Endangered Beauty

“A power of Butterfly must be –
The Aptitude to fly
Meadows of Majesty concedes
And easy Sweeps of Sky -”
― Emily Dickinson

I have some very exciting news to share, but before I get into that, I wanted to talk about how important butterflies and moths are to life on Earth, and to humanity as a whole. You might be curious as to why I have dedicated so much time and paint on butterflies and moths, and why I find them so fascinating. First and foremost, butterflies and moths have been around for at least 50 million years, and first evolved around 150 million years ago. Their transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis is truly one of the miracles of nature. Butterflies and moths are an important group of organisms that have been used for many years for research in navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, population dynamics and biodiversity conservation. They are also indicators of the health of an ecosystem and the environment. They are important pollinators, so are important in the maintenance of our food supplies. Butterflies and moths are chock full of natural chemical defenses that are currently being studied for their potential value in medications such as antibiotics. To top it all off butterflies and moths are beautiful!

Sadly, there has been a worldwide decline in many butterfly and moth species due to habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, disease and invasive plants.

I recently completed a piece called “Flight at First Light” which features 12 different species of butterflies, plus a few pulled out of my own imagination. The butterflies in this painting include:

  1. Common Red Glider (Cymothoe coccinata)
  2. Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)
  3. Red Agrias (Agrias claudina)
  4. Peacock Swallowtail (Papilio ulysses)
  5. Blue banded morpho (Morpho achillies)
  6. Purple Emporer (Apatura iris)
  7. Rhetenor Blue Morpho (Morpho rhetenor)
  8. Giant Blue Morpho (Morpho didius)
  9. Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)
  10. Small Cabbage White (Pierus rapae)
  11. Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
  12. Yellow Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Of these species, the Blue Morpho’s are the most severely threatened, and some, like the Purple Emporer are medium priority species for conservation. Still others, like the Small Cabbage White are predicted to become extinct by 2050. These statistics serve as a poignant reminder of the consequences of our industrialized world, the dangers of climate change and our growing population.

Now for my wonderful news…I am so very excited to share that I have been chosen as one of the featured artists at the Saanich Municipal Hall for 2016! My exhibit is slated for the month of August. When I first applied for consideration, I had grappled with the content of my exhibit. I have been itching to finally have an outlet for my Equus series, but decided to save that for a later date. This exhibition will be the final outlet for my Lepidoptera series with a few orchid and water lily pieces for good measure. I’ve named the exhibit “Bloomin’ Lovely” (of course), which I believe is very fitting given the fact that Victoria is famously known as “The Garden City!”

With my piece, “Flight at First Light” shown below, I created the illusion of depth by putting texture on the entire canvas (using light molding paste), by layering the paint and using metallic shimmer in the background,  adding iridescence to the butterflies, as well as layering the butterflies themselves. I wish the photo really captured the iridescence that I attempted to add to the butterfly wings, but the full effect is only captured when the audience walks around the painting. I love and am truly fascinated by the iridescence of butterfly wings! In fact, the iridescence in a butterfly’s wings is a miracle of nature in itself. The iridescence is caused by the presence of biological photonic crystals called ‘gyroids’ found in the wing scales, only seen with the help of scanning and transmission electron microscopy (as far as I know). Very difficult to capture, but iridescent medium helps me to create a similar effect. I believe the movement in the piece is captured with the swoop of the entire flock. I really tried to make the colors mimic that of the rising sun at dawn. And of course no butterfly migration piece of mine would be complete without my token dragonfly and scarab. Do you see them in the painting? They are my son’s favorite aspects of the piece!

Lepidoptera: The “Painted Lady” Butterfly

It has been almost a year since my last post. Time flies. We are now back in BC, and very much enjoying it! Life has been busy, settling in to our new place, but now I feel I have some time to devote to this blog. My Lepidoptera series remains a work in progress…

The Painted Lady butterfly, or Vanessa cardui is one of the most wide-spread butterflies in the world, found on every continent except for Antarctica and South America. Indeed, the Painted Lady butterfly is so common, that many preschool and elementary classrooms to demonstrate the life-cycle of a butterfly. Naturally, this is one reason they are so popular amongst children. In fact, the painting pictured above was inspired by my son’s science project. The butterfly in the painting is actually an American Painted Lady, or Vanessa virginiensis.  I quite prefer the pink on the undersides of its wings to that of the orange found on the Vanessa cardui. I have been playing with texture and color, gloss and matte. Below is another painting in my Lepidoptera series, “Scarlet Migration”. The background wasn’t meant to turn out the way it did, but I think the painting evolved into exactly what it was meant to be.

Now that we are all settled in the new city, my next task is to join an art club, and find a new place to display and show my art…wish me luck!

Giant Silk Moths

Today I completed the first piece in my new “Lepidoptera” series, in which I plan to explore the beautiful moths and butterflies of North America. I am such a girly-girl in that I have been itching to do this – to capture the ethereal, sparkly iridescence of a moth or butterfly wing on canvas. Many people find that moths are the drabber, less interesting, and less beautiful counterparts of butterflies, but I couldn’t disagree with this more. For example, did you know that moths were ancient symbols of change, and were believed to be agents of revelation? In fact, moths symbolize many different things, most likely due to their nocturnal nature. They were believed to be good and/or bad luck, harbingers of death, and messengers of the spirit world.

So the first moth in my Lepidoptera series is Hyalophora cecropia from the family Saturnidae (Giant Silk Moth Family). It is the largest silk moth in North America, and can be found as far west as the Rockies. They are SO Canadian that their food of preference is the maple tree, and they are found in most Canadian provinces. The adult Hyalophora cecropia moths are LOVE machines – their only function is to reproduce so they lack functioning mouth parts and digestive systems!! Amazing little creatures. I decided to paint the moth on split canvases, and used acrylics, light modelling paste for texture and some beautiful iridescent medium.

Oh, and just as an aside, my Enchanted Forest did very well at the Root, most pieces selling as soon as they were hung on the walls! Here is an example of one that I completed last week.

While I did love creating these trees, I’m very happy to be moving on to moths and butterflies! My next painting will feature the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly!

“Moon Bloom”

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all”. ~ Chinese Proverb

Cymbidium orchids are my favorite flower. They are so beautiful, exotic, and come in a myriad of different colors. Cymbidium is a genus of 52 evergreen species in the orchid family Orchidaceae. The name is derived from the Greek word kumbos, meaning ‘hole, cavity’. It refers to the form of the base of the lip. This genus is distributed in tropical and subtropical Asia, namely, northern India, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines (YAY), Borneo, and northern Australia. The larger flowered species from which the large-flowered hybrids are derived grow at high altitudes. One feature that makes the plant so popular is the fact that it can survive during cold temperatures (as low as 7˚ C or 45˚ F).

You can even eat some of them!!! The species Cymbidium hookerianum is considered a delicacy in Bhutan where it is traditionally cooked in a spicy curry or stew. AND the Chinese varieties are fragrant!

Cymbidium plants grow to a height of 60 cm. Each flower can have a diameter of 5 to 10 cm, according to the species. They bloom during the winter, and each plant can have up to fifteen or more flowers. The fantastic range of colors for this genus include white, green, yellowish-green, cream, yellow, brown, pink, and red [and orange] and black (and there may be markings of other color shades at the same time), but not blue. The flowers last about ten weeks. (Summarized from Wikipedia).

I cannot think of a more heavenly flower, especially one that is fragrant, grows in such cold, high altitudes and one that you can turn into curry if you are hungry! Amazing! This is why I so love to paint them. “Moon Bloom” is a white Cymbidium orchid I photographed while visiting one of my favourite places – the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton.

Below is a picture of the painting in development. It took a few layers of paint to finish, and the red spots are always the last to be painted on. I was going to texture it with glass beads, but I felt it looked ghostly perfect the way it was.

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It is acrylic on 24×36 inch canvas, and varnished with Liquitex High Gloss. It is part of my “Enchanted Forest” series. When my children saw it, the first words they uttered were “Alien!” (gasp) – and – “It looks like it’s going to eat me!” Perfect! Truly the feeling I wanted to capture when I painted it – alien, ethereal, other-worldly. I hope you like it too!

“Enchanted Forest”

It’s been a long time since my last post, but I haven’t been idle. My art is currently showing at the Root until the end of May, and I have been preparing for the Vermilion Community Art Show which is on Friday April 11th and 12th, as well as an art exhibition in June for the Vermilion Public Library. Since my last post, I have ventured into the world of textured acrylics. Modelling paste, textured mediums and high gloss varnish are my new passion.

Since my mother passed away in 2009, I have been thinking of ways to preserve my Filipino heritage in the lives of my children. Having grown up in Canada all my life, and as close relatives age and pass away, I find that I am missing our big Filipino get family get togethers – the scent of the cooking rice, adobo and frying lumpia; the sounds of Tagalog being spoken throughout the house. Then I remembered a small puppy figurine made from seashells that my godfather gave me as a gift when my family and I visited the Philippines in 1979. Of course, there’s no way to get a hold of the actual seashells required to make such art here in the Prairies! But thinking of these little sculptures inspired a desire to replicate the textures and colors of seashells in my paintings.

As artists, we are continually influenced by the world around us, (or at least I feel that I am), and one of the things that I love to do is to read fairy tales to my children. I love seeing and hearing their reactions to the magical tales of princesses and dragons, magical forests, and haunted castles. So I decided to combine these two important things in my life…the memories of seashell art from my childhood, and the current memories that I am making with my own children through the joy of fairy tales – and thus my most recent collection was born. Imagine magical forested glens teeming with lush foliage, grappling vines, and carnivorous blooms juxtaposed with the rich textures of seashells. “Enchanted Forest” was a labor of love, for which the resulting artwork elicited reactions that varied from wonder, amazement, wrinkled noses and quizzical looks from those close to me who have seen it. I love that these creations are stimulating conversations about art – abstract versus still life, acrylic versus oils, art as something that is just pretty to look at versus art that may not be so pretty but that stimulates the imagination. These conversations have been had in my home with family members and friends ranging in age from three years old to seventy. I am so excited about this collection, and it will make its debut at the Vermilion Art Show this weekend. Here is a sneak peek at my process. It is radically different for me from my more ‘traditional’ floral oils, but they were a joy and an adventure to create. When I first scraped the palette knife across my clean canvas, I felt such a great surge of creative joy and freedom – I hope that you enjoy it too!

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These were the tools that I used for my “Enchanted Forest”. I chose Liquitex Light Modelling Paste for its airy, low weight, high peak properties. It was easy to handle, and I loved the opaque, pure white color of it. I also preferred to use silicone palette knives because the soft flexible heads made it easier to make the petals for each little flower. I used basic professional grade heavy body acrylic paints. I started off of course, by making a background. See the pictures below.

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I then used some of my own “secret” techniques (don’t we all have our own personal styles and processes – just like magicians) to get the textural effects that I wanted. The paint and modelling paste went on in several layers, so the paintings were finished over the course of a week or so with drying time. Here is one of the paintings with the start of the flowers.

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My final products would have been quite heavy if I’d used regular density modelling paste. Here is a couple of pics from the side showing the depth and texture of the paintings.

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And here are pictures of the finished products. I’d added metallic accents because when I think of “enchanted” or ‘magical”, sparkly pixie dust comes to mind…

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I also did a large floral for this collection, textured with modelling paste and beautiful Liquitex Glass Bead Medium. I love how this flower pops out of the canvas. The high gloss varnish I used for all the paintings in this collection added to the depth of the paintings. This flower evokes images of a lush jungle riddled with carnivorous blooms. Perhaps I was thinking of the 8 foot corpse plant we saw in Edmonton last year when I made this! Someone who saw it recently said it reminded them of graffiti (I loved this comparison)…another person said the colors reminded them of copper patina…hence the name of it, “Scarlett Patina”. Below are some photos of it, as well as a close up of the shimmering glass beads.

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Now I’m off to varnish my next painting, “Moon Bloom”, acrylic on 24×36 inch canvas…post to follow.

The Root Art Emporium is awesome!

Have you ever been to one of those wonderful, artsy cafe’s with amazingly delicious food and a relaxed, casual atmosphere that makes you instantly feel hip and with it just by sitting and having coffee there? Well the Root in Lloydminster is one of those places, a must visit if you are playing tourist in this area of the world. Not only is the food delicious, but they host live music weekly, and have art (by artists like you and I) for sale…here’s the link to their website, and a link to a beautiful music video showcasing the art and jewelry they sell by local artists and artisans. You may recognize some the paintings on the walls….

http://www.therootce.ca

Chocolate Zucchini Cake and Gerbera Daisies

Gerbera

Gerbera and the Ladybug

Chocolate Zucchini Superman Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Superman Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Layers

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Layers

I realized that it’s been a long while since I posted about food. So here is one of my go to chocolate zucchini cake recipes. It’s from Epicurious, and the only change I make is sour cream instead of buttermilk, and a little less sugar (decrease by a quarter cup). We were lucky enough to have a big crop of zucchini this year, so that beautiful, organic, easy to grow vegetable is the star of my cake. The top layer of nuts and chocolate chips add texture and sweetness to the not too sweet cake layers. This recipe is great because it’s moist, delicious, and stands up to sculpting, and layers of home made marshmallow fondant as well as cream cheese icing, which is what I made the Superman logo cake with.

Included in this post is my next piece of art, a 24×36 oil on canvas painting of a gerbera daisy. I haven’t decided what color it will be, but, there will be a little ladybug exploring the flower. You might be able to see it in this first phase, sketched on one of the petals. I’m back to using oils after experimenting with acrylic. Oils are my comfort zone, I guess! Stay tuned for phase 2. Something about the first phase of this painting reminds me of chocolate, hence why I put it together with my cake post today! Hope you enjoy my chocolate zucchini cake recipe!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar (I just use 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (I use sour cream)
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)
1 6-ounce package (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
preparation
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Mix in grated zucchini. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan.

Wish is Complete!

Wish is complete!

Wish is complete!

Today I decided to revamp the look of my blog, how do you like it? I think it’s fresher, and more my style than the orange theme.

Here is my most recent project, finished, except for a final coating of varnish. It is oil on 16×20 inch canvas – a lot smaller than the canvases I usually work with, so using tiny little brushes for the butterflies was different, but fun for me. It is for a beautiful little girl who just loves to blow dandelion seeds into the air when we go for walks, she closes her eyes and makes wishes. I think it’s one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen. She is the inspiration for this painting! Hope you like it too. (Some months ago, I did a very similar painting on 4×3 foot canvas, but, understandably, it was too big for this little girl’s room!)

“Pensive” is complete!

Pensive

Pensive is now complete. Acrylic on 3×3 foot canvas. I admit, I had to get used to the quicker drying time of the acrylic paints, even when mixed with slow-DRI. I love the ease of cleanup with acrylic paints, and at the end of the day, I like that the painting is dry so quickly. I named this painting “pensive”, because the orchid looks so thoughtful…if you could call a plant thoughtful! The final step is to varnish it, and it will be ready for the show.

Pensive Phase 2

Pensive Phase 2

Pensive Phase 2

So I couldn’t wait to paint more of the orchid. While my husband watched “The Conjuring” (which is a very frightening movie in case you haven’t heard of it yet), I decided to work on it a little more. I found that I felt rushed using the acrylics mixed with the Slow-DRI, as compared to when I use oils. While drying time was definitely extended, I had to work a lot quicker to achieve the kind of blending I wanted, but a definite plus was that clean up was much easier. It is turning out a lot better than I expected, with a very similar look to my Funky Orchid which was done in oil. I have a lot more work to do on it, obviously, but I hope you like phase 2!