This idea was inspired by the work of London street artist Slinkachu. Slinkachu finds snails roaming the streets of London, adds a little non-toxic paint to their shells, and returns them to their urban habitats unharmed and fully decorated. It’s all part of his rather humorous Inner City Snail Project where he pokes fun at the idea of “society’s relentless desire to appropriate every available inch of the cityscape for advertising, signage and even illegal graffiti.”
I’m not fond of snails because, well, they’re so slimy. And while I did eat them as a child, I’m working hard on trying to repress that memory. That means painting on a real, live snail is never going to happen. Children, however, are a fearless, inquisitive bunch. So if you happen to have some non-toxic paint and a few available snails in your backyard, it would be the coolest thing to paint them and watch them go about their business. I’ll just stick to the vacant shells.
Have a look at these links to see some impressive painted snails:
Snail portraits by Jim Edwards
Inner City Snails by Slinkachu
Despite their name, these “Painted Snails” from Cuba haven’t been painted on at all. They’re just naturally beautiful.
- snail shells
- acrylic or non-toxic paint
- Crayola Model Magic or plasticine
1. Empty snail shells can be found at dollars stores, or outdoors. In Toronto, Dollerama had them. I would recommend acrylic paint in case you decide to display them outside. Other paints will wash away in the rain.
If you’re going to be painting on shells with live snails inside, make sure to use non-toxic paint, work quickly, and preferably close to where you found them so you don’t disturb them too much. And take plenty of photos before they disappear!
2. When applying the paint, you may want to start with some base colours using paint brushes and/or sponges. Once dry, you can add all sorts of details using finer brushes, or even some splattering with a toothbrush.
3. To make the slug that lives inside the shell, use plasticine or something like Crayola Model Magic. Have a look at images of snails in books or on the internet, so you know how to shape the body. Position them under the painted shells so they look like real snails. Of course, if you painted on the real deal you can skip this step.