Free Demo: Paint a Butterfly and Flower

Free Demo:  Paint a Butterfly and Flower

Sherry C. Nelson, best known for her paintings of birds and flowers, now turns her attention to the fascinating world of butterflies. Her newest North Light book, Painting Butterflies & Blooms with Sherry C. Nelson, is a meticulously researched guide to painting butterflies and the flowers that are found in their native habitat. Each of the 54 demonstrations in the book includes a reference photo, color mix chart, line drawing and step-by-step photos and instructions.

Spicebush Swallowtail and Lantana
Here, in a free demo excerpted from her book, Sherry Nelson shows you how to paint a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly and the pretty little lantana flower it feeds on.

Materials Needed
Oil paints in these colors:  Ivory Black, Titanium White, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, French Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Winsor Red, Sap Green.
Brushes:  nos. 0, 2, 4 and 8 brights; nos. 0 and 1 rounds.
Other supplies:  Cheesecloth, ballpoint pen, tracing paper.


Step 1

Butterfly:  Use a no. 2 or 4 bright for all steps unless otherwise noted. Forewings: Base with Ivory Black + Raw Umber. If you get a little of the dark mix into the light spots, lift paint out with the corner of a no. 8 dampened in odorless thinner. Hindwings: Base the blue spots with French Ultramarine + White and the dark areas including the body, with the same dark mix as for the forewings. Use a stylus to draw the division lines between the fore- and hindwings and the body.
Flower:  Base shadow areas between flowers where shown with Cad Yellow Pale + Winsor Red, and in a few other areas with Raw Sienna.
Leaves/Stems:  Base the dark values with Ivory Black + Sap Green.  Base some light edges with a pale green mix of Sap Green + Raw Sienna + White and others with a light blue mix of dirty brush + White + French Ultramarine.


Step 2

Butterfly:  Using a soft pad of cheesecloth, pat the interior areas of the forewings and the dark area of the hindwings, lifting out a little bit of the basecoat for a translucent look.  Lay the tracing paper cover sheet on the painting, carefully aligning with the pattern underneath. Use a ballpoint pen to draw the section lines back into the wet paint. Highlight ends of forewing cell and outline and highlight body with White + Raw Sienna. Base all yellow markings on hindwings with White + Cad Yellow Pale. Base inner half of bi-colored markings with Winsor Red + Cad Yellow Pale. Fill in remaining area between and around spots and yellow markings on margins with Black + Raw Umber.
Stippled detail: With tip of no. 1 round brush, lay slightly thick dabs of White on inner tips of blue submarginal sections. Tap on a similar amount of French Ultramarine + White above the blue sections in the median hindwing area, leaving a narrow border between this application and the blue sections below.
Flower:  Base rest of the petals with Cad Yellow Pale + Winsor Red and blend a bit where connecting values meet.
Leaves/Stems: Blend between dark and light values with growth direction of leaves and stems. On leaves, apply highlights of either light value mix + more White.


Step 3

Butterfly:  Apply section lines on forewings with Black + Raw Umber using good chisel edge brush.
Stippled detail: With flattened tip of round brush, tap brush into edge of blue value, walking the blue upward into the dark hindwing, allowing color to fade to basecoat. Stipple the bottom half of the white highlights in blue sections, until that value gradates back to the basecoat as well. Blend a bit between the yellow and red mixes on hindwing spots with no. 0 bright.  Add White + Cad Yellow Pale spots on forewings using round brush. Soften detail on body by stippling with tip of round brush. Thin a little puddle of Black + Raw Umber and apply legs and antennae.
Flower:  Highlight lightest flower petals with White, blending to soften into yellow basecoat. Add center dots with Cad Yellow Pale + Winsor Red.
Leaves/Stems:  Blend highlights softly into leaves, following growth direction, using no. 4 bright. Add central vein structure with light value green mix using chisel edge. Thin a little of the same mix and use the no. 0 round to apply very fine hairs perpendicular to all the stems.


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