Tag Archives: painting

use for description of activity and of illustrations.

What does a Butterfly See?

Dye and watercolor stain on paper

What does a Butterfly see? 14″x18″ water dye on illustration board

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
Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, TED talks
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.

B-tween Acts

Clown napping on circus car G awaiting the next performance.

B-tween Acts

Napping Between Acts. Oil on canvas 12″x16″. (1973)

I painted this back when I still made my own stretcher bars and hand stretched the raw canvas, prepped it with gesso and marble dust, sized it with rabbit glue and primed it with lead based white oil. It is a layered painting (old traditional style process).  I wonder how many oil paintings are out there with lead based paints today?  They are only dangerous if you eat them!  You are not supposed to touch them, either.  For whatever reason, back then clown paintings were a favorite of mine.  I only have three or maybe four of them still around, I will post the third known one next week.  If I find the fourth one, I will probably make a set of prints of them.



Two Centurys

two-centuries-Az_web_01Two Century Sisters (6.5×7.5 Acrylic on Upson Board, painted 1972).

I’m surprised at how well the acrylic paints hold up. This was painted back when acrylics were relatively new and no one really knew if they were going to hold up as promised. I remember every artist arguing about whether or not it was a real media or a fad. True purists said only oil was real art.  I have come to think of acrylic as the other oil that dries faster. Then came alkides!

As for century plants, (these are in Arizona) they bloom approximately every hundred years (so they say), and accordingly named them such. I have seen them bloom in ten year cycles or as the rain comes in unpredictable cycles in the Arizona desert, no one really knows.


Red Rock Bluffs

Oak Creek-3

Oil paint on canvas 5″x5″ (plein air miniature)

A painting done on location early in 1968 – Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. My wife and I were newlyweds and going to college in Flagstaff, Arizona. Oak Creek was only 14 miles from the campus, but you dropped from 6000 feet to less than 600 above sea level in that short distance.

This was a favorite place to go for college students – you can see why. From snow to sunbathing in 30 minutes!