May the butterflies set you free

May the butterflies set you free.

I knew my latest painting would be a challenge. Perhaps that's why I painted it!


Meet Madame Butterfly!

  The painting you see above measures 30" wide by 40" high. The current resolution on my computer screen as I'm typing this looks awful - the color looks off, plus, I'm seeing a line pattern that is not present on the actual piece. Oh, well. With this newsletter format, you have to load a very low res image and then make it even smaller after that. I encourage you to go to the actual website to view the image - you can even use the magnifying glass on the site to take a look at the detail work on some of the hundreds of butterflies that are on her dress as well as fluttering around her.
  I began this painting in mid January. Personally, January is my least favorite month and I wanted to create something bright and colorful to get me out of the January doldrums. I contemplated doing a flower based painting (one of those may be coming soon) and instead thought of butterflies and somehow, my mind made the connection of a bunch of butterflies literally carrying someone away. But who would that be? Certainly not the man in the bowler hat!
  I decided that ballerinas are always leaping about so why not have hundreds of butterflies attached to a ballerina's dress so that they could literally lift her up and away? I liked my initial pencil sketch enough that I knew I had to create it.
  I found some reference material for both the butterflies and the ballerina and I began the process of sketching the image out on the canvas. 
  Each butterfly that you see was sketched onto the canvas, including on her dress. It was like creating the outline of a puzzle - and then I would drop each butterfly into place as I painted it.
  Like most of my paintings, I began with the sky, going for a very spring-like feel with bright blue at the top and wispy clouds all around. Then I created a fairly nebulous background (which I repainted once most of the butterflies were done). Painting all of the butterflies was a one-by-one process - though I would try to create blue ones, then red ones and so forth. But I kept switching colors as I went, filling them in gradually and making decisions on which color one butterfly should be based on the other butterflies surrounding it.
  My wife sometimes calls my painting process, "self-inflicted torture".
  But in the end, I like the result. I wish I could be more of a detail oriented painter. I also wish I were better at painting faces. The ballerina may not be graced with the most beautiful face in the world. So be it. And the patterns on some of the butterflies could certainly be a bit more detailed - but I always reach a point in a painting where I say, "enough". 
  The name for the painting came to me as I was painting all of the individual butterflies. Of course, she is Madame Butterfly. And the final touch? The butterfly on the tip of her finger. I hope you like it!