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.

photo 3

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!

“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.

More Suminagashi

Ripples in a Dream

Ripples in a Dream

 

Ripples in a Dream II

Ripples in a Dream II

Suminagashi on canvas has proven to be quite a challenge. Issues with paint adherence on the canvas, too much or too little surfactant, and the right viscosity of the size has taken some research, trial and error, basic chemistry, and perseverance. The process has been fun (my three year old and I had a blast playing in a big pool of jelly), and I believe the end result is worth it – unique, one of a kind abstracts. This is my most recent Suminagashi painting on 18×24″ canvas. After I originally posted the painting I went back and deepened the color on some parts of the painting, and it now looks more the way I imagined it. I wanted it to convey the action of trying to remember a dream…or contrarily, the act of forgetting one, and then vainly trying to remember it.

On bartering, acrylic and oils

My display at the Vermilion Art Show

My display at the Vermilion Art Show

My commission, and note my adorable assistant standing beside me!

My commission, and note my adorable assistant standing beside me!

Well, today marks the day of my very first post. It is my last day off for a few days, and then we have the May long weekend – Victoria Day here in Canada. It has been a busy few weeks, what with the Vermilion Art Show and Sale, and the children starting new extra curricular activities like outdoor soccer, and new sessions for swimming lessons.

The Art Show was a success for me. I wasn’t sure how my art would be received at a ‘live’ show, having only sold paintings off my old website. But I got generally positive reviews, and just packed and sent away one of my commissions from the show. (Pictures posted).

I am now working on a red Gerbera daisy (oil on 24×36 inch canvas) for a friend in Edmonton. We are actually bartering my painting services for her beautiful knitting. I love the concept of bartering, and I almost feel like we should be doing more of it in this modern day and age, where ‘plastic’ is the new currency. With bartering, ideally, everyone wins because everyone should come away from it with something of value. What are your thoughts on bartering?

When I first started painting I began with acrylics, as they are easy to work with and easy to clean – no truly poisonous chemicals to contend with. But I found that with their quick drying time, blending was a challenge, and even with flow retarder  and extenders, blending was hard to achieve – at least the way I wanted it to look. Does anyone have any suggestions for acrylic paint blending out there, other than working at super fast lightening speed? Lol.

So consequently, I moved to using oils – and never looked back, although cleaning brushes and the like is more tedious. I started off using solvents, but moved to using Murphy’s Oil soap after reading something about it on the net. Any thoughts on this? I have yet to try the water soluble oils I bought last week! I’d love to hear your opinions on this as well!

Anyway…I better fly, my daughter is clamoring to go outside and enjoy the wonderful Spring weather we finally have after 6.5 long months of winter!