Monday, 17 February 2014

Butterfly Steps

Are we ever going to get a hint of brightness in Co. Waterford again? Sadie, Holly and I have cabin fever of the worst kind. We went out all Winter, I've been digging new beds and planting, splitting, moving things around....all in the type of weather we might consider mild for Winter, believing that when Spring came I'd be ahead of myself. I've now moved from promising sunny Spring days to the children to offering Summer hope. They are asking, "is it Summer today" every second morning. Of course, they don't know they're doing that because they don't know it's the morning, how could they, we are living in one long grey day.

So, Spring has arrived and we've had far worse weather than we had during the winter and have actually been housebound some days. I am convinced that since 21st December the days have been getting darker instead of brighter. I'm sure I'm right. I'm up early every morning and before Christmas I know there were rays of dawn light streaming through the windows but these mornings there aren't any mornings at all.

Holly had to be consoled today when she realised that the butterfly that had been hibernating in the playroom was gone. I didn't want to tell her the truth (that the butterfly obviously thought that the end of the world had occurred because of being in perpetual darkness and had just given up and died)  that I moved a set of shelves and I believe I upset our winged friend's snooze.

Our butterfly conversations reminded me of the beautiful photo over on this blog post at Awfully Chipper so I opened it to cheer Holly up. Since I will be guest blogging on one of my favourite blogs soon I thought I'd share the process for the painting that the photo inspired. I'll be linking back to this process for my guest post. You may already have seen this tutorial on That Curious Love Of Green last year.

1.       Blank page: I’m using A4 acrylic paper.

2.       I brush 4 individual blobs of water on the page.  

3.       I dab a small amount of a watercolour in one of the blobs of water (choose whatever colours you like).

4.       I dab a few other watercolours in each of the blobs of water.

5.       The colours run into each other within the blobs of water.

6.       I use a thin brush to pull a line out of one blob and into the others.

7.    I am happy with the look but I think the stem is too straight.

8.       I use a thin brush with a flat head on its side to make little knots in the stem.

9.       The background is complete. I leave it to dry overnight (it won’t take that long to dry, it’s     just a personal preference).

10.    I choose a graphite pencil ( because I like the weight and point of it but any pencil with a sharp but broad point would be suitable, a normal 2B would do). I want my drawing to leave an imprint on the page but not go right through.

11.    My printer is broken so I can’t print out the butterfly image from Awfully Chipper’s post. The writer gave me permission to copy her photo. I’m quite good at drawing to scale so I look at the screen and draw a rough outline of the butterfly on a blank piece of printing paper. If you are using a photo you have taken you could just print it on normal printing paper, that is what I would have done if my printer was working.
12.    I tear around the butterfly outline so that I have less paper to deal with and place my outline where I want it to go on the background I painted the night before. Then I draw over it again while leaning on the pencil. If I had printed the image I would tear around and draw over that.
13.       I take away the piece of paper and draw over the lines that have come through.

14.    I rub lightly over what I have just drawn so that the outline is very faint (this is not necessary but, because I may have not drawn the butterfly shape exactly right I don’t want any extra lines showing up when the painting is finished). I like the imprint of my drawing to be left after I've erased the pencil so that the paint sort of sits into the shape.

15.       I look at the photo of the butterfly on the screen and then line up my different yellow acrylics to see which one is most suitable.

16.       I choose medium yellow and mix it with some white. It seems very thick so I add some water to it.

17.       I use a thin flat head brush to paint the yellow in where I see it in the photo. Immediately I notice that I have used too much water because the green of the background is bleeding into the yellow I have just brushed on.

18.       I use a thin brush with a point to paint some of the black lines in.

19.       I fill in more of the black and notice that some of my yellow areas are slightly off.

20.       I continue to paint the black areas, I know if I line them up properly I’ll be able to fill in the yellow correctly.

21.       I add yellow to the areas I originally missed. I add white to the yellow that I placed outside of where the butterfly should be.

22.       I have the photo of the butterfly on the screen in front of me the whole time. Now it is time to line up my different blue acrylics to see which one is most suitable.

23.       I choose lake blue. It is very thick so I add water but very little.

24.       I use a thin brush with a point to fill in the blue areas.

25.       I use a thin brush with a point to add white along the tops of the blue areas. I use the same brush to put two little dots of vermilion acrylic onto the butterfly, one dot on each wing. I go over the yellow area where the green bled in. I don’t want to go over it too much and quite like the jewel-effect the green gives so I leave it alone.

26.       I ignore the photo on the screen and examine my painting. I notice that the butterfly’s antennae are barely visible because of the dark background behind them. I brush a very thin line of white along them and on different parts of the butterfly so that the shape is clear against the background.

27.       I go over the black lines again.

28.       Aaagh, just before I finish I catch some paint on my elbow and smear the page when I lean over it for something!! A bit of white paint there and finished!

It's 11am and it might as well be 11pm or even 2am. The rain is pounding at the windows and we need to get out for some air. I think I might take the butterfly's empty spot in the playroom and attach myself to the wall and hibernate!


  1. Thank you for the shoutout, once again!

    1. You're welcome, we love those butterfly photos.