Beach art inspired by tradition: Isaura Marques

By Claire Ferguson

seashells on beach in portugal

Isaura Marques is a beachcomber, artist, and painter from the beautiful town of Soure, Portugal. She loves beachcombing with her husband and daughter, and also receives a lot of beach treasures from generous friends. Though the beach closest to her home is Buarcos Beach in the coastal city of Figueira da Foz, her absolute favorite place to search is further south in the shell-laden beaches of the Algarve.

sea shell artist in portugal

Isaura originally started doing beach-related art when the 2008 financial crisis hit. She was no longer teaching and at the time was painting pottery for a local factory. She wanted to use the break in her work to do some self-reflection and find an alternative that would make her happy. Isaura has an academic background, with a degree in History, but she’d also worked just as long in traditional pottery, which is how she learned to paint.

seashell art inspired by portugese pottery

Now, Isaura is a shell and stone painter, making beautiful pieces since 2008. She doesn’t have a store, though she has a home studio and sells to friends, through her Facebook page, and in local craft stores.

Whenever she’s out of the studio, Isaura is always looking forward to getting back to her paints. Isaura lives and thrives on making her art. Her shell and stone paintings draw on traditional Portuguese cultural motifs like embroidery, ceramics, and filigree. When she’s done painting a stone, shell, or piece of wood, she’ll use them to make jewelry, sculptures, and other pieces.

traditional portugese pottery designs painted on seashells

Isaura is inspired by nature, color, and the sea. She also gets a lot of inspiration and motivation from the smiles and joy of happy customers who receive her pieces of art. In her free time, Isaura loves to be alone with her thoughts by the open window at night, listening to music and watching television or YouTube.

portugal beach town

The Coimbra region of Portugal where Isaura lives is widely known for its ceramics. Travel the region and you’ll see glazed tiles, shops selling pottery, and churches, homes, palaces, and gardens decorated with multicolor ceramics. Isaura has adapted this traditional art using non-traditional, beach-found materials.

If you visit Soure, you’ll see stunning mountains, along with castles and the ruins of Conímbriga, a Roman settlement excavated just over a century ago. Isaura highly recommends taking historical and adventure tours—and spending as much time as you can on the beach. She also loves the Conímbriga Museum Restaurant, Bussaco Palace Hotel, and the hotel and spa Termas do Bicanho.

seashells in algarve

There are so many treasures hiding in plain sight on all the beaches Isaura visits. “From sparkling gains of sand to a piece of driftwood brought in by the tide, there are always amazing forces bringing objects to land at my feet.”

For more of Isaura’s art, visit

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2021 issue.

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