Saturday, January 8, 2011
Dragonflies and Damselflies
The holidays have passed and with them the memories of all we shared this season: kinship, gifts, flu viruses. . . 'Tis the season!
In celebration of ushering in the new this year, I'm starting my first post with some photos documenting a new painting I'm working on. I always enjoyed the works of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement artisans as well as works from the Art Deco period. Illustrations in books that looked like woodblock prints always thrilled me. Don't get me started on how much I loved Aubrey Beardsley. Later on down the road of life I'm finding out my fascination stems from the inspiration these artisans took in soaking up and processing their natural surroundings and then imbuing their everyday life and the objects that surrounded them with the spirit of that natural world. How wonderful, I began to think, it would be to practice the same habit with plants, animals, and landscape features of my OWN surroundings. This new body of work will my made with that concept in mind. This first endeavor has been REALLY educational.
I went boating down the Rivanna River a few times this summer with my friends. On one occasion I borrowed a sit on top kayak and I remember a very distinct experience. The sit on top version was effortless and allowed me to drift down the river with relative ease. I could take in my surroundings and even sketch if I wished. I was amused at the insects that surrounded the wake of the boat and at times I was so still that multiple dragonflies would light on my skin and ride with me while water striders would skim my wake as we drifted down river. (I will be investing in a sit on top in the near future!)
I began the painting featured above in inspiration of that moment in time. There are a few varieties of dragonfly that stuck out in my mind but I did not know their names and I had not brought a camera with me (or a sketch book!) to document. I set about internet surfing and learned a few things. Two of the three varieties that stuck in my mind were not dragonflies but damselflies. I remember Ebony Jewel Wing Damselflies and Bluets from the creek in my back yard. I also remember large true dragonflies by the name of Common White Tail Dragonflies. I sprinkled these over a peppering of Water Striders with a background of an aquatic weed called Water Star Grass. This was the river weed that I fell so much in love with as it reminded me of a woman's hair softly listing back and forth in the currents.
I started drawing the damselflies and rendered first the Bluets. Their wings were paddle shaped and are pretty crystal clear except for one cell dyed black. It was very mesmerizing to mimic the pattern that the veins in their wings take it was almost like drawing cascading lightening.
Next came the Ebony Jewel Wing Damselflies. When painted, these insects wings will be entirely black but I want to use varying shades of black and charcoal to let the vein pattern show through. Their wings are shaped more like rudders and are more robust than the Bluets.
And lastly, All hail the power of the Common White Tail Dragonfly for he hath brought down the artist with a mighty blow! When I first rendered this insect I thought, This should be the quickest one to draw because a good portion of each wing is dedicated to an opaque black pigment. This lasted until I began to render the wings in the stained glass tile pattern that is evident in their biology. Teeny tiny little cells lined up patiently next to each other in beautifully, minute, intricate detail. I had to break out the swing arm magnifying glass because my eyes were becoming so tired.
Mostly because I could only dedicate 1 to 2 hours of my day to this piece before I had to get ready for work, working on this solitary dragonfly has taken about a week.