Monarchs are among the most beautiful and fascinating of butterflies. A specialist species whose caterpillars eat only the poisonous milkweed plant, they also migrate long distances from North America to Mexico to winter in very specific mountain areas that provide just the right conditions for hibernation.
The painting you see above is based on a sketchbook image (below) that I created two years ago after observing a monarch lay her eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. While creating this painting, I relied chiefly on the sketch rather than reference photos, even though I had them available for the monarch detail. And I found this way of working so freeing.
Sketches always feel lighter to me, free from the tension that painting a "real" painting sometimes generates. Using a photograph for reference, as I often do, can sometimes suck me into the detail of the photo resulting in a tight rendition rather than an image that flows. This is what I noticed as I worked on this painting. The sketch freed me to just paint, to focus on what I found to be beautiful about the subject, to stay with the light and airy quality of both the butterfly and the flowers, and leave the details more to imagination.
To see more of the progress of this painting as I worked visit The Richness of Watercolor at Vickie's Sketchbook.
To read more about this fascinating butterfly's story visit: Of Monarchs and Milkweed
At Meadow Inspiration on this blog you can see my original post on this sketchbook page.