Watercolor on 90# paper (1995)
I have always drawn and been drawn to butterflies, as most artists. It is not only the colors, and patterns, it is that we share a moment, transient in its perception. They are there, now they are here, now they are gone. Like the fleeting images of entire painting collections, filled with color, don’t touch, can’t catch, can’t even really own. We reach for the art of the moment, flit from here to there and then we must do it again. To those who observe artists, they might as well try and catch a butterfly. We flitter willy nilly about, we show and hide our colors, basking in the sunlight, hiding at the least attention, trying out our wings, seeking appreciation of any viewer. Our days are brief. We crush easily. Everyone reaches for us, no one reaches for us, and there is no safe place to land. Sometimes it seems better to be a butterfly than an artist, or maybe we already are. So whenever I sit and doodle, often a butterfly will appear on the page. They symbolize a similar peaceful response in most everyone who is not going so fast they see nothing. The image of any butterfly conjures up a paragraph in the mind that includes childhood, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and story, coupled with the wisdom of that transcient moment of how frail our lives are, in which we all share.
What does a Butterfly see? 14″x18″ water dye on illustration board
THIS WEEK’S STORY POST: So what does a butterfly see? Do you know what you think you see? If I paint a butterfly, should I paint what I see or what I feel about it? But when you look at the painting, it should remind you at least of how you feel about butterflies, or if not, maybe you get how I feel. Must we paint what we think some one else might want to see?
A butterfly probably doesn’t have an opinion of how it should appear for its portrait. There are no pictures of people hanging in butterfly houses . . . oh wait, there are no butterfly houses! Don’t think I am being silly, I think this is at the core of all good art. The ability of this little creature to feed, flash color, reproduce and flourish, avoiding extinction long past the dinosaurs, has more to do with its collective beauty than it does with it’s brain (it doesn’t have one).
Collective beauty because: The Native American Indians did not speak of bears, they spoke of “bear” as if all bears made one creature called bear. Grass was not blades of grass, it was grass, one thing; the trees and flowers were all known as grass, as we call it flora; they call it grass, one thing with one common life. One entity, living as many things from many places, as trees, as flowers, as weeds, it is all grass.
Bird meant all birds as one entity, fish the same thing, one fish. To give honor to the one thing was to ask for a single bear or a single fish or bird to be taken from the whole as food, and because they, too, were part of the whole, living in harmony of the one thing, it was acceptable to take from self.
The collective creature is somehow sentient with the ability to exist in a collective world where most every other creature would see a butterfly as food, we see it as inspiration worthy of decorating our lunch boxes, stationery, t-shirts, and bed sheets. In the end, we study, protect, cultivate and will probably make sure this time to get it on the next ark, (unlike the unicorn which missed the boat). Like the stripes on a tiger, there is a reason for decoration and style.
There is a good book about this effect called the
So, why be shy in painting a butterfly? it represents our highest hopes for our own societies. It is like the rainbow, or the four leaf clover, or even the moon. Celebrate your love of design and art, paint this beautiful bug.