Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finishing Projects...Eastern Comma on Clearweed

Tom took this photo of an Eastern Comma on Clearweed several years ago at one of the county parks.  In September I showed you an unfinished 7 inch by 5 inch watercolor I had started using this photo as my starting point. 

Clearweed (Pilea pumila)  is common in the wet woods throughout our area.  Its leaves are distinctly shiny, a very pretty leaf.  The leaf has a prominent central vein and two noticeable side veins.  According to the sources I checked  it belongs to the nettle family.  Clearweed gets its name because its stems are translucent.  There are no stinging hairs on them as there are on some nettles.

Eastern Comma larvae feed on a variety of nettles which explains why Tom found it where he did.  The larvae feed at night so they are hard to find.

The Eastern Comma is a woodland butterfly.  It winters over in tree cavities or under bark or in other similar places.

It feeds on fermenting fruit, tree sap and animal droppings. 

The Eastern Comma belongs to the genus Polygonia or Anglewings.  These butterflies have irregular wing edges. 

Although the butterfly is bright with its wings spread, it is hard to see with its wings closed.  The underside has streaky dark colors, much like the bark of trees on which it often sits.  A slender silver comma brightens the middle of each hind wing on the underside which gives the butterfly its name.  You can find the comma IF you know to look for it.

This is the way the painting looked  when I last showed it to you.  I wanted to keep the focus on the butterfly.  The color did most of the job.  I also wanted to make a background that was a little sketchy.  Donna suggested adding the orangish seed head of some low lying plant that is in the photograph at the upper right to help the composition and join the right side to the left.  I decided I preferred the seed head in the lower right.  Marsha suggested leaving the left wing a little less precise than the right wing.  I like the effect and am glad she suggested it.

When I started shaping background leaves,  I lost a lot of the texture I had made by laying plastic wrap on wet watercolor.   I am not sure whether I am happy with losing it.  If you click on the painting and enlarge it  you can see a little remaining texture.

I still plan to go back and correct the ends of the antennae.  The knobs should be dark and oval with light tips.  I noticed that when I was looking at Comma butterfly photos on the Internet.  One of the problems with any photograph is that there are areas the camera sees as dark when there is really color present.  That is why I like to paint on location.  Our eyes see more color and shape than a camera records.

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