Battling Nature

Having taken up gardening as a bit of a hobby, I've become quite conscious of those elements of nature that cause trouble: weather, animals, and bugs.

"Exposed" 16.5 x 20.5 inches
Mixed media on paper
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With moths, I'm still not sure which ones are harmless and which ones are going to cause me headaches.  The moth in the painting above arrived on a sunny afternoon, and sat perched against the outside of the house, periodically flexing its wings.  I took plenty of close-up pictures, fascinated by the textures and markings on the wings and body.

I knew I wanted to paint this creature in a work using sand, so I felt confident enough to use a palette knife to slap down some paint with decorative sand mixed into it.  Of course, that confidence disappeared over the next few weeks, as I realized I had forgotten how difficult it can be to use sand as a texture in a painting.  I grew to dislike "the moth."  My son also seemed to dislike it.  Every time I turned my attention to the painting, he came in with some sort of crisis, wailing for my attention and tugging on my shirt.

Finally, I took some water and lifted off all the pastel.  I created a "stain" effect over the painting by giving it a layer of watery acrylic, using paper towels to lift some of the acrylic off throughout the painting.  I adjusted the top wing-- it took me until the last stage of the painting to realize that I had been looking at the wings wrong, and I was in fact painting the moth's two right wings, rather than a right and a left wing.  I grew to love the moth again.  I decided to name the piece "Exposed," because the painting showcased the underside of the moth's wings-- this type of moth is rare enough to see at night, and it was even more rare to get to look at it up close in broad daylight.

Of course, now that I'm growing a little edible garden, I want to make sure I know my moths-- lest I be encouraging the dreaded tomato horn worm moth to hang around and pose for pictures!  I tried to look up this particular moth to identify it.  The closest pictures I could find were of the Cecropia moth (exact same markings, but more red and orange than this one, which was brown).

After reading more about the Cecropia moth, I felt kind of sad-- the adult moths do not eat, and only live for a few weeks in order to mate and lay eggs before they die.  I'm glad I got to honor its short-lived beauty in a painting, which brings me to the other side of battling nature: I know I'm never going to do justice to the beautiful things I see in nature when I decide to paint them.  I feel compelled to paint them anyway, though, just for the sheer joy of getting to examine them closely and express the beauty that I see when I look at them.
"Poised"
Available on Etsy

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