Block title

Work Samples

The Orange Acrobat - Back View

The Orange Acrobat - Back View, 2021, 21 5/8 x 92 5/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. This depiction of a Monarch eclosure from the back view is separated into two parts with a space between them. The space represents the point at which the chrysalis begins to crack caused by the butterfly kicking it outward to create an opening enabling the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis.

The Orange Acrobat - Frontal View

The Orange Acrobat - Frontal View, 2021, 22 3/8 x 92 5/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. This depiction of Monarch enclosure from the frontal view is divided into three parts with spaces between each part. The spaces represent the opening of the chrysalis caused by the butterfly kicking it outward to create an opening for the butterfly to emerge.

Bees Disappearing as Pollinators

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

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.

Share:

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 that are frequently unnoticed. 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 ephemeral lifecycles with depicted insects that visit or pollinate their flowers and butterfly life... more

TIMETALES: The Orange Acrobat - Back View

I have always been passionate about nature and especially appreciate nature’s hidden or less noticed details. TimeTales is my drawing series focused on nuances of nature’s diminutive processes and transformations influenced by my close up nature photography. The drawings take an enormous span of time to execute because of the large amount of research on the subject performed prior to the drawing, the extensive and necessary photography of the developing subject matter as well as the numerous views of the subject illustrated in each drawing. While my creative process involves an intense drawing preparation sequence, the research is interesting and educational and arranging and implementing the stages of development into compositions is a fascinating journey. I wouldn’t approach this series of drawings in any other way because it would lead to an inaccurate portrayal of the subject. 

This drawing illustrates the Monarch butterfly in the eclosure process from the back view. It is illustrated in a poster type format with large titles and dates of the event to humorously refer to the insect transformation as a “show” that took place. In a sense it was. The drawing reads from left to right within a horizontal format with time increments noted between portrayals of eclosure activity. The time increments are comprised of vertical spaces labeled as weeks, hours, minutes and seconds. They are placed in between drawn boxes housing individual drawings of Monarch chrysalids in progressing stages of eclosure development.

Presently, the Monarch is the focus of many conservation efforts to increase its declining population. It has become a cultural icon to many people symbolizing wildlife species declining in numbers and needing safeguarding. My desire in depicting the beauty of its chrysalis colors and birth process emerging out of the chrysalis is to increase viewers’ aesthetic appreciation of this remarkable migrating insect and possibly initiate a viewer’s conservation effort.

  • The Orange Acrobat - Back View

    Monarch Butterfly, Chrysalis, Eclosure
    2021, 21 5/8 x 92 5/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. This depiction of a Monarch eclosure is separated into two parts with a space between them. The space represents the point at which the chrysalis begins to crack caused by the butterfly kicking it outward to create an opening enabling the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis.
  • Detail 1: Section 1, Patience Required

    2021, 21 5/8 x 26 3/16 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The first drawing section describes my existence as time passes waiting for the eclosure process to begin. The word await is placed within the grayed area of time intervals to support the portrayal of a long length of time requiring patience. The words tick-tock are placed at regular increments within the bottom and top background creating an ever ongoing pattern in mimic of the repeated ticking of a large clock.
  • Detail 2: Chrysalis Opening Stages

    2021, 21 5/8 x 64 15/16 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The titles, Monarch and back view, are placed backwards in this drawing to correlate with the viewing of the chrysalis from the back side. The title of eclosure is presented upside down in addition to backwards in order to relate to the chrysalis’ position in real life. The date is written normally because time has an unchangeable presence.
  • Detail 3: Butterfly Emergence Stages

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The falling butterfly acts as a dividing line between cooler colors and warmer colors in the composition. The area to the left contains cooler colors because activity levels are low as the butterfly tries to emerge from the chrysalis. The area to the right of the butterfly contains warmer colors to correlate with higher activity of the insect’s stages of preparing to dry its wings.
  • Detail 4: Chrysalis Before Cracking Open

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. A pattern of stripes, characteristic to the Monarch caterpillar, is portrayed in the activity boxes’ backgrounds behind the chrysalids and alludes to the chrysalis’ creator. In the drawing’s beginning, the stripe pattern covers a large background area but continues to decrease covering smaller and smaller activity boxes’ background areas eventually disappearing all together when the butterfly is portrayed as completely emerged.
  • Detail 5: Two Beginning Stages of Chrysalis Opening

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The drawing’s overall background is a repeated pattern of lifecycle circles of equal size. They allude to the process that occurs over and over again in the reproduction of Monarch butterflies. Their color begins with green blue and transitions to a warm green before finally turning orange reflecting the change of colors from caterpillar into chrysalis into butterfly.
  • Detail 6: A Completely Cracked Chrysalis

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The vertical spaces of labeled seconds are aligned slightly above and below boxes holding individual chrysalis drawings of activity. The subtle alternating up and down movement of the labeled seconds spaces creates a suggested movement of activity. The labels denoting seconds (top left and right corners of the drawing) begin in a horizontal placement and gradually become more erratic and slanted to indicate increased activity by the butterfly.
  • Detail 7: Closeup of Chrysalis as Butterfly Moves Downward

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. Activity box sizes of butterfly emergence stages from the chrysalis begin wide in width to illustrate low activity levels and become increasingly more narrow, as in this detail, to correlate to heightened activity levels of the eclosure process.
  • Detail 8: Butterflies with Background Words

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. I think of words as a type of information brushstroke. I use them sparingly in compositions but incorporate them to share a meaningful emotion or activity which would be difficult to express through color or other visual elements alone. For example, I “anticipate” the butterfly’s full emergence and am “inspired” after experiencing the eclosure of a butterfly. These words are placed in the background prior to and just after the falling butterfly to reflect my feelings.
  • Detail 9: Closeup of Empty Chrysalis

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The life circles within the empty transparent chrysalids are green in color contrasting softly with the orange color of the background life circles. The green color symbolizes the Monarch caterpillar, the creator of the chrysalis, while the orange life circles make reference to the butterfly.

TIMETALES: The Orange Acrobat - Frontal View

This art work portraying a frontal view of a Monarch enclosure was intended to become an accompanying drawing to the depiction of the back view of a Monarch eclosure forming a diptych. Subsequently I changed my mind midway through the drawing and I have posted each separately. Many detail differences exist between the back and frontal view drawings for visual and expressive purposes. The most unique compositional aspect rests in the applied differences to express the overall concept of each drawing.

Drawn boxes house the chrysalid illustrations in both the back and frontal views. The boxes' width are portrayed inversely from beginning to end within the two drawings. Boxes begin wide in width in the depiction of the back view drawing to illustrate low activity levels and gradually increase into more narrow widths to indicate increasing activity levels of the butterfly. The compositional result is an end grouping showing slightly overlapping action depictions of a Monarch butterfly falling from its chrysalis and suggesting a flurry of activity.

In contrast, boxes begin narrow in width in the frontal view to correlate with less activity and gradually increase in width to indicate higher activity levels of the event. The compositional arrangement in the frontal view depicts positions of a Monarch butterfly falling from its chrysalis in a linear placement with depicted activity positions placed close together. The frontal view composition concept is an inquiry into the numerous individual butterfly positions as the butterfly falls out of its chrysalis in contrast to the concept of a sequence end of grouped activities as in the back view. 

  • The Orange Acrobat - Frontal View

    2021, 22 3/8 x 92 5/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. This depiction of a Monarch enclosure from the frontal view is divided into three drawing parts with spaces between each part. The spaces represent the opening of the chrysalis caused by the butterfly kicking it outward to create an opening for the butterfly to emerge.
  • Detail 1: First Section, Fortitude

    2021, 22 3/8 x 13 5/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. Time increments are documented in the drawing beginning with the darkening of the chrysalis, indicating the butterfly inside is almost or fully developed, to the cracking open of the chrysalis which is represented by 3/8 inch space between section one and section two.
  • Detail 2: Second Section, The Beginning

    2021, 22 3/8 x 14 7/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The word “tick” is repeated at regular increments within the bottom and top background in both the first and second sections creating an ever ongoing pattern representing the sound of a small clock. In real life the butterfly kicked open the chrysalis slightly but then decided to retreat, wait and try again. On the second try, the butterfly persisted in kicking its chrysalis open continuing the emergence process. A 1 1/2 inch space between section two and three represents the chrysalis reopening.
  • Detail 3: Third Section, Butterfly Emergence Stages

    2021, 22 3/8 x 62 3/8 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. In this third section of the drawing, eleven activity positions of the butterfly exiting its chrysalis are portrayed. The background color transitions from a cool purplish color, when the butterfly is still inside the chrysalis, to a warmer yellow color at the portrayal of the butterfly exiting its chrysalis. The transition to the warm yellow background correlates with more movement from the butterfly.
  • Detail 4: In Honor of the Caterpillar

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The caterpillar and creator of the chrysalis is represented by a stripe pattern located behind the chrysalids within the activity boxes. At the beginning of the drawing, the stripes are drawn completely covering the background behind the chrysalis but gradually decrease in coverage until they disappear completely when the butterfly exits its chrysalis. The striped pattern changes angle direction and slants more abruptly as the butterfly nears exiting the chrysalis.
  • Detail 5: Closeup of the Emerged Monarch Butterfly

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The background of the drawing's third section repeats a pattern depicting a life circle that is different from the back view drawing indicating two different butterflies. Life circles seen within chrysalids are colored green to symbolize the caterpillar life stage. The frontal view life circles at emergence transition from the top with light yellow on a light orange background to orange on a light yellow background at the bottom.
  • Detail 6: Activity Box Widths

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The activity boxes housing the butterfly emergence positions move from narrow to wider beginning from the left to the right in the frontal view drawing. This is in contrast to the back view drawing where the activity boxes transition from wide to narrow. In the frontal view drawing, the wider the activity box the more it correlates with higher energetic activity from the butterfly exiting its chrysalis.
  • Detail 7: 'Seconds' Time Labels

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. Seconds labels are placed horizontally across the top portion of the drawing. The juxtaposition of the letters in the seconds labels indicate the level of activity taking place in the depiction of the positions of the butterfly enclosure process. The letters in the seconds label become more scrambled as the butterfly comes closer to falling out its chrysalis as that is the position involving the most action. The numbers representing time of day are also scrambled as the butterfly emerges completely at that hour.
  • Detail 8: Butterfly Falling from its Chrysalis

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. There is some overlapping of activity positions at the end in the frontal view drawing, similar to the back view drawing. However, more yellow background space surrounds the portrayal of the Monarch butterfly as it completely drops from its chrysalis. The dissimilarity of an encircling empty space contrasting slightly with overlapping positions emphasizes the butterfly fall which entails the greatest amount of movement.
  • Detail 9: Closeup of Butterfly Abdomen with Background Words

    2021, colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils and pastels. The word ‘inspire’ is repeated very lightly in the background at the end of the drawing eclosure sequence when the butterfly is fully emerged. After having witnessed the live event, I felt in awe and very inspired. Utilizing the word in my drawing seemed the best way to relay that feeling.

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 populations would decrease or disappear including plants within our native flora species. Most flowering plants depend on pollinators for seed production which provides genetic diversity, a population defense for plants. Conversely many insects depend on flowering plants for food in the form of pollen and nectar and consequently pollinate plants in their food search. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship and I feel compelled to explore artistic possibilities for insect interactions 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 through to full flower and finally to seed development in a composition of time sequenced seasonal changes. My drawings are arranged into a illustrated collage of patterns and shapes and illustrate 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.

I suggest a native plant’s natural untamed habitat in my plant life drawings as well. To some, these undomesticated areas may seem untamed and “messy”. Yet I love the natural terrains as they have conservational attributes in creating habitat, water buffers and other beneficial aspects to both wildlife and humans. They are also aesthetically appealing to me in their variation of colors, textures and shapes forming interesting patterns. In my drawings, I draw reference from them and depict patterns of leaves, stems and flowers blending into one another and portray shapes overlapping each other in transparent colors to suggest the “messiness’ of natural plant arrangement. A plant's habitat is reflected in my seemingly random use of line and placement of shape, pattern and color to comprise a repetition of condensed details. My intention is not to make viewers feel claustrophobic when viewing my work, but rather have them delight in the details presented in my art based on natural, disappearing growing areas. 

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 illustrated details of unique reproductive or visual attributes of the plant subject or something interesting about the pollinators such as their use of the depicted plant.

The drawing paper I used for these drawings is a beige color and it 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. Bees swarm this plant the entire time it is in blooms. Monarda is drawn in growth succession in the top and left margins of the composition. Three bottom visual footnotes portray plant details with accompanying insects.
  • Detail 1 - Bees Swarming Monarda Flowers

    2018, 16 x 20 3/4 inches tall, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. A lower right hand corner detail from the body of 'Bees Disappearing as Pollinators' portrays many different bee species swarming Monarda flowers for nectar and/or pollen. There are three visual footnotes (horizontal bands) located along the bottom edge of the drawing which provide the viewer with additional plant information. They depict Monarda flower closeups with visiting bees and flies along with late summer seed head and leaves with accompanying insects.
  • Detail 2 - Bees Disappearing

    2018, 11 x 10 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a detail from '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. Sadly, the bee visitation to my Monarch patch, upon which this drawing was based, has been vastly decreasing every summer.
  • Detail 3 - Two Carpenter Bees Landing on Monarda

    2018, 7 1/8 x 5 1/8 inches, 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 repeatedly 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 its various growth stages which are placed around a central landscape depicting the plant's habitat of forest. Transparent shapes and repeated patterns of leaves, stems and flowers dominate the composition and describe the plant’s attributes. A bottom 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 in this detail from ‘Mayapple Woodland’. Shapes are a dominant visual element but are subtly executed. Christmas fern is illustrated in the background and fronds are repeated to form a pattern. Lines are used to accentuate flower shapes rather than delineate flower form. Pastel colors fill the shapes and suggest the Spring season.
  • Detail 2 - Mayapple Flower with Baby Praying Mantis

    2018, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. A detail from ‘Mayapple Woodland’ illustrates a mayapple flower with its stigma and anther showing below a petal. The drawing portrays a low viewpoint directing the viewer’s eye into protecting overlapping transparent leaf shapes forming an umbrella effect. A baby praying mantis is drawn on the plant’s stem making use of the leaf coverage to hide under.
  • Detail 3 - Mayapples

    2018, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Mayapples are depicted in a growing cycle from initially forming through to producing ripe fruits with browning foliage. In this detail from ‘Mayapple Woodland’ the use of transparency suggests fragile transient seasonal forms. Inside the visual footnote, along the horizontal bottom of the photo detail, the top of a turtle's shell and head are subtly delineated because turtles relish Mayapples. Within this format of story telling, viewers are presented with visual facts that educate them about the plant’s attributes.
  • 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 I made a decision to include most of them in order to portray the many interactions between Physostegia and insects. The drawing evolved into a visual annual record of Physostegia insect activity occurring during the year 2018 for spring, summer and fall.
  • Detail 1 - Physostegia Beetle Visitors

    2018, 6 3/8 x 6 3/4 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. In this lower left detail from ‘Physostegia - Insect Visitors’, overlapping shapes of stems, leaves and flower buds describe the plant and form a background pattern. Transparency and outlined white flower stems suggest fading shapes and fleeting seasonal changes. The illustrated species of pollinator beetles use Physostegia extensively for mating purposes and food. The pollinator beetles, species unknown, are drawn mating and roaming the pattern of leaves and stems to continuously 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. Since my drawings are very complex 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 as well as closeups of pollinators.

  • Detail 2 - Physostegia Beginning Blooms

    2018, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Physostegia is depicted, in this detail from ‘Physostegia - Insect Visitors’, as a stem with its first blooms which begin at the bottom of the stalk. As each bloom dies, another opens above it continuing the repetitious pattern upward until they stop at the top stem tip and finish flowering. 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 through 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 bottom visual footnote illustrates seedpods exploding with ants dispersing seeds.
  • Detail 1 - Bloodroot Flowers

    2018, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. Mature Bloodroot flowers grow about four to six inches tall. In this detail from ‘Bloodroot Story’, Bloodroot is illustrated and compared as an opening blossom not yet mature alongside a full mature blossom. The left immature Bloodroot flower is portrayed with anthers not yet opened to reveal pollen. The taller mature flower is drawn with anthers opened and full of pollen. Two small bees are depicted as ghost like black and white line drawings seeking pollen and allude to the disappearing numbers of native bees.
  • Detail 2 - Bumblebee Flying Among Bloodroot Seedpods

    2018, SIZE 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. The seedpods are drawn as dark outlined shapes contrasting with the lighter valued leaves. The transparency of the leaves and the uncolored seedpod shapes suggest their fragile transient seasonal forms.
  • Interwoven Relationships Between Phlox and Pollinators

    2018, 39 x 35 1/2 inches, colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. The compositional organization in this drawing is based around a natural movement of insects collecting nectar and pollen from Phlox. Several positions of each insect are depicted within their path of food collecting. As the insects feed, they move pollen from one Phlox plant’s flowers to another resulting in cross pollination. The drawing paper is woven over and under in a basket pattern in order to stress that symbiotic interactive system.
  • Detail 1 - Phlox at Summer's Peak

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

    2018, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is a detail of the lower right 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, SIZE colored pencils, graphite pencils and pastels. This is the upper right 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 eventually evolving into outline renderings of insects. The implication is the depicted fading insects are flying away to find another existing habitat.

REGAL ROBES: Wet Winged Butterfly 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. When dry, 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 also denote fabric in that they have a slight hairy appearance which look like they have had loose thread ends protruding beyond 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 and fall of 2019. Raising and photographing butterflies has resulted into an unexpected photo portfolio project full of enjoyment and discovery. Each butterfly quickly develops its own procedure to allow its wings to lengthen and dry resulting in photo shoots that are unique and fascinating to watch and document. 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 as well.

  • 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 by placing 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 will 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. At this stage, its wings are still soft and haven’t completely dried. This wing formation shape reminds me of a very old formal Japanese robe. The butterfly has a drop of chrysalis 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 wet wings are very crinkled resembling silk fabric.
  • Black Swallowtail Stretching Wet Wings, Back View

    This is 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 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 emotionally moved. A butterfly birth experience 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 that is completely different, with an elongated abdomen and longer straightened wings. The entire physical transformation usually only takes several minutes. Of course, butterflies hang dry their wings after they are extended and it may take hours before they can fly.

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.

I use a Nikon close up 200 mm lens to take my butterfly photographs. I shoot using white backgrounds that contrast with the shapes, colors and movements of the butterfly to enhance those visual elements. The photographs are frequently taken during very early morning hours many times before daylight.

  • 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. Its 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 a brown colored Black Swallowtail chrysalis sometimes indicates the butterfly will wait until Spring to emerge. 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 is clasping a stick 24 seconds after 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

    Just seconds out of the chrysalis this black swallowtail positions and balances on the stick to start expanding its wings. The wings are attractive in pattern and color 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 butterfly will clutch onto its chrysalis to break the fall. Its 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

    A Monarch butterfly just emerged 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 very surprised. The process is truly a marvel to watch. Colors change, shapes evolve and there is a lot of action involved in the transformation. Another surprise was the color transitions that occur between a newly formed Monarch chrysalis and the chrysalis just prior to a butterfly emergence. The color sequence begins with pastels of green and transitions to vivid orange and black with beautiful shades of greens and grays in between. The time span between chrysalis formation and eclosure of my Monarch butterflies was usually about eight days. The Monarch butterfly may decide to emerge at anytime of day. My Monarch butterflies typically emerged between 5::30 am to around noon. Photographing caterpillar and butterfly behaviors are very time consuming and requires a lot of patience but the resulting photographs are well worth the time investment in terms of obtaining an interesting photo portfolio as well as acquiring an education of the process. I have raised several generations of Monarch butterflies both in a screened in side porch and out in my garden where milkweed grows. I have taken many photographs of the Monarch transition process from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and use them to create drawing compositions on the subject.

  • Monarch Caterpillar Just Prior to Changing into a Chrysalis

    A Monarch caterpillar forms a "J" shape prior to shedding it's skin to form a chrysalis.
  • Monarch Caterpillar Transforming into a Chrysalis

    This is the underside of a Monarch caterpillar. You can see the bottom front of the chrysalis forming.
  • Monarch Chrysalis Just After the Cat Shed It's Skin

    This is a front view of a newly forming Monarch chrysalis.
  • Monarch Chrysalis Twisting

    During this stage, the Monarch chrysalis starts to move and twist into a final chrysalis shape. This is the side view of a chrysalis forming.
  • Final Shape of Monarch Chrysalis

    A back view of a chrysalis has a very different appearance than a frontal view. This is a back view of a Monarch chrysalis where the butterfly abdomen is located.
  • Monarch Chrysalis Color Stage

    The Monarch butterfly's scale colors are starting to develop and are showing through the chrysalis.
  • Monarch Chrysalis Color Stage

    The Monarch chrysalis goes through many color transitions as the butterfly's scale colors continue to develop and brighten.
  • Monarch Chrysalis Just Prior to Eclosure of the Butterfly

    The butterfly's scale colors have completely developed and the final color of the butterfly's wings show through the chrysalis very clearly. This is a side view of a Monarch chrysalis.
  • Monarch Butterfly Emerging

    The Monarch butterfly pushes apart the chrysalis to emerge. This is a side view of the event.
  • Monarch Butterfly Just After Emergence

    A Monarch butterfly emerges with it's proboscis divided into two strands. The butterfly will extend and recoil it's proboscis many times to combine the two sides into one piece. It will also stretch out its thorax and lengthen its wings into full size twisting on the chrysalis in the air. When the butterfly has formed into it's final shape, it will then hang dry its wings and release excess stored fluids it used for nutrients as a chrysalis. After the butterfly's wings are dry, it can fly away. This is a side view of the butterfly ready to start expanding its wings.

POLLINATORS: Sustaining Visitors

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 an exuberant amount of time waiting ... and ... waiting ... and ... waiting. It is the smaller parts of nature; the overlooked details that are of interest to me. Parts of nature that are not typically seen unless you stop, get down close to the subject and inspect. Sometimes this may necessitate the use of magnifying lenses in order to detect what is in front of you. This type of viewing opens up a totally new world of forms and insect life that otherwise would be totally missed. 

Generally insect and spider pollinators are small consisting of butterflies, bees, flies and crab spiders which are found in an array of all shapes and colors. Each pollinator species has its own behavior and technique for spreading pollen. Most spread pollen from plant to plant while performing necessary exercises of hunting for prey, searching for mates or collecting nectar and pollen for food. Some insect pollinators are robust movers or flyers and pollinate a large area and are considered proficient pollinators while others stay put and only pollinate a small population of flowering plants and may be labeled less significant pollinators. 

Cute, humorous, ugly or beautiful these proficient or less significant pollinators add a personality to my photographs. I can’t imagine enjoying a natural or garden area without their presence, not only for the necessary process of pollination, but also for the interesting appearances and behaviors they display. Outdoors when their behaviors of agility or hunting techniques can be observed, they become a living testament to how truly diverse and intriguing nature’s pollinators really are.

Connect with Nancy

Nancy's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.