Butterflies and Chocolate

Stepping from 4֯ F outside into a 75 ֯ F conservatory filled with flowering plants and fluttering butterflies is a wonderful treat on a winter day. I met up with two artist friends at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory for an afternoon of sketching, followed by a visit to Richardson’s Candy Kitchen in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. What a winning combination: friends, art, butterflies, and chocolate.

Painting in the conservatory was more overwhelming than I had imagined. Butterflies were everywhere, in nearly constant motion, and the place was crowded with visitors. Although the butterflies themselves were the main attraction, I found a case of chrysalises tucked in a quiet corner to be equally remarkable. Later, I decided to work on a beautiful flowering tree, knowing that it would hold still and, eventually, something would land there.

Tips and Techniques– When painting butterflies, establish the shape in pencil or pen and lay in a first wash of the lightest colors. You can also do this first step without pencil, simply brushing in a loose wash to establish the wing shape. Once this layer is dry, pencil in the pattern and paint a second layer over the first. Fine details come last, with paint or pen or both. You can spend many hours painting a single butterfly with great accuracy and detail or work more quickly for a sketchier feel. It’s best to decide which direction you’re going it at the outset.

31 Comments on “Butterflies and Chocolate

  1. What a fun and beautiful two pages!! Your work is always inspirational, if a bit daunting, in the sense that I will never get there……..

  2. Glad you painted the chocolate, too! I would have had trouble letting the candy sit there long enough before eating it! What did you use for the rich brown color?

  3. ohh, I had almost forgotten about the butterfly conservatory!! We went there many years ago on a wicked cold winter day. It was magical!!! I felt like it was ‘the thing’ the was going to help me survive that winter!!! What a beautiful combination of pages!!

  4. So many different lessons to be learned from just these two pages – a bit overwhelming! Negative painting, detailed butterflies, sketchy butterflies, lovely pale shadows – and the chrysalis are just lovely…..seems like the right combination for an afternoon, nature and chocolate!

  5. Who knew that butterflies and chocolate go together so well? (Chocolate goes with anything?) What a fun outing, and beautiful results!

      • Have you ever heard of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)? I stumbled upon her work and story of her life just this evening, and it sort of relates to these drawings (the butterfly metamorphose, not the chocolates). Amazing woman, ahead of her time. Past articles in the NYT and Atlantic, online.

      • Hi Alison- Yes, I’m familiar with her. She was quite pioneering! It’s hard to imagine what her life was like or what SHE might have been like to do and accomplish what she did. I’m going to be including some of her artwork in my upcoming Drawn to Nature class.

      • Great!
        I recently read a book set in 1699 on trading vessels of the Dutch East India company, so I can sort of imagine her travelling at that time. So courageous, driven by her passion. As you can tell, learning about her was very exciting for me. Cheers!

  6. Love your first page Jean but then I saw the chocolates!!!! What a cool idea.

    • I really enjoy painting food, and especially treats! It gives you practice in painting very different textures, colors, and forms…always useful. And I love looking back and remembering the experience.

  7. So beautiful Jean! Butterfly houses are so magical. Thank you for your tipa and techniques. You are always so generous with sharing information 😊.
    Thank you.

  8. What a delightful, fun post Jean! Thank you as always for the tips and techniques. You are a favorite among members of The NOVA Nature Journal Club, and only you know how many others. Beautiful pages as always!

    • Hi Elaine- I’m glad you enjoyed this one. The NOVA sketchers should plan a chocolate painting party…oh, and maybe include a plant or bird as well. I’m glad you were in Drawn to Nature…it was nice to see you and your work each week!

  9. I love the subject and the busy-ness of these pages! An explosion of color! Love it!

  10. I remember having an experience as you describe at a butterfly garden – too much confusing movement, too many people, but enchanting just the same. A case of chrysalids held my attention, too. It was a happy time. And what’s better than ending at a chocolate chop? Jean, you know how to party! 😉
    Your last line – “It’s best to decide which direction you’re going in at the outset” – made me laugh. Yes, for sure! Otherwise it can be a muddle, which these sketches decidedly are not.

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