When painting an animal or bird, if you scale them up to a large degree, they often look “wrong”. But if a tiny insect is scaled up to a large degree it looks “right”. So this tiny little honey bee can be scaled up. Bearing in mind they are tiny, I scaled this up to a size of eleven and a half inches in width and six and a half inches in depth.
How to … make a detailed drawing of the bee. But a key to this painting is the cast shadow of the bee. This is an essential part of this painting: it is what will give your bee the illusion that it could fly off the page, the 3D power of the shadow is crucial. Make a detailed drawing of the shadow. This creatures have a great deal of different detail on them, so attention to that detail is also crucial.
When drawing, ensure that you have marked out the areas where the light is shining on the insect’s body, you will be leaving those areas the colour of the paper.
Instead of painting in the focal point, paint in the negative space first. Use a range of yellows for the leaves, and a green for the cast shadow. The colours you use will be dictated by your particular palette and what you have in your paint box, but make sure your green is one you have mixed yourself – you can do this by taking a base green e.g. sap green and adding a portion of red or brown to that colour. The colours do vary from manufacturers so a degree of experimentation is always a pertinent way to operate for any artist.
The background, or negative space can be painted wet on wet.
The main body of this work will take place on the insect. Under paint the body with a yellow, then add a light brown. I then mixed up a variety of browns: I used light red, indigo, burnt umber all mixed in varying degrees to make a progression of brown from a red brown to a really dark brown, which is more like a chromatic black really.
Paint in the eye first, I worked light to dark, applying four layers of paint, in glazes. I then painted over my wash on the legs and feet, varying this and letting some of the initial colour show through, again to enhance an illusion of 3D. A palette, as well as any drawing, has to have 3D effect, otherwise the painting looks flat.
I used a gamboge yellow to paint in parts of the body and also some of my mid tone browns. Building up these colours takes time, it is great fun to do this, seeing a palette develop right in front of your eyes.
There is a lot of hair on the legs and body: I used a fine brush (tip) and also a fan brush to paint in these shapes. I used some zinc white watercolour for the hairs on the back legs.
The Wings, you need these to look transparent. I used watercolour pencils to paint in the veins, blue, red and purple, and a lightly wet brush to move the colour slightly.