Beautiful Sand Dollar Art Will Make You Dream Of Summer

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

There’s nothing that says summer more than a seashell. Just seeing one calls to mind the bright sun and the call of seagulls.

Maybe you remember collecting them on the shore, and if you were lucky, maybe you found yourself a perfect specimen.

Of course, if you don’t live by a coast, you might not experience seashells quite so often.

But that’s OK. Thanks to the internet and a lot of talented artists, you can bring the beach right to you! How? With gorgeously embellished seashells, of course. Or, to be more specific, sea urchins.

The sea urchins we’re talking about are sand dollars, also known as “sea biscuits” or “pansy shells,” depending on where in the world you live.

You’ve probably seen them for sale in gift shops as hard, white or pale beige disks with the iconic five-pointed star pattern. These strange little creatures are actually quite soft and brightly colored when alive, and some artists also find them to be great painting surfaces!

Of course, when collecting your own sand dollars on the beach, be sure they’re no longer living. Living sea creatures belong on the beach, so as to not disturb the environment.

Check out some of the ways artists from all walks of life have decorated their shells, and let us know your favorite!

Thumbnail Photo: Flickr

A sand dollar’s smooth, white surface and generally symmetrical shape make them a favorite of artists looking for something other than paper or canvas.

And they make great little beach mementos, like this miniature lighthouse scene.

While some artists like to paint on them the way you might a canvas, others prefer to embellish the natural markings of the shell.

And of course, some go in a completely different direction.

Notice how even though this one is a classic still life, the artist kept the sand dollar’s trademark shape very visible so you can immediately recognize it!

In fact, with some careful planning, the openings actually add a cool abstract element to even a very traditional landscape scene.

A common theme is the ocean and its various residents, like this curious purple octopus.

The nice thing about painting on an organic material like a sand dollar is that no two are ever alike, so they lend their unique character to the painting.

For example, these palm trees look a lot like the scene with the palm trees above, but thanks to the shell’s unique markings, as well as the artists’ individual touches, they have totally different personalities!

Still others prefer an abstract approach. Simply applying watercolors in a random pattern over the shell creates a swirling sea of colors as the paint interacts with the shell’s texture.

And some people like to use the sand dollar’s shape to inspire them. The shape of this sand dollar lent itself perfectly to a cute, colorful fish.

Of course, it’s not just marine creatures that work on sand dollars. These owl portraits use the natural shapes of the sand dollar to add character to the faces.

And speaking of birds, here’s another great way to make the most out of that round shape.

Of course, you don’t have to get fancy. This minimalist take on the embellished sand dollar is chic and elegant, and heightens its natural beauty.

And here’s another way to enhance the natural design, with some delicate color and a few added swirls!

And of course, there’s no right or wrong way to decorate a sand dollar. They always end up looking amazing, and they make great gifts, too. You can go as simple or as complex as you like.

If you had a sand dollar, how would you decorate it? Bright and fancy, or calm and understated? Or would you leave it as is? Let us know in the comments!

And remember, only collect seashells if you’re sure they’re no longer alive — no matter how beautiful their shells are.

Please SHARE if you think sand dollars are gorgeous!