Squid in ink

Artist Alice Shirley took one look at Archie the giant squid on a tour of the Natural History Museum and decided she had to draw it. Life size. Using fresh squid ink.

For thousands of years, the giant squid was thought to be a myth. Although sailors told stories of tentacled monsters their legends were thought to be exaggerations. But then in 2004 Archie was caught, alive, off the Falkland Islands. She is 8.62 metres long. Her nickname Archie comes from her scientific name, Architeuthis dux.

When Alice Shirley saw the squid on display at the Museum she knew she wanted to draw it. She says she has been interested in mythology ever since she was a little girl and she is fascinated with the gods and monsters depicted in them.

To draw the squid, Alice used fresh squid ink, which she says behaves a bit like the watercolours favoured by many great natural history artists. Despite having an apparently fishy smell, the ink is thick, viscous and water-soluble so can be manipulated like watercolours, even after it’s dried.