Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The art of Moths

 If you think painting moths (and butterflies) is just about getting the right colors, or the right brush, think again. Sherry Nelson, author of Painting Butterflies and Blooms (North Light Books, 2010) grounds her art in field work. Lots of it. She follows moths with her camera, or just watches them fly, grabbing quick sketches when they stop to feed at a flower.

Art is about close observation - which is where it connects with science. Nelson discusses colors, brushes and has a great section on "butterfly basics" that can apply to moths as well (body parts, wing features...). Then she gives a mini-lesson on how to paint butterfly - or moth- wings. There's a huge section on painting butterflies, followed by a detailed but not-so-huge section on how to paint the moths.

"As a rule of thumb," writes Nelson, "for every 10 butterfly species there are at least 100 moth species." Many of those are drab but, she says, there are some truly spectacular ones that you can find in your own back yard. For example: the Snowberry Clearwing, that moth that looks like a bumblebee and flies like a hummingbird.

Like butterflies, moths have a diversity of characteristics. Some have furry antennae. Some have iridescent wings (don't worry, she tells you how to paint those in the butterfly wing section). She introduces readers to five families of moth:
  • Saturniidaue - the giant silk moths
  • Lasiocampidae - tent caterpillars and lappet moths
  • Geometridae - inchworms, emeralds and waves, all with fabulous wing shapes and patterns
  • Arctiidae - tiger moths and lichen moths and even clear-winged wasp moths that can fool you into thinking they're the real thing
  • Noctuidae - mostly night fliers
 Even if you never pick up a paintbrush, this is a fun book to look through.

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