October 15th, 2014

A Bee Study

Barbara Tapp recently retired from a distinguished career as an architectural illustrator and is now pursuing an old/new direction for her artwork. She talks about it here: “This study began when I needed an image of a bee for a painting I was completing. Working outdoors, I was observing and taking notes and I found I was captivated by the maneuverability and industry of the honeybees as they gathered pollen and nectar. Then on Sept 1st, I began a challenge to create a daily piece on bees. It has been 38 years since I worked in the art department at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and here suddenly and unexpectedly I was brought to combine my love of watercolor, flowers and insects in this project.

My Mum told me in February the day before she died that she wanted me to paint for myself. I have had a great career drawing architecture but these bee paintings are honestly where my heart lies and the joy I am experiencing creating them is amazing.

This was my first time using Stillman & Birn’s Beta Series cold press paper. I chose it for its weight and white tone. This painting is about “buzz pollination” with the bee gathering in a dish shaped flower. [Ed: ‘In buzz pollination bees are able to grab onto the flower and move their flight muscles rapidly, causing the flower and anthers to vibrate, dislodging pollen.’ via Wikipedia]. And I am as much interested in the structure of the flower as that of the bee. I specifically chose to have a contrast between the bright colors and shadows of the flower and the dark-toned body of the bee.

Working from sketches and my own photos I blocked in the flower and bee loosely in pencil and applied many washes on the flower before adding the bee. I wanted to be semi-abstract and playful with the petals and the backgrounds of this study, yet I wanted the focus of the artwork, the bee, to be accurate.

The Beta Series paper proved to be excellent for very wet washes without absorbing the color. Therefore, the possibility for layering colors seemed endless. I could get precise line work and brushstrokes ending with bold solid color as in the vivid yellow at the top. It is this response from the paper to my paint that really satisfies me.

MEDIA: Pencil and watercolor
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish
Bee low res


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