Contact me by email: or telephone 520-682-2837

'In any land what is there more glorious than sunlight! Even here in the desert where it falls fierce and hot like a rain of meteors, it is the one supreme beauty to which all things pay allegiance ... The chief glory of the desert is its broad blaze of omnipresent light.'
-John Van Dyke

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Too many Monarchs?

There can never be too many of those amazing long distance travelers in nature. But in a painting, too many repetitive elements can be a composition nightmare  I tried to organize a limited number of cut-outs that I could move around to evoke the image of those millions of butterflies resting in the branches of sunlit trees during their winter in Mexico.

After reaching a promising composition that way, I photographed my collage and then tried out backgrounds that I painted in a photo editing program.

Then I transferred the arrangement as a pencil drawing on my watercolor paper. Since countless little white spots are characteristic for Monarchs, I used liquid mask to preserve them.

The masking allowed me to freely apply washes that were meant to give the impression of sunlight breaking through the branches of conifer trees that the Monarchs rest on in huge numbers during their winter in Mexico.
Then every butterfly was carefully painted, but with running, dilute pigments that hopefully evoked both the natural color and pattern of the Monarchs and the play of the sunlight among them.

The final painting turned out rather like I had imagined it in the original, but was very difficult to reproduce. I had this problem before with paintings that contain a lot of orange and blue/turquoise. Those complements seem to fight each other on the computer screen. I hope they will not be to difficult to reproduce as giclee prints.

The painting was of course inspired by the famous migration of the Monarchs that takes them over the course of several generations all the way from Canada to Mexico and back, an enormous feat for a weak little insect. As the numbers of Monarchs had declined alarmingly over the last few years (they seem to be recovering somewhat this year) the Monarch has become a symbol of the beauty and the fragility of our natural world. I hope that the media hype that singles out the Monarch will not obscure that the threat to the natural system is not limited to Monarchs and Honey Bees. The ecological system as a whole is in need of protection, from Climate change to habitat destruction to the overuse of pesticides. I hope that the growing awareness does not end with concern just for this flashy poster species, but that the public understands that all species have their roles because the stability and flexibility of our complex natural system is best guaranteed by high diversity.