Sunday, 17 April 2016

Tribute to Maria Sibylla Merian

As some of you may know I am preparing several paintings to Museums at Night events. The leading theme of Museums at Night 2016 at PAN Biblioteka GdaƄska (see the video) is mainly concentrated on flowers and plants perpetuated in various library materials – manuscripts, early printed books and botanical illustrations. 

I've been asked to paint several paintings referring to Maria Sibylla Merian's artworks. I've done four paintings so far and the other day I started the last one. I think this one is the most complicated and I think I was not aware, when I was choosing the subject, that the deadline is so close...

For the last painting I chose the Giant Atlas Moth in the various stages of development. At first I wanted to paint an orchid which I have in my room but I started to read about the Giant Atlas Moth and I found out that it lives in the Malay Archipelago. I was surprised because it evoked my memories from my two trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Then I read that this species feed on a variety of plants including Rambutan Tree. I realized that when I was in Malaysia I took many photos of the leaves of this tree as well as the fruits. I thought it would be a great idea to show the Moth with the Rambutan.

Here's my sketch. I placed the eggs on the leaves. Newly hatched caterpillar is at the same twig where the eggs are. Older caterpillar is crawling on the twig. I also sketched one more leaf below and placed the pupa there. The adult moth is in the bottom left corner. The whole painting will be in contrasting colors: reds, browns and greens.

Do you know why they are called rambutans? The word "rambut" in Indonesian and Malaysian languages means... hair. Here is one of the photos I took in Kuala Lumpur:

I started with one opened rambutan. At the beginning I painted each section at a time as I normally do but I realized that it would take me ages to finish it and I kept in mind my deadline. 

I decided to paint the whole fruit in a different way. I applied yellow ends on the hairs. Rambutans start out green, then turn red, orange, or yellow as they ripen. The hair-like "spines" are green when the rambutan is fresh picked, but later they turn yellow and then black.

I applied red on the skin. I used Winsor Red PR254 which I found the most suitable here. It's a very strong red. 

For the shadows of this red I used a mix of the same red with Winsor Green (Blue Shade) PG7 or in some parts Winsor Red Deep PR264.

The second rambutan I painted in the same order. I started with applying the colors on the ends of the spines. Here I used more green.

Then I was gradually adding reds on the skin.

And this is the stage where I am now. I'm in a half of the second rambutan. This painting so far has taken me about 15 hours including the sketch. 


  1. Amazing! Just Amazing, I wish I could learn to paint like this:)

    1. Thank you Anneli! Oh, you know you paint really beautifully!