around Jacksonville, including the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, the 41 year old’s work has been featured in national and international publications, including, most recently, House & Garden UK.

As one of the finest practitioners of fine arts in Northeast Florida, Harewood seemed a perfect match for a project we dreamed up to highlight another of our region’s renowned resources—our abundance of shells. Though many may take these distinctive, colorful shards for granted as merely our beaches’ natural refuse, our coastlines are known the world over as some of the best places for shelling (apparently a thing that people enjoy doing!). Fernandina Beach, alone, has made the top 10 on innumerable lists of the country’s best shelling beaches.

The assignment–which Harewood gamefully chose to accept–was to jump into the shelling game and derive some inspiration from these vivid, idiosyncratic, brittle fragments to create a piece of art (or two).

What follows are Harewood’s thoughts and finds while playing our shell game.

“My family is from the Caribbean, and when I’m in tropical spaces I feel bliss. I feel complete. I think that my natural painting palette of choice reflects these aesthetics.”

“When I’m shell hunting I’m usually visually overwhelmed! Overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of beautiful ornate patterns and shapes very much like the heavy handed Rococo.”

“The shells that I was drawn to that particular morning were very textured but minimal in color. The pieces I picked all had very attractive forms with linear and dot patterns.”

Old Armour. One of two custom pieces Harewood created after our little shell game.

“The works are mixed media. I always begin my paintings quick, free and gestural; then end them slowly with careful, thoughtful compositional decisions.”

Crustacean. Piece 2 of 2 that Harewood shelled out for Void.