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  • Maureen Clarke

Queen Crazy Turtle Rock Lady (my Native American name)

In Native American culture, the turtle is symbolic of good health and long life. Their gentle soul becomes a nurturing point for other animals. The hard shell represents perseverance and protection. Turtles are determined in their travels, patient, courageous, adaptable, and peaceful.


As an artist and rock painter, I like to learn as much as I can by taking on new challenges.


A few years ago, I saw some rock paintings of turtles, and admired the artist’s work and creativity, and thought it was really cool how they found such an awesome rock shape and painted it into a turtle. I wanted to do that – turn a simple rock into a realistic, life-like turtle. So the quest for the perfect turtle-shape rock was on!


And a quest it was….


My first turtle I painted was a little slider turtle. I found a great shaped rock and gave it a go. Here is the photo of this little guy….

I thought he was pretty cool, not bad for my first one, I thought. He quickly found a happy home.

On to painting turtle #2…


So I found this really awesome domed rock that looked like the shape of a box turtle. I wanted to paint this as realistic as possible to make it look like a real turtle. I worked on it for many long hours over several days. I finally got it to a point that I thought it was perfect!


I wanted to put a fixative varnish on it to preserve and protect it.

It was very late at night, maybe even into the wee hours of the morning, when I took it outside to spray varnish it. I should have waited until I had some sleep instead, to spray it the next day. Because what happened next, devastated me!


I was impatient, so I took it outside and sprayed it on a paper plate. That was a fatal mistake! As I walked up the three steps to my front door to put it inside to dry, the newly sprayed turtle slid right off the wet plate, smashing down onto the concrete steps, then bounced off the steps and rolled into the dirt and leaves on the ground.


Aaaaaaaaaaacccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkk….. in slow motion as my limbs flailed about in a desperate attempt to catch my turtle and stop him from his untimely death.


It was totally ruined -- my heart sank!


All that time, hours upon hours, wasted. I cried. My turtle had died, my masterpiece no longer. I hid it away in a drawer for months! I couldn't stand to look at it!


It was about a year later that I finally had the heart to get back to painting him.


I had thought his previous painted face was perfect. How was I going to duplicate that? I kept looking at the picture of the painting I had done, and tried my best to replicate it. It wasn't easy!


When the time came to painting his shell, I ended up painting it a little differently than before – I created a starburst pattern on the shell. But I think his face came out pretty close to the original, however, he looked very different. Here he is, almost a year later….




I was very happy with this guy! He looked pretty realistic even though his shell was an imagined pattern. He quickly was adopted and found a happy home.


Now I was hooked! My turtles looked so cool, I wanted to paint more. I had to hunt for more turtle rocks - as if I needed an excuse to go rock hunting! Out we went to the river with backpacks and water, searching for the perfect shapes.

All during this time, I was doing research on turtles, what types there are, the variations in their skin color, the differences in their shell patterns and color, what their eye color was and differences among males and females.


Here’s a great story about my next turtle….


At my full-time job, I go on home visits. During one visit, I was gathering info about pets in the house. The couple said they have a turtle they adopted 20 years ago. They didn’t know what kind of turtle it was or it’s gender, so they deemed it a male, since the household was predominately female and the husband wanted a buddy, so they named the turtle “Speedy”.


I asked to see the turtle, which they were happy to oblige. I could tell immediately that it was a box turtle. As I leaned in to take a closer look, I said to the husband, “I hate to break it to you, but I think Speedy is a female." The couple looked at me as if I had two heads, and asked how I would know such a thing just by looking at it. I explained to them that I am an artist who paints rocks, and have recently been painting turtle rocks. I further told them that in my research of studying turtles to paint them accurately, I have learned that female box turtles have brownish eyes whereas males have reddish eyes. They looked at me again as if I was pulling their leg, when I said, “additionally, males have a concave plastron while females have a flat plastron.” They picked up their turtle, turned it over, and saw that Speedy had a flat plastron! The couple thought I was the turtle whisperer!


After 20 years, Speedy finally got her justice! I went home, and painted a male companion for Speedy, then mailed it to the couple. A few weeks later, I received a note from the couple, thanking me, telling me that Speedy is quite smitten by her new friend they named “Gonzalez”. Here is the picture of Speedy and Gonzalez…..


Aren’t they so cute together?!


Okay, now my painted turtles look so realistic, even a turtle can’t tell the difference! I was tickled, to say the least!


.... Now I want to paint a sea turtle. I found some awesome shaped rocks that could look like the shape of a sea turtle, so I jumped into it and painted this mama….








I noticed that some sea turtles have blue eyes, so I gave her sparkling blue eyes.


I had to name her, so what else would I name her but, Mama Blue Eyes.




I decided to enter her in a local art show, which was right before Mother’s Day.


Mama Blue Eyes ended up getting a second place ribbon and she even was sold, to a man buying her for a gift to give his wife for Mother’s Day. How do you like that, pretty cool, huh? Maybe that mama has blue eyes too.


So now by this point, I am going turtle crazy, wouldn’t you say?!










In the meantime, I discovered some really cool paints, called color shift paint, which shifts the hue of the color as you tilt the object.


I thought this type of paint would look awesome on a sea turtle, so I gave it a go.

Here is the turtle that was born from that…..




I called this one “Rainbow Turtle".

You can see the edge of the shell in the top pic looks aqua color. But in the bottom pic, there is a purple hue.


Rainbow Turtle was very popular on an art auction site, and ended up selling for $100!


This started a series of more color-shift turtles…. Which all found homes somewhere in America!



And I even got a request to paint a portrait of a pet turtle…. His name is Teddy :)



Okay, so now I really am that crazy rock lady!! Well, maybe not just yet, but if not, this next one will tip that over the fence for sure and crown me Queen Crazy Turtle Rock Lady! …





While out rock hunting, my other half (Ed) and I found ourselves in the middle of the river on a rock island that we waded to during low river season.









Ed calls me over to show me that he found the perfect turtle rock. I quickly get to his location, and he shows me this huge rock about the size of a basketball.


"Wow" I said, "you're right, that is a perfect turtle shape! It's huge!"

Ed said,"yeah, that's a shame it's too big to carry."-- Just as I said, “I want it!”.


Little did he realize what he got himself into by showing me that rock! ... Him and his big mouth!


When a rock artist wants a particular rock, the artist gets that rock! So there was no way that rock wasn’t going home with me, even if we had to get a wagon down on this river!


It’s a good thing that Ed loves me, and that he is in pretty damn good shape too! He has to be to be, hanging with me collecting rocks all the time!


Well, the pictures here will tell you everything….lol…




The rock weighed 30 pounds!


Here is the largest turtle I have painted so far. I call him, “Galapagos”.




















I even went as far as painting a small version of Galapagos.


I call him, “Galapagos Junior”.














I painted some other turtles along the way, and even painted a sea turtle on canvas.


I titled this one “Serenity”, which sold at Abington’s Art in the Atrium show.




So, what do you think? Have I earned the title, “Queen Crazy Turtle Rock Lady?”

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