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Work Samples

Mayapple Woodland

2018, 30 5/16 x 21 1/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Mayapple is depicted in it's various growth stages which are placed around a landscape depicting the plant's habitat of forest. Transparent shapes and repeated patterns of leaves, stems and flowers dominate the composition. A visual footnote illustrates seed dispersal by ants as they carry them to their nest.

Physostegia - Insect Visitors

2018, 20 9/16 x 29 1/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a composition contrasting an early and late flowering stem of Physostegia flowers. There were so many insects that utilized this plant over the growing season that a decision was made to include most of them in order to portray the many interactions between Physostegia and insects. The result is a very busy background illustrating insect activity.

Bees Disappearing as Pollinators

2018, 31 1/16 x 20 3/4 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. The focal point of the composition consists of a rectangular area of many bees gathering nectar or pollen from Monarda. The circular movement of each bee is simplified and combined create an overlapping pattern of arcs. Monarda is drawn in growth succession in the top and left margins of the composition. Three visual footnotes portray plant details with insects.

Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators

2018, 39 x 35 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. The compositional organization is based around a natural movement of insects collecting nectar and pollen from Phlox. As the insects feed, they move pollen from one Phlox flower to another resulting in pollination. The drawing paper is woven over and under in a basket pattern in order to stress that interactive system.

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About Nancy

Baltimore County

Nancy Pirtle-Connelly's picture
The phrase 'small encounters' collectively describes my artistic interest which gravitates towards portraying nature’s diminutive details. My portfolio of drawings and photographs reflects this as it is predominantly comprised of depictions of subject matter which are small in stature and need safe guarding. Subjects such as Mid-Atlantic ephemerals, insects that visit or pollinate flowers and butterfly life cycles prevail throughout much of my artwork. In addition to depicting small, natural... more

LIFE CYCLES: Mid-Alantic Native Plants and Pollinators

My native plant garden serves as my source of inspiration and for most of my data collecting for this series of drawings. It is full of shapes, colors, patterns and textures of plants and plant parts that continually excite me artistically season after season. However, it is the visiting insects during the growing season that bring the garden to life. They generate a moving array of flying patterns and sounds, as well as a diversity of interesting shapes and colors of their own. The truth is many of the insect pollinators are the key factor in the continuum of life and they are disappearing. Without their visitation and pollination, plant diversity would decrease including plants within our native flora species. I feel compelled to explore their artistic possibilities and insect relationships with native flowering plants keeping the conservational issue in mind.

My plant and pollinator series of drawings are composed of complex story telling compositions. Nature is in a perpetual frame of movement and change. In my drawings, I portray a complete plant life cycle transition from emergence to full flower and finally seed development in a composition of time sequenced seasonal changes. My drawings are arranged into a illustrated collage of different phases of the plant’s development with depictions of insects that visit or inhabit the plant during specific growth formations. Most of these insects act as pollinators during the flowering stage. In addition, my drawings frequently include a separate rectangular area located at the bottom of the composition I refer to as a “visual footnote". The "visual footnote" contains illustration details of unique reproductive or visual attributes of the plant subject or something interesting about the pollinators.

The drawing paper I used is a beige color that gives the drawings a warm undertone.

  • Bees Disappearing as Pollinators

    2018, 31 1/16 x 20 3/4 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. The focal point of the composition consists of a rectangular area of many bees gathering nectar or pollen from Monarda. The circular movement of each bee is simplified and combined create an overlapping pattern of arcs. Monarda is drawn in growth succession in the top and left margins of the composition. Three visual footnotes portray plant details with insects.
  • Detail 1 - Bees Swarming Monarda Flowers

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a detail of the lower right hand corner of 'Bees Disappearing as Pollinators'. It is a portrayal of many different bee species swarming Monarda flowers for nectar and/or pollen. There are three horizontal bands located along the bottom edge of the drawing. The first band depicts the flowers of the Monarda flower closeup with visiting bees and flies. The second and third bands illustrate the seed heads and leaves which occur during late summer or fall and their accompanying insects.
  • Detail 2 - Bees Disappearing

    2018, 11 x 10 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a detail of 'Bees Disappearing as Pollinators' showing dark outlined white shaped bees and their path of flight. The white ghost like bee shapes represent the disappearance of bees due to disease and man's use of pesticides. They contrast with the rest of the colored composition to ensure that their absence is noticed by viewers.
  • Detail 3 - Two Carpenter Bees Landing on Monarda

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Two carpenter bees and their flight trails are depicted in a closeup from the body of ‘Bees Disappearing as Pollinators’. They are one of many species of bees that utilize Monarda flowers for pollen and/or nectar.
  • Mayapple Woodland

    2018, 30 5/16 x 21 1/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Mayapple is depicted in it's various growth stages which are placed around a landscape depicting the plant's habitat of forest. Transparent shapes and repeated patterns of leaves, stems and flowers dominate the composition. A visual footnote illustrates seed dispersal by ants as they carry them to their nest.
  • Detail 1 - Mayapple Flower Buds

    2018, 10 1/4 x 10 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Stages of Mayapple flower buds are drawn with overlapping and transparent stems and leaves. Christmas fern is illustrated in the background and fronds are used as repeated shapes to form a pattern. Lines are used extensively to accentuate and delineate forms. Colors are pastel and suggest the Spring season.
  • Detail 2 - Mayapple Flower with Baby Praying Mantis

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. A mayapple flower is portrayed with its stigma and anther showing below a petal. A baby praying mantis is placed on the stem above. Transparent leaves are drawn from a viewpoint underneath looking up overlap each other in an umbrella effect.
  • Detail 3 - Mayapples

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Mayapples are depicted from just forming to having grown into ripe fruits with browning foliage. The fruits are relished by turtles. A top of a turtle's shell and head are subtly delineated along the bottom edge.
  • Physostegia - Insect Visitors

    2018, 20 9/16 x 29 1/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a composition contrasting an early and late flowering stem of Physostegia flowers. There were so many insects that utilized this plant over the growing season that a decision was made to include most of them in order to portray the many interactions between Physostegia and insects. The result is a very busy background illustrating insect activity.
  • Detail 1 - Physostegia Beetle Visitors

    2018, 6 3/8 x 6 3/4 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Beetles use Physostegia extensively for mating purposes and food. They crawl up and down the stems looking for mates through out the day. Overlapping shapes of stems, leaves and flower buds describe the plant and form a background pattern. Beetles are drawn mating and using the pattern of leaves and stems to search for the opposite sex.

LIFE CYCLES: Mid-Alantic Native Plants and Pollinators.....continued

Alongside each drawing there are three detail photographs taken from that artwork. My drawings are very complex and detail photographs allow you, the viewer, to be able to immediately experience the compositions up close and intimately within a digital environment. There are several plant growth stages depicted and a lot of illustrated bugs to be seen within my native plant and pollinator drawings!

  • Detail 2 - Physostegia Beginning Blooms

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Physostegia is depicted with its first blooms that begin at the bottom of the stalk. The flowers of Physostegia attract a great many insects, especially bees.
  • Detail 3 - Physostegia in Late Bloom

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Physostegia is portrayed with late blooms located at the top of a long flower stalk. Blooms begin at the bottom and systematically move up the stalk in a group formation. When one bloom dies another opens above it. There are many insects, as depicted, that utilize the plant for nectar or pollen.
  • Bloodroot Story

    2018, 26 3/4 x 20 3/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Bloodroot's growth stages are depicted from emergence to the development of seeds in a collage of squares and rectangles. Colors are soft, leaves are illustrated blowing and wind is represented along with sun rays typical of a spring day. A visual footnote illustrates seedpods exploding with ants dispersing seeds.
  • Detail 1 - Bloodroot Flowers

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. In this detail from ‘Bloodroot story’, Bloodroot is illustrated as an opening blossom not yet mature alongside a full mature blossom. The immature Bloodroot flower, located on the left, is portrayed with anthers not yet opened to reveal pollen. The taller mature flower, which occurs on a stem at about four to five inches tall, is drawn with anthers opened and full of pollen. Two small bees are depicted as line drawings seeking pollen.
  • Detail 2 - Bumblebee Flying Among Bloodroot Seedpods

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. A bumblebee is depicted flying around seedpods of Bloodroot in a detail from ‘Bloodroot Story’. The bumblebee and its flight pattern are portrayed by a line drawing in black and white, as if the bumblebee is a ghost, subtly referring to the decline of their populations.
  • Detail 3 - Bloodroot Seedpods Under Leaves

    2018, 5 5/8 x 12 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. A detail from 'Bloodroot Story' illustrating the visual footnote of seedpods exploding with ants dispersing seeds. In nature the seedpods are hidden by leaves and cannot be seen. In the drawing, the leaves are drawn transparent to allow the viewer to "see through" the foliage and view the seedpods. Outlines add contrast and clearer visibility of the seedpods.
  • Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators

    2018, 39 x 35 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. The compositional organization is based around a natural movement of insects collecting nectar and pollen from Phlox. As the insects feed, they move pollen from one Phlox flower to another resulting in pollination. The drawing paper is woven over and under in a basket pattern in order to stress that interactive system. Words are placed across middle strips to emphasize the topic of cross pollination.
  • Detail 1 - Phlox at Summer's Peak

    2018, 19 1/2 x 13 1/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is the lower right corner from 'Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators' and depicts mid to late summer when nectar and pollen is plentiful. Edges of the drawing extend outward past the main composition and are torn as an analogy representing a scene "ripped" from nature. Squares and rectangles consist of drawn plant parts, spiders, hummingbird moths and skipper butterflies.
  • Detail 2 - Phlox at Summer's End

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a detail of the lower left corner from 'Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators'. The formed squares consist of drawn aspects of the summers end such as drying and falling flower petals, spiders and their webs, bug eaten leaves and seedpods. The hummingbird moth is depicted as still seeking nectar from the scarce remaining flowers. Square backgrounds are slightly bluer in color than the rest of the drawing alluding to cooler weather approaching.
  • Detail 3 - Four Frequent Phlox Summer Visitors

    2018, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is the upper left corner close-up of 'Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators". The square and rectangle depicts two Skippers, a bumblebee and a hummingbird moth among Phlox flowers. The Phlox flowers form a pattern of verticals in the background of the square . The drawing gradually fades toward the edges with less and less color evolving into outline renderings which can be seen within this detail.

REGAL ROBES: Wet Butterfly Wing Photographs

The robes referred to in the title are, of course, butterfly wings. After emergence from the chrysalis, the wings descend downward slowly and eloquently from the body of the butterfly revealing their beauty as they are drying out. The latter part of this process, when longer portions of the wings are descending, reminds me of robes made of shimmering thick brocade fabrics that royalty may have worn in years past. Their robes are frequently shown in art draped loosely off their shoulders and falling around their body in thick folds onto the floor, much like a butterfly’s expanding wings. After a butterfly has finished the wing expanding process, it will hang on the chrysalis or a nearby stick or stem waiting for its delicate wings to dry. At this point the wings are flat, have stiffened and the folds have been removed. Scales and veins are easily seen. Up close each scale is reminiscent of a tiny sequin that has been sewn on fabric. Some are dull, some are bright and some are iridescent in color. They are arranged spatially into rows and combined into patterns of color essentially forming the “brocade fabric” of the wings. The lower edges of the wings have a slight hairy appearance which look like they have had loose thread ends protruding beyond them which have been neatly trimmed off with scissors.

I take photographs of butterflies I have raised from eggs both as a conservation endeavor and as research for my drawings. The eggs are collected from my garden. The featured photos were taken during the summer of 2019. Raising and photographing butterflies has resulted into an unexpected photo portfolio project full of enjoyment and discovery. It is also rewarding to know that I am helping to populate the world with beautiful butterflies many which are proficient pollinators. In the future, I plan and look forward to researching and raising other butterfly species to photograph their development and eclosure processes.

  • Red-spotted Purple Expanding Wings, Side View

    Red Spotted Purple butterflies are a medium sized butterfly so their wing expansions are less dramatic visually than the larger butterflies, especially from the side view. They hang onto their chrysalids, as do Monarchs, to expand their wings.
  • Black Swallowtail Expanding Wings, Side View

    This is a strong butterfly individual to be able to hold its wings outward away from the stick while they are expanding. In this position, it is easier to see the true wing shape expansion of the butterfly taking place.
  • Spicebush Butterfly Expanding Wings, Side View

    The wings of this butterfly are still expanding and are softly folded with veins that are very visible. The butterfly is balancing itself from falling with its abdomen against the stick. Its wings visually resemble the curves and folds of fabric.
  • Spicebush Butterfly Drying Wings, Back View

    The upper wings of this Spicebush butterfly are almost completely straightened. The lower wings are still stretching out. Even after both upper and lower wings are straightened, they still require hours of drying before it can fly.
  • Spicebush Butterfly Stretching Wet Wings, Back View

    During the wing expansion process, most butterflies repeatedly open and close their wings in order to dry them. This Spicebush butterfly opened its wings quite wide exposing the veining and spot patterns. The wings are still soft and haven’t completely dried. This wing formation reminds me of a very old formal Japanese robe. The butterfly has a drop of liquid on its right antenna.
  • Black Swallowtail Expanding Wings, Back View

    This is a Black Swallowtail allowing its wings to expand with minimal effort. Black swallowtail butterflies form beautiful and interesting wing shapes during this process.
  • Black Swallowtail Expanding Wings Asymmetrically, Back View

    Wings do not always expand symmetrically during the expansion process. They usually even out afterward though producing wing pairs that are equal in length. This Black Swallowtail’s wings are very crinkled resembling silk fabric.
  • Black Swallowtail Stretching Wet Wings, Back View

    A beautiful Black Swallowtail showing us its large, colorful spot patterns. It began opening and closing its wings wide in berth then gradually diminished the opened space between them as they began to stiffen.
  • Monarch Expanding Wings with Bent Underwing, Back View

    Most Monarchs hold onto their chrysalis swinging back and forth left to right to dry their wings. They are usually more active than swallowtails during wing expansion. This butterfly had one wing that was bent but it eventually unfolded.
  • Monarch Expanding Wings, Back View

    Once in a while you will come across a docile Monarch butterfly that stays still while its wings expand naturally. This was that butterfly. Monarch wings generally form longer, rolled shapes when they unfold as opposed to Black and Spicebush Swallowtails whose wing shapes are very undulating and varied in shape.

BIRTH: Butterfly Eclosure and Emerged Photographs

I have seen the emergence of a butterfly many times and each time I witness the process I feel moved and in awe. A butterfly birth experience, like many insects, is intriguing because the butterfly quickly changes after emerging from a physical formation which developed inside the chrysalis with a fat abdomen and short wrinkled wings to a final adult form with an elongated abdomen and longer straightened wings. The entire physical transformation usually only takes several minutes. Of course, butterflies dry their wings after they are extended and that may take hours.

Butterfly chrysalids are varied in shape and butterflies exit them differently. Some butterflies slowly climb out of a horizontal or vertical chrysalis while others, like the Monarch, are more visually dramatic and fall straight out the bottom clutching the chrysalis as they emerge. The varied techniques are one reason eclosure is so interesting to photograph.

This collection of photos focuses on the initial act of eclosure or the seconds and minutes just after. They were taken with a Nikon close up 200 mm lens, frequently during early morning hours, during the summer of 2019. I shoot using white backgrounds that contrast with the shapes, colors and movements of the butterfly to enhance those visual elements.

  • Black Swallowtail Eclosure

    This Black Swallowtail is pushing open the chrysalis with its front legs. A silk thread which was made by its caterpillar holds the upper portion of the chrysalis to the stick. The butterfly climbs out and up onto the stick to expand and dry its wings. The butterfly’s wings are visible through the somewhat transparent chrysalis.
  • Black Swallowtail Eclosure, Brown Chrysalis

    The Black Swallowtail in this photograph has just climbed out of its chrysalis and is ready to climb the stick to start expanding its wings. It has very short wings now but they very quickly start expanding as soon as it starts to climb. Its chrysalis was brown in color and was produced September 21. I thought it might overwinter as brown color sometimes indicates that a chrysalis will. It did not and emerged from the chrysalis October 2.
  • Black Swallowtail Ready to Expand Wings, Side View

    Some butterflies are more temperamental than others. Temperament is species dependent but it varies within individuals of a species also. Most of the Black Swallowtail butterflies I have raised have been on the calm side. This Black Swallowtail was very nervous and its wings, although only a couple minutes old, have already been open to flight position out of fear. Of course, it cannot fly away without first expanding and drying its wings.
  • New Spicebush Butterfly, Side View

    A Spicebush Butterfly clasping a stick 24 seconds from emerging from its chrysalis. It has very long legs and short wrinkled wings. At this stage, the butterfly is very awkward in its movements and has trouble holding onto the stick. It has to find a comfortable stance so that it can expand its wings.
  • New Black Swallowtail with Chrysalis, Back View

    A Black Swallowtail just seconds out of the chrysalis positioned and balanced on the stick and ready to start expanding its wings. The wings are beautiful even though the butterfly just emerged.
  • Black Swallowtail with Crinkled Wings, Back View

    This newly emerged Black Swallowtail has short, crinkled wings. The end tip of its abdomen is still visible underneath its wings. It will start to lightly flutter its short wings up and down and in and out producing lovely shapes from the back view.
  • Black Swallowtail Starting to Expand Wings, Back View

    Many of the Black Swallowtail butterflies utilize a lot less energy than most Monarch butterflies when expanding their wings. This Black Swallowtail was not different in that respect and simply crawled up the stick out of its chrysalis and calmly allowed its wings to expand staying in one position the whole time.
  • Monarch Butterfly Falling From Chrysalis, Side View

    This is a dramatic view of a Monarch butterfly literally falling out of its chrysalis. The short, stout abdomen is visible.
  • Monarch Butterfly Falling From Chrysalis, Back View

    The large Monarch abdomen is heavier than the rest of its body and falls dramatically out of the chrysalis. The emergence of a Monarch butterfly is usually very acrobatic.
  • Monarch Butterfly Holding onto Chrysalis, Side View

    This Monarch butterfly just emerged and is now steading itself on its chrysalis. It has short wings, a large abdomen and is working on combining the two sides of its proboscis it was born with into one structure.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY: Transformation Photographs

When I first saw the transformation of a Monarch caterpillar change into a chrysalis I was so excited. It is truly a marvel to watch. I have raised several generations of Monarch butterflies since, both in a screened in porch and out in my garden growing milkweed. I have taken many photographs of the process and use them to create drawing compositions on the subject.

POLLINATORS: Insects and Spiders on Flowers Photographs

Many of these photographs were taken while I was laying down on the ground looking up into a flower hoping that an insect would land. I spent many hours waiting ... and ... waiting ... and ... waiting.

I love photographing nature on a cloudy day when the light is subdued. The forms of flowers and insects are softly delineated without interference from distracting shadows. This type of lighting makes it easier to catch the smaller, less obvious aspects of nature which so interest me. Details are easily captured and there is a sense of calmness that emulates from the photos.

FLEETING BEAUTY: Flower Photographs

Most of the flowers comprising this collection are spring ephemerals. Spring ephemerals are woodland plants that produce flowers that bloom in the spring before leaves develop in the understory and overhead canopy. They provide pollen and nectar to insects when other warmer weather flowering plants have not opened. After the tree leaves fully emerge, many of the spring ephemerals disappear completely because their flowers and leaves are not shade tolerant. Some, though, loose their flowers but have shade tolerant leaves and keep them through the growing season. Because their of their fleeting floral beauty and function as nectar and pollen providers, spring ephemerals inspire me to capture them photographically.

The only non ephemeral plant within these photographs is Angelica triquinata and it is considered a cool weather perennial.

ENDEARING COMPANIONS: Pet Drawings

I have always cohabited with animals and have enjoyed drawing them throughout my lifetime. I love their spirit and attempt to capture their personalities through composition, line accents and subtle mark making. They are a relaxing change of subject matter for me from my more complicated nature compositions. I do pet portraits upon request but regardless if asked to or not, drawings of my own cats will always be part of my portfolio. The mediums of these pet portraits are charcoal or a mixed media of charcoal, colored pencils and pastels.

  • Mugsy

    2016, 19 1/2 x 17 inches, charcoal and chalk. Mugsy always wanted love and is drawn frontal and centered as if waiting for attention.
  • Detail - Bandit

    2014, charcoal and chalk
  • Portrait Sketches of Bandit

    2014, 24 x 18 inches, charcoal and chalk. Bandit loved playing with balls throughout his whole life hence all the balls portrayed in the composition.
  • Molly

    2016, 19 1/2 x 17 inches, charcoal and chalk. Molly is always worried she will miss something.
  • Casey

    2017, 20 x 16 inches, charcoal, colored pencil and pastel. Casey is a miniature Doberman.
  • Inseparable Priscilla and Elvis

    2016, 18 x 20 inches, charcoal and chalk. A portrait of siblings, Priscilla's and Elvis's fur covered chests softly blend together as if one.
  • Buddy

    2017, 16 x 20 inches, charcoal and chalk. Buddy was going blind when I drew his portrait. I represented that by smudging his eyes slightly, especially evident in the right eye.
  • Mickey

    2016, 19 1/2 x 17 inches, charcoal and chalk. Mickey is a very majestic cat portrayed elegantly sitting sideways and staring directly at the viewer as if he knows.
  • Brothers Thunder and Catty

    2018, 16 x 20 inches, charcoal pencil, colored pencil and pastel. Thunder is positioned slightly in front of Caddy as he is more dominate. He demands and requires more care due to a chronic illness. They are both drawn the same size, ignoring perspective, as each is equally important to the owners.
  • Croix

    2020, 17 x 11 inches, graphite pencil, colored pencil, charcoal pencil and oil pastel

OFFSPRING: Kid Drawings

In addition to pet portraits, I also draw children upon request. Kids are fun to draw and, like pets, give me a diversion from time to time from plant life and insects.

  • Innocence

    2016, 18 x 14 inches, charcoal and chalk. This is a portrait of Ryder at age one.
  • Fashion Accessorizer

    2017, 20 x 16 inches, charcoal and chalk. Meena is a happy, active three year old little girl that isn't concerned about messy hair and accessorizes her wardrobe with stamp tattoos.
  • Vikram

    2015, 18 x 14 inches, charcoal and chalk. This is a portrait of Vikram at age three.
  • Endearing Enthusiasm

    2020, charcoal and chalk. Kiran is a happy and energetic three year old. He doesn't like to sit stilll for too long but will do so for art class especially if he can paint.
  • Proud of Himself

    2020, 19 1/4 x 14 5/8 inches, pencil and vine charcoal. Ryder is an imaginative four year old. At the photo shoot he told me several jokes he made up. They didn't make any sense to me but he thought they were funny and was very proud of his ingenuity. That beautiful smile sums up his sense of achievement.

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Nancy's Curated Collection

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