The museum service in Hampshire has a great HQ where all of the collections are stored, from historic costumes, to fossils and beetles !
I made an appointment a few weeks ago and I excitedly made my way there today. I had requested the use of the Stag beetles that they had, and looked forward to a new challenge.
So this post is really going to be an overview of how I went about this challenge, from the first faltering steps when I just wanted to give up, to the conclusion whereby I had to give the feel of sheen on the wing cases.
- The first stage was of course to draw this magnificent beetle. Luckily I was allowed to take it out of its storage case and have it on my drawing board. Using a vertical line enabled me to get the symmetry just right.
- The first wash that I applied consisted of perylene maroon to lay down a red base to the wing cases and the mandibles. I lifted off some colour to leave a bit of a highlight, and it was at this stage I was wondering if I was even going to succeed with this subject! Two thin bands of yellow were added and this was created from quinacridone gold deep (DS) and Naples yellow (OH).
- Because the further washes were much darker, I was able to build up the colour to rectify my initial concerns. Normally I mix my own 'blacks', created from either 3 warm or 3 cool primaries. Today, as I knew I was painting in a new environment, I took the easy step and used a colour called neutral tint. I then added other colours to it as I built up the detail and form.
- The mixes were: neutral tint, perylene maroon, and a tiny bit of Sennelier yellow light. This gave me a brown-black. For additional intensity I upped and changed some of the colours and continued with this mix. It was neutral tint, perylene maroon, indigo (DS) and hansa yellow light (DS). I try and use no more than 3 pigments in a mix normally, but for me this combination happened to work and it gave me a dense black.
- When it came to painting the legs I used the latter colour, firstly using it diluted and then building up the layers with a size 2 round brush.
6. Once all of the areas were painted, I touched up and added some more perylene maroon where needed.
7. Now for the white gouache. I always have a tube of permanent white gouache in my kit. I don't often use it for botanical work, but for some subjects it can prove very useful. I applied the gouache to create the sheen on the wing cases and highlights in other areas, with a size 2 spotter brush. For the wing cases I applied the diluted gouache in small areas and then softened the edges of those areas with a slightly moist and clean brush. In other areas the gouache was applied in a stippling motion creating tiny white dots.
Paints used were Winsor & Newton unless stated otherwise:
DS - Daniel Smith
OH - Old Holland
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For further information on drawing and painting insects John Muir Laws has a video on YouTube:
As well as several blog posts: