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 !


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