Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Insect Lesson #2: Symmetrical Wings!

   This is a close-up from a painting of butterflies on a decorative fabric with a repeating bird motif.  I painted this with acrylics and was inspired by my models; real (but deceased) butterflies from a butterfly farm in Aruba that I visited. A woman who was working there offered them to me when I told her I was a teacher. Of course they were already dead and part of her job was to collect the ones who had passed away the night before.  I was thrilled to take them to share with my students! The butterfly in the photo is more than five inches across from wing to wing. We don't have anything here in Rhode Island to rival that; you'd need to have the good fortune to find a luna moth on a screen door!
   Yes, I smuggled their fragile and delicate little bodies through customs in my carry-on.  Oh, what one will do for art!
This is a lovely butterfly by 8th grader Ryan D.  This lesson really took us back to some important basics of drawing, including the use of simple measurements to make visual comparisons between parts of an object.  In this case, students were required to select a photos of one moth or butterfly to study and then draw it as symmetrically as possible. I suggested that they start by drawing the body first, then build off it by following this simple rule, "What you do on one side, do on the other side".  In other words, don't work to fully draw one side of the butterfly because it is very difficult to match up the other wing.  Instead, if you draw a curved line for the right wing, draw a curved line for the left wing.  it is much easier to make adjustments and much less likely you'll have the frustration of not getting the other side to match!
 I asked that the butterfly fill up the page, which was a 4 1/2"x 6" piece of manilla paper.  We used regular pencil, ultra-fine sharpie pens to add details and then blended colored pencils to "burnish" the surface of the wings.  Although these drawings are small, the students used a good amount of time, effort and concentration as they worked to capture a sense of realism.  

I really like the simplicity of a clean manilla paper for the background; the subject takes center stage and the wallpaper scrap frames add a finishing touch to the image.
Here are some more examples from this lesson.  Happy viewing!

This student chose to shade a simple "sky" for her butterfly. It provides a nice contrast to the bright yellow and dramatic black designs in the wings.

This one was one of my favorites, I think it was because the student artist showed the body pulling to the left: she did this because that was how her butterfly looked in the photo she studied for this drawing. I also love the black sharpie lines with the white colored pencil on top: it makes a really interesting gray that looks almost luminous on the manilla paper.
This student artist captured a sense of grace and femininity in this pink and black butterfly. Even her choice of wallpaper frame echoes the scroll-like lines in the drawing.  Beautiful, thoughtful work!

Butterfly in the grass?  There is a feeling of movement in this image, like this beautiful swallowtail is fluttering about on a warm Summer afternoon.  Excellent details and wonderful symmetry! Lesson #3 will be posted this week, and I added a unique supply that you may not have ever tried before: Ink painting on satin!  Stay tuned...

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