Wednesday, December 09, 2015

How to Paint a Bumblebee with Pastels

'Bumblebees Welcome'          12x24         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop $350
 I remember coming to a stopping point in this painting.  I remember thinking that it would be fun to put some bumblebees and ladybugs and butterflies in the meadow. I painted a butterfly and hid a few ladybugs in the grass (can you find them?)  but I wasn't sure how to go about painting a bumblebee. So I put the painting aside....and forgot all about it.

I don't throw anything out. If you've been following my studio clean up saga than you know this is true! I don't throw out paintings. If they aren't finished or I am not happy with them I stack them in a pile on a shelf....foamcore and all. Today it was time to tackle this huge pile of foamcore and unfinished or just plain bad paintings. (11 years accumulation)

Recycling the old pieces of foamcore

I found several paintings that I want to finish. I now know what to do! I was happy to find this meadow painting because now I knew exactly how I wanted to paint the bees.  I have learned how to simplify and to say more with less.

Bumblebees are just a collection of a few carefully placed strokes.




  • I use just a few pastels for the bees....a dark purple (Terry Ludwig eggplant) a dark blue Nupastel, a warm and cool yellow (very soft), pale lavenders and a bright blue.
  • I decide where to place the bee and make a small mark with the dark purple. I don't do any drawing! It is all a matter of making marks.
  • I place two small marks next to the purple with the warm yellow. I add a touch of the cool yellow. Softer pastels such as Schminkes are perfect for the bees. They leave a nice juicy mark. 
  • I make these marks and leave them alone.
  • I use the pale lavenders to suggest the wings.
  • The hints of legs are done with the sharp edge of the dark blue Nupastel.
  • I use the bright blue for an accent on the dark parts of the bee.
  • Each bee is a collection of about 10 strokes.



Close up of the bees. Click to enlarge


Sorting through the old paintings
 I am making good progress in the gallery room. I now have an entire shelf unit free of foamcore. I can make better use of this space. I have tons of frames and misc. supplies to sort still. Whew!

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Oh wow! WOW! Congratulations on your progress! That is so impressive.

In my smaller space (about like one of your side rooms) it's now been Purged, Deep Cleaned and Disorganized. I know where all my supplies are. Very tempted to just order the Sterilite tubs and start packing down as I get the laundry done, maybe even get rid of the plastic drawer units in favor of tubs that seal against bugs.

WOW! Those bumblebees, ladybugs and the butterfly just kicked the meadow up to fantastic. The painting was nice anyway, a good one, but now it's come alive with that variety of little animals feeding on the flowers. Thank you for the bumblebee instructions! I love that! They will start to turn up in my future paintings too now! I love doing florals so why not invite the pollinators too?

Good Old V100! Other readers - if you only buy one Terry Ludwig pastel, get V100. It is the "Terry Ludwig Eggplant." The famous violet richer and deeper than black. It's utterly gorgeous. Black charcoal marks next to it tend to look flat and muted, not really as black. It is the best dark accent stick I've ever used. I own four of them packed into different collections and would not want to be without it. One of the few colors so useful it needed multiple sticks to never run out.

One cool trick with V100 is to use it in painting a black object that has both matte and shiny areas. In the matte side use black pastels and highlight with gray-blue or gray-brown by color of light, on the shiny side sharper darkened reflections and V100 for the black areas between reflections. So if it's a black umbrella with a shiny handle V100 for the black shadows on the handle and black-based gray shades on the cloth. A black vinyl coat on a figure. Anything that's black and glossy would benefit. Also velvety, like the bumblebee's black parts or black velvet drop cloth.

It reads as black so it's probably V100. There are some other deep dark lacks in the series but that's the one that's "brighter stronger darker black" than real blacks. I heard about this color from a dozen pastelists before I bought it and tried it for myself, it was my best open stock order ever.