MATERIALS & METHODS

 

The synthesis of scientific and artistic approaches, using living insects and watercolor, creates a complex and enchanting natural art. The relationship between the artist and the arthropod is unique in every creation. Instead of using a brush insects are the living moving brushes that create art by transferring pigment to the paper as they move. Imagine if you only painted with finger paints and then someone gives you a paint brush to paint with for the first time. There are over a million species of insects and as many artistic techniques as there are artists. The resulting art has a broad style incorporating a natural work that gives the viewer both scientific and artistic insight into movement and direction.
   
MATERIALS:  The materials used include arthropods, watercolor paints (Gouache), brushes, water, and watercolor paper. By using more opaque colors the footprint patterns can be more easily recognized by the less sophisticated observer.
   
METHODS: In general, insects are carefully held and concentrated watercolor pigments are transferred to insect legs and body parts or by having insects walk through pigment and then place them on paper. The transfer of pigments from wings and other body parts is a delicate procedure and requires great skill. There are a number of techniques and methods I have developed, including the following...

  

A. Procuring insects and choosing species and choice of insects: Insects are obtained by catching them locally. Some come from my butterfly garden. I rear insects for educational purposes and use some of these for creating artwork. I collect insects on my entomological forays for painting purposes. I look for larger insects that are strong and walk or fly well. For the artist, an understanding of the handling and behavior of arthropods is essential to their use. I have chosen approximately 15 different species of insects to use.  

 

Arthropods mainly rely on specialization or relative ability to produce many progeny resulting a potentially adequate supply. Some insects are seasonal and available only for relatively short periods of time. The choice of insect for art is influenced by both their life cycle and availability. I am always looking for other insects to use and my choice depends on their adaptability to the conditions required for painting.

 

B. Insects used as a method to transfer paint:  I initially use one insect species or genera for each painting. The use of color and design is complicated and the images are greatly influenced by the dampness of the paper and the drying time of the paint. Imagine visualizing an image and then attempting to transfer it to paper using a paintbrush that moves and has a language you must learn in order to find the synthesis that moves you towards the direction of the image you wish to create.  

Another type of creation relies on learning the behavior of the insect and coloring or shading the images as they start to develop.

Lighting is important in art and is essential aspect in creating insect footprint art. Most insects orient to light. They usually move towards or away from the light. This behavior as well as the movement of the watercolor paper or light creates a variables used in controlling the direction and movement of the insects.

The placement or restriction of movement is another variable used. The transfer of pigment depends on the application and the wetness and surface texture of the paper. The dryer the paper the less pigment will transfer. Initially the greatest amount of pigment is transferred when it is first placed on paper and the amount diminishes over time as the insect travels. Each work must be carefully structured so that it can be completed as the majority of work must be completed before the paper dries in order to keep the background neutral. Touch up and mist spraying can be used in small areas but wetting the paper afterwards has a tendency to pool water and thus distort and diffuse the color.

Each insect has it own requirement. Generally, one insect is used at a time. Occasionally, as in the case with bees or beetles two or more insects may be used at the same time. Bees and wasps have the ability to sting and care must be taken when using them. The choice and texture of the color for each leg is a decision of the artist and this greatly influences the look of the work.
  
C. Cleaning insects: The insects should be well fed and their consumption of paint should be avoided. The method of cleaning depends on the application of pigment and the type of insect. With beetles, I gently rinse it under running water and place it on a damp towel to remove the pigment. If done properly there is no apparent harm to the beetle.
  
D. Painting background: I use a large brush to wet the paper and create a uniform background. Then the color or color theme is chosen so that the background separates the art of a particular insect.
  
E. Gallery of small Artists (Arthropods): When the insects die they are sometimes put on display so they can seen. It is recommended tat either the insect or a picture of the insect responsible for the work be displayed.

 

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1801 Oakview Lane | Arcadia, CA 91006

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