Saturday, December 28, 2013

Small Butterflies II

Wallace's Blue Longwing 8 x10 inches, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

Purple Emperor 8 x 10 inches, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

Coolie 8 x 10 inches, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

Here is another set of small butterfly paintings.  The butterflies, depicted life-sized, are in an oval  insert with a faux mat painted with a symmetrical composition of stylized botanical elements.

 Wallace's Blue Longwing (Heliconius wallacei) is a fairly rare longing found in northern South America and Amazonia, populating lowland rain forests and feeding on pollen and nectar.  They live a long time (9 months!)

The Purple Emperor butterfly (Apatura iris) is a nymph native to Europe and was once common in southern England.  It lives in dense forests and feeds on sap and honeydew as well as dung, urine, and animal carcasses.  (Ah, the attraction of the beautiful to the repulsive!)

The Coolie butterfly (Anartia amathia) is another nymph widely distributed throughout Latin America and seen in cleared areas frequented by man.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Small Butterflies

 Callicore Hesperis  8 x 10 inches,  Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

 Graphium Sarpendon  8 x 10 inches,  Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

Junonia Rhadama  8 x 10 inches,  Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013
These three paintings are the beginning of a series I am doing of tropical butterflies and moths.  I have the template all worked out to satisfaction, -- life-sized images with a little bit of a background or landscape, an oval insert, and a symmetrical border of stylized flora.  I may include more than one butterfly, if the male and female are different, or, as is the case with the Callicore Hesperis, the underwing is particularly interesting.  These are fairly small butterflies.  Larger ones will require a larger boards, but I will want to preserve the same format and scale. 
I aspire to make the paintings striking in regard to color, even if the build up of paint to achieve chroma sacrifices detail.  I also want to have enough compositional elements in even the smaller pictures that they won't be seen as mere wildlife illustrations.

The Callicore Hesperis is of the Nymphalidae family and is native to South America, specifically the Amazon region where, unfortunately, the jewelry trade has hunted their genus almost to extinction

The Graphium Sarpedon, often called the Common Bluebottle, is native to south and southeast Asia.  It is also seen in Australia, where it is called a Blue Triangle.  It often feeds at puddles (as does the Callicore).

The Junonia Rhadama, or Brilliant Blue, is another Nymphaidae native primarily to Madasgascar and the Seychelles.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Terror in the Woods

 The Lady and the Loup Garou 14 x 18, Acrylic on Illustration Board, 2013

The Bride of Bigfoot 14 x 18, Acrylic on Illustration board, 2013

As a part of my continuing series of paintings inspired by the sci-horror B-movies of the 50's and 60's, I have done a pair of faux lobby cards of fictional films with the theme of monstrous terrors to be found in the woods.   It's not safe out there!

In the first The Lady and the Loup Garou we have a werewolf of the north woods stalking his feminine prey.  This takes place in the 1890s in some part of French-speaking Canada.  Loup Garou is French for werewolf.  Believe or not assumed werewolves were quite a menace in France particularly during the 16th Century.  They were a bigger problem than witches!  Perhaps thousands of suspected werewolves were put to death.  Thousands more were thought to be the victims of werewolves -- demented serial killers?  vicious or rabid wolves?  The loup garou tradition was brought to French Canada and then by the Cajuns to Louisiana.  Here our victim is not entirely intimidated: she has seized an ax (an old-fashioned double-bit felling ax) and intends to defend herself, we hope successfully.

In the second picture The Bride of Bigfoot bigfoot has imposed his company on some campers and is dragging away a prospective bride still encased in her sleeping bag.  Not sure how effective his rather blunt courtship techniques will be.  The bigfoot here is not intended to look like a real bigfoot (everybody these days know they really exist; they even star in TV commercials), but rather an actor dressed up as bigfoot in a cheap 1950's movie.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mira the Matadora

Mira the Matadora  16 x 20, Acrylic on Illustration Board on Plywood, 2013

My latest entry in this continuing series of adventurous modern women is the image of Mira the Matadora.  This is set in an informal bull ring on a ranch where fighting bulls are raised.  Mira is about to participate in a tienta, a testing of the bulls.  She is preparing to enter the ring.  To her left, drapped over the barrier is the bullfighter's cape, with its gold/saffron lining -- the front is a light violet or magenta.  This large, semicircular cape is used by toreros in the early stages of the corrida or bullfight.  Mira is holding the smaller, red matador's cape, or muleta which is used at the conclusion of the corrida when the bull would be killed with a the red-hilted sword she is holding in her right hand.  Mira is dressed informally in the traje de corto in which are garbed novice bullfighters not yet entitled to wear the familiar gold festooned traje de luces.  However, this attractive costume has often been worn by choice by many established female bullfighters, matadoras.  It should be mentioned that lady bullfighters are not as rare as one might imagine.  Women were in the bullfighting ring as early as the 17th Century; a premier matadora of the century was a nun!  Spain has since outlawed women matadors, but not so in other bullfighting countries.  Although she mostly fought in the Portuguese style, from horseback, one of the most noted bullfighters of the mid 20th Century was Conchita Cintron.  She was from Peru, but her father was a Puerto Rican businessman and her mother an American with early New England ancestry (some of which I share, making Conchita a 7th cousin of mine).  In the 1950's two American women burst onto the bullfighting scene, Patricia McCormick from St. Louis and Bette Ford, a fashion and product model who was the subject of an Oscar-nominated short The Beauty and the Bull.  (After an illustrious career in the ring, Bette married John Meston, creator and writer of Gunsmoke and established an enduring career as an actress.)

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Scottie the Scuba Diver

Scottie the Scuba Diver Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2013

As a part of my series of modern women doing adventurous things I present Scottie the Scuba Diver.  (I know Scottie is not a usual name for a girl, but I kind of like it.  I'm wedded to alliteration and the only other choice was Scarlett, a name that didn't seem appropriate here.)  In the picture, she's on a dive boat just preparing to go below.  The boat, which probably should look a lot smaller, is a rigid inflatable -- the gunwale or side is inflated to make it easy for the diver to do a backwards somersault into the water.  To her left, Scottie has her bag to carry her gear and a diving cylinder, which would contain a breathing mixture called nitrox -- oxygen is actually rarely used.  The tank is still connected to its carrier.  Hey, these things are 30 pounds even when empty, so I think even Mike Nelson (remember Sea Hunt?) would use a carrier.  Scottie holds her spear gun, for use against angry sharks and hostile mermen.  And she is holding in her other hand the regulator, the part of the scuba that you put in your mouth; it steps down the pressure of the air from the tank and has a valve that opens to allow the diver to breath in air and closes after inhalation.  (These things are delicate instruments it took decades to develop, and they cost a fortune.)  The familiar older ones connect to the tank with two hoses, but newer models almost always employ a single hose.  On hand are her swim fins.  Surprisingly, these were not used much till the 1940's.  The Italians in World War II were pioneers in underwater demolition and their divers were the first to use them extensively.  Also, to watch what's going on, is a friendly and curious sea bird, a dovekie.  Incidentally, the scuba (short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) was only developed in the late forties,  in part by the legendary Jacques Cousteau.  Before that, rebreathers, using a different technology that recycled air, were used, but mostly for escape from submarines.  Most early divers used cumbersome diving suits with air pumped down from the surface.

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Friday, July 5, 2013


Dragon Rider 12 x 16, acrylic on illustration board on panel, 2013

Friendly Dragon 8 x 10, acrylic on museum board, 2005

Virgin Sacrifice 16 x 31, gouache on hardboard on plywood, 1997 

Saint George and the Dragon 21 x 33, tempera on shade cloth on particle board, 1989

Dragons are an intriguing subject for any artist  who deals at all with the fantastic and the whimsical.  Interesting in that dragons are prominent in the mythology of both western and eastern cultures.  In China the dragon is usually benign and a source of wisdom.  Not so in the west -- the beguiling serpent of Eden, not quite a dragon, to be sure, but of the same reptilian ilk, was also, indirectly, a source of knowledge, specifically, self awareness and a recognition of good and evil.  But in the context of the Biblical creation narrative, it is regarded in a negative light, for it acted in defiance of God. 
Subsequently, the dragon, often winged and fire breathing, became a symbol of evil, a creature to be slain by the goodly knight.

Over the years, I have depicted the dragon (and the requisite maiden) in several contexts in my paintings.  My most recent work  Dragon Rider is pictured here along with some earlier works featuring dragons.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Butterflies of New Guinea

Tithonis Birdwings and Other New Guinean Butterflies  16 x 12 inches, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 2013

I have been experimenting with various butterfly-theme paintings.  One idea -- and this is the first effort in this format -- is to paint butterflies arranged as they would be in a display case.  (There are  quite a few of these around the house, containing both local butterflies and moths and exotic ones.  They are, maybe, 45 years old, but, for the most part, are holding up well.)  I depict the butterflies life sized.  Symmetry is always a problem and butterflies with a lot of fine detail are difficult to do, although I use a needle to apply the paint.  The texture is effectively rendered, but doesn't really show up in photographs.  They also seem to look more life-like under dimmer light.  Another challenge is the background.  Here I am spent quite a lot of time on a light-color dotted background.  I may try something different next time.  (It's really impractical to have a white background, say to capture the effect of cotton batting, since white covering any large area seems to just kill an acrylic painting.)  

The butterflies in the painting are:
Top: New Guinea Rustic (Cupha Prosope), Godart's Map Butterfly (Cyrestis Acilia)
Middle upper: Tithonis Birdwing (male) (Orinthoptera Tithonis)
Middle lower: Tithonis Birdwing (female underwing) (Orinthoptera Tithonis)
Bottom: Cramer's Cruiser (Vindula Arsinoe), Red Lacewing (Cethosia Cydippe)

All are native to the island of New Guinea.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Lady of the Butterflies

The Lady of the Butterflies 20 x 30, Acrylic, 2013

I have over the years often inserted butterflies into my pictures and have even done a few studies of butterflies.  An early picture I painted in tempera almost thirty years ago, Swallowtails Among the Columbines, hangs in my sister's bedroom and still looks pretty good to me.   It occurred to me that I might not only do butterfly and moth portraits, but perhaps feature butterflies as strong supporting characters in other types of pictures.  The recently completed scene, above, though nothing more than attempt to paint something pretty and appealing, is a fairly major work and consists of a girl, some flowers, and lots of butterflies.  The nearer butterflies are painted life size, those in the middle ground are, like the lady, one-quarter life.  The butterflies depicted are all ones that can be seen where I live, in northern Illinois, although there are a few species I haven't seen for a while.  (Tiger swallowtails can be seen every summer.  Monarchs are becoming less common, but red admirals are ever present as are the much less exciting cabbages.)  They are, clockwise from the upper left - azures, baltimore, monarch, cabbages, mourning cloak, monarchs, tiger swallowtail, monarchs, red-spotted purple, black swallowtail, painted lady, gulf fritillary, sulphur, and question mark.  I have painted red admirals so often that I decided to leave them out of this painting.  I rather like painting lepidoptera and will, if I find the least encouragement, do more.  The life sized depictions turn out, if I do say so, fairly real looking, though much less so on film and screen.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lizard Men and Zombies

 Invasion of the Lizard Men 16 x 20, 2012, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel

Zombies in the Park 16 x 20, 2013, Acryic on Museum Board on Panel

Going back about ten years I have produced, off and on, some narrative work inspired by pulp literature and "B" movies and including text, titles, captions, even a story synopses.  This is work I have always enjoyed creating, and so I decided to indulge an urge to revisit this genre.   Examining the response to this work, I've discovered that sales have, over the years. been exceptionally good. In fact, the only pictures that failed to sale were either large (over 20 x 24), featured multiple images, or were of subject matter other than sc-fi/ horror.  Thus, I am presented with a clear guideline for future work, one which fits in well with what I want to do.  I plan to do a series of 16 x 20 to 20 x 24 narrative tableaux suggesting stories that might have been made into wonderfully schlocky "B" movies in the 50's and 60's.  I plan to insert elements of humor and social satire and also to make the images generally pleasant and beautiful with sinister or horrific aspects underplayed.  I decided that plot summaries, which I have used in past paintings, are unnecessary and a title at the bottom is sufficient -- let the viewer create his own story from the image!

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