Thursday, February 7, 2013

Creating "Mists of the Lagoa"

The Lagoa do Parado, as I mentioned in my last post, is a very special place. I wanted to capture that feeling in a painting and so I chose this particular misty moment. The tree that you see in the foreground is the Araticum-do-brejo or Pond Apple in English. The scientific name is Annona glabra. These trees grow in marshy areas and often in clumps as you can see in my painting. The Lagoa has an unusual number of these "clumps", more than any other area in Brazil. In fact, so many that the word "Araticumzal" is used to refer to them. These trees also grow in Florida in the United States, especially in the Everglades.

The taller trees that you see in the background are Caixeta trees (or Caixetal to refer to a group of them). The scientific name is Tabebuia cassinoides. These are considered to be in the region of the Atlantic Forest while the Araticum-do-brejo is a tree of the restinga, or area between the coastline and the forest. 

I used a gray-toned Pastelbord which gives it more stability. Tropical humidity can be a problem here, so this seems to be a better choice than paper. It has a slightly rough sanded surface to grab the pastel pigment. I did a quick gestural underpainting to establish the main shapes in dark green watercolor. Once that was dry, I began working directly with FABER-CASTELL pastel pencils. This was both an interesting and a fun change from my watercolors....and more to come.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bicudinho-do-brejo Complete !

My painting of the Bicudinho-do-brejo is complete, with a detail above. As I mentioned in my last post, this endangered Marsh Antwren is at home at the Reserva Bicudinho-do-brejo, which makes part of the Lagoa do Parado in southern Brazil. The reserva, or reserve, is 25 hectares, or about 75 acres. This is not such a large area, but it has a significant amount of endemic and endangered species. Besides being an incredibly beautiful area, it is very important for its biodiversity.

The image below shows the complete painting, and as seems to be my artistic leaning, at least these days, the bird is quite detailed with much attention to its anatomical correctness, while the background gives more of a free expression of its habitat rather than a scientifically correct botanical rendering. I do wish to be true to each species that I paint, especially since so many of them are endangered and one day these paintings may be important for their accuracy. However, they are still paintings and I wish to achieve the spirit of the creature and its habitat while creating a piece of art.

Again, I wish to thank Ricardo Belmonte Lopes for helping me to achieve this accuracy through his photographic reference.

On a final note, the calendar of butterflies that I was so determined to complete, even well into our new year of  2013 is available from my Zazzle shop, at the following link:

Friday, February 1, 2013


The Bicudinho-do-brejo, endemic to the marshes and swamps of the state of Paraná, Brazil, is an endangered species. Discovered in the 1990s by biologists/ornithologists (and good friends) Dr. Bianca Reinert and Marcos Bornshein. This species is also at home at the Lagoa do Parado, at the Reserva Bicudinho-do-brejo ( , you don't have to be a member of Facebook to view this professional Page) and you can even friend her on Facebook - Bicudinho Do Brejo. The English name for this lovely little bird is the Marsh Antwren. Bianca is very familiar with the daily life of these birds and their daily dramas, even recognizing individual birds.

The reserve is a very special project and my husband and I are both involved with it. For that reason, the next several months will be devoted to expressing the beauty of the reserve and its wildlife inhabitants through my paintngs, in watercolor, such as this one, but also pastel and oil.

The image below shows the beginning of this painting (the male of the species), with my usual detailed drawing of the primary subject matter, and initial background washes. I wanted to keep a free and loose approach to the background in contrast to the detail I will be painitng of the bird, the beginning of which is shown in the image at the top of the page. And soon.......the finished painting, with special thanks to biologist/ornithologist Ricardo Belmonte Lopes for providing the photographic reference !


Monday, January 28, 2013

Borboleta Series Complete

My series of butterfly paintings is least for the moment ! And I'll be able to create my 2013 calendar before the end of this month. A little late, I know, but I was determined to meet this personal goal. And there is always a possibility of a 2014 calendar, perhaps even with new images ! But, for the moment, I'll be exploring new subject matter - that of the Reserva Bicudinho-do-brejo or Lagoa do Parado, but more about that later. I'm also posting the final painting in the series (below) and want to make a few comments about it.

I chose this image as a final painting in the series because I wanted to give myself freedom, to explore the graphic qualities in this close-up view of an Owl butterfly wing. But I found myself being ever more attracted to the overwhelming detail ! So, rather than being loose and free and expressive, I felt compelled to scrutinize every little detail to give my viewer a true sense of the beauty and intricacy of a butterfly wing. Much like Georgia O'Keefe (one of my favorites since college), I wanted to make my viewers really look, just as she wanted people to really look at a flower. Because when you really look at the beauty and intricacy of the nature all around us every day, you cannot help but be filled with awe....and with joy - and that is precisely what I wish to bring to my viewers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Borboleta #12 - Owl Butterfly Progress

I continued this painting by extending the gold and black graphic area in the upper left section. Most of the masking is still in place for the veins and the highlights in the upper corner.
I continued refining this area of the paintng, extending the gold band to the bottom of the painting and adding details. I also began the initial washes in the lower left of the painting.
Next, I began working in the lower left quadrant, first re-wetting my paper that already had light washes to indicate shadow and soft color areas. While the paper was still wet, but beginning to dry slightly, I began adding the black designs. I didn't draw the designs first, I referred to my photograph often, but was painting my impression of this section of the wing design, not copying the photo reference I was using.
And again, thank you Hudson Garcia,
And tomorrow, the completed painting !  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Borboleta #12 - Owl Butterfly (close-up)

I've begun my final painting in this series of Borboleta/Butterfly paintings. As a Grand Finale, I've decided to challenge myself with a close-up of the wing of an Owl butterfly. There are many species of Owl butterflies belonging to the genus Caligo, and I'm quite sure this is a Caligo martia. You can read more about them here :

This is another image provided by my friend Hudson Garcia, you can view Hudson's wonderful photography of Brazilian wildlife at

I began, as always with a pencil drawing of my subject, then used masking fluid on the white area and on the veins. The wings of a butterfly are supported and nourished by small tubular veins that also function in oxygen exchange or "breathing". (At the point you see above, I've removed the masking from the central "eye" area but it remains on the veins.) After I allowed time for the masking fluid to dry, I saturated the right side of the painting and began dropping wet washes onto this wet surface to get a very soft effect. As the paper began to dry, I continued working in this section with less moisture in my brush, so that the brushstrokes were still soft but had more definition. I love the way the black and gold areas look like some type of ancient design or hieroglyphics.

The owl "eye" design is used by the butterfly as protection against predators. I happened to see a very interesting display of its effect only a few weeks ago when we were at Santuário Nhundiaquara in Morretes and an Owl butterfly landed on a hanging basket filled with fruit, primarily bananas for the birds. The birds, a mix of tanagers and hummingbirds became extremely nervous by its presence and would actually rush the butterfly in attempts to make it leave. They would no longer feed as long as the butterfly was there.

You can see in the following photo, the hummingbird on the left is making his presence known. None of the birds actually attacked the butterfly, but it was clear they certainly wanted him to leave.

And the birds do also argue among themselves as well !


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Borboleta #11 - "Clearwing" (Episcada hymenaea) Complete !

Today marks the completion of my 11th butterfly in the series. I am fascinated with the transparency of the wings of this butterfly, and think I have successfully suggested the red of the plant behind the lower wing. I added some bue-gray washes in the mosaic portions of the wings to give a feeling of translucency of the wing, rather than a complete transparency. Once again my thanks to Hudson Garcia,, without his amazing photography, I wouldn't have had the reference material for this painting.

I've also created my first Squidoo lens - Love Birds for Bird Lovers :
I must say it was quite a creative process as well ! I've included numerous products, my own and those of other talented Zazzle artists, designers and photographers. Items include my "Love" stamp :

Perfect for all your Valentine greetings, with a matching greeting card, coffee mug and ornament !

So, now on to my final Borboleta in the series (at least for now). I'll be posting about my progress !

Browse other gifts from Zazzle.