Friday, 8 January 2016

It's time for a caterpillar

It's the penultimate stage of this painting. I finished the leaves today and I couldn't wait to start a caterpillar. I painted it and only a butterfly left. 
Now sorry for this long off-topic. When I wrote "I painted it" - I stopped and thought "Hmm. I wrote "it", because what they had taught my on English lessons was that when we talk about animals we use "it" rather than "he" or "she". Contrarily, in Polish we always use pronouns according to gender, so I would say "I painted her [caterpillar]". I googled this issue to make sure that "it" would be correct and I found something funny. Someone asked on a forum: "When we talk about animals, do we say "He/She" or It (because it's not a human-being) ?". The first answer was the same what I was taught: "Normally "it". If you are particularly attached to your cat and think of it as a quasi family member, and it's a male cat, you can call it "he"". And the second one was funny:"In the UK we are very pedantic about giving our pets the correct gender when speaking of, or writing about, them. If I meet a person walking a dog and stop to say 'Hello', it is a must to ask the owner whether the dog is male or female. Then you can say, "Isn't he/she beautiful!" and proceed to pet the dog and say, "What a beautiful girl you are," or "Aren't you a handsome boy?"If someone sees a dog and mistakenly says, "Isn't he handsome?", the owner will quickly tell you, "She's a girl!". We're funny that way...".
A good lesson for me! :) All in all, this caterpillar is not my pet and I don't have any emotional bond with it, so I'll be calling it "it" :)
Let's back to the painting. So the caterpillar looks like this. But I took some work in progress photos so you can see how I was painting it.


Oh, firstly the leaves before and after adding the main stem. Leaves are crucial in botanical painting, I know that and I also know that I have to work on them much more. I love green color, I love to use it, but I've always afraid of leaves. Maybe this is because a lot of people say that they are the most difficult to paint and I subconsciously avoid painting them. But now I know that not only I have to practice them but also I have to include leaves in every painting. It's true what I've read in books, that a painting without leaves is somehow not completed. 




Here I started my caterpillar. I did some quick swatches, not shown, to find the correct color for it. Eventually I ended up with Cobalt Turquoise Light PG50 as a first wash. Very diluted wash. I don't use this color much, because I haven't noticed much of it in plants but I have noticed that it can be very useful for butterflies and caterpillars. Some of these animals usually have some extraordinary colors. Moreover, I have to make some more swatches because some mixes of this color with yellows make possibly handy greens.


On that first wash I applied very bright green. It's a mix of Hansa Yellow Deep and Permanent Sap Green. And again, I stopped using Sap Green some time ago but here I found it handy. Another reason why it's good to have many colors somewhere, not necessarily on the palette (or maybe it's just my excuse for being a color junkie. I'll burn in Hell, I know Shevaun :)).


Another layer to deepen the colors and add some details.


Now the fun part. I love this part when everything else is ready and you can add those little details to unify everything. I used my tested and trusted black - mix of Perylene Green PBk31 + Pyrrol Crimson PR264. I took a number 0 brush and started from the left side.


After applying all of these marvellous black spots I did some adjustments with the shadows and greens and it's ready.


I know that this caterpillar is bigger than it should be. But I did it on purpose. Because this is also a commisioned painting which has to refer somehow to Maria Sibylla Merian's artworks, I did what she was also doing with her paintings. The proportions of butterflies, moths or caterpillars in her paintings are changed. It can be clearly seen especially in her book "Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam" which is my main reference book for this project. You can find a digital version here.


So this is how it looks now. Almost done. Only the butterfly sitting on the upper right lily bud and I'll be celebrating a happy, I hope, ending. 

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