Monday, December 26, 2011

On the wing

Milkweed, a monarch caterpillar and a monarch chrysalis painted on the wings of a monarch butterfly.

I started with a base coat of white acrylic paint that had not been thinned. The tiny scales on the butterfly wing are hydrophobic and cause water based paints to bead up. Thus, acrylic (which is my least favorite paint medium) provided a good base coat. I used watercolor gouache and gold paint to execute the rest of the miniature. Not terribly detailed, to be sure, but hey: it was a first attempt at a new and really challenging substrate.

The most difficult portion of this is that you cannot sketch on the wing without putting the graphite straight through the wing so I sketched an image to scale and then free painted everything on the wing.

Additionally, you can’t hold on to the butterfly to keep it from moving without damaging the wing edges. I used a few small flat-bottom glass pebbles placed around the butterfly to help hold it still. Don’t attempt this is a breezy room or on an evening when you don’t have a lot of patience to spare.

In future attempts I plan to work on to of a piece of Styrofoam so that I can pin supports all the way around the edges of the butterfly to hold it in place. With the challenge of "the damn thing just keeps moving!" resolved, I should be able to execute a more detailed miniature.

Disclaimer: No butterflies have been or ever will be harmed in the process of me turning them into art. I grow butterflies for a living and have a somewhat unending supply as they only live about 2 weeks to a month. All butterflies, both whole or in part, have all lived their natural and happy lives of flower sipping, mating, whizzing about and egg laying before they died of natural causes, mostly just plain old age.

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