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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Importance of Research in Painting

'Plight of the Bumblebees'          18x24         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
I had a concept in mind. I wanted to paint a meadow and fill it with bees. But I was leaning towards an early morning sky instead of a bright blue-sky day.  I picture bees buzzing around flowers on a warm summer day so I wasn't sure if my concept would be a believable scenario. Do bees pollinate at dusk or sunrise or early morning or cloudy days? I obviously didn't know enough about bees and I didn't want to put bees into the wrong environment or conditions.

For paintings to be authentic and feel right they need to be true to real life.

Sure, we can get away with a lot when painting. After all we are the artists and can do whatever we want. But sometimes understanding the science and natural history behind a scene can  help make the painting better.

So I did a little research and asked Google if bees pollinated during overcast conditions or early morning. You learn something everyday and I learned that BUMBLEBEES do pollinate under many more conditions than honeybees. They are active at 40 degrees F and will pollinate early in the morning and later into the day as well as on cloudy, overcast , windy and even rainy days!  They are larger and carry more pollen and are more efficient than honeybees.

It was interesting information that helped me decide that it would be just fine to put some bumblebees into my early morning meadow. 

Oil stain underpainting on Uart 500 grade paper

close-up of the bumblebees
 It was a valuable lesson. Not just in learning about the difference between bumblebees and honeybees but it reinforced the importance of really knowing the landscape. To paint the truth we must know what is true.


cberwind@aol.com said...

To paint the truth we must know what is true.

LOVE this.

Thanks Miss Karen!

robertsloan2art said...

Oh that's cool! Yes, when you create a good visual fiction the truth at the focus of the painting can give it even more charm.

tess stieben said...

My husband and I spend many more hours out in the field than we do painting in our studio, its that first hand experience that makes the painting experience real for us. We photograph all kinds of birds and wildflowers to gather reference photos and last year I began photographing bees and bugs. The interesting thing that happened was I began to "notice" how different many bees look. I've found a tiny bees, big bees, bumble bees, introduced honey bees and Native solitary bees. My eyes have been opened to the wonder of this fast buzzy world. From what I notice is that bees are busy all the time. Its the flowers themselves that change bee behaviour. Wild roses smell stronger in the morning attracting more bees and bug variety then. Certain other wildflowers scent gets stronger nearer dusk. This year I may have to jot notes on what plants attract most of the bees and at what time of day. You have inspired me, thank you.