Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Illustration Friday: Swarm


When I saw this week's Illustration Friday topic, swarm, I figured that this was a wonderful opportunity to try and draw one of my favorite things...bees!  I love bees as a design motif and own lots of things with bees and/or beehives on them.  But since I've never tried to draw any insects, I decided to email a beekeeper that lives not far from me, to see if he could provide me with some bee "models".  What a treat it was for my husband and me to meet Steve Demkowski of Willow Glen Honey.  Besides being a very nice man, he's an amazing wealth of information, and clearly loves what he does, producing local honey, and teaching beekeeping in our community.  Thanks, Steve!

I brought home some wonderful specimens (recently deceased) of female honeybees (the males don't appear until springtime, I learned) and it was fascinating to examine them under a magnifying glass.  I tried to draw the "pose" that is similar to one that might typically be used in a scientific illustration, and I ended up combining the parts of several bees to get the ideal one.  (And yes, I know that one bee isn't exactly a swarm.)  A bee expert can probably find many inaccuracies, but it was really, really fun to draw.  With their beautiful symmetrical forms, insects feed right into my obsession with patterns and arrangements in nature.

Did you know that honeybees visit approximately 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey?  Check out the Willow Glen Honey website for more interesting facts about bees!

32 comments:

  1. I love your approach to research on this as well as the piece itself. I am new to using colored pencils but have big hopes for the future. Great work.

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  2. you never cease to amaze me, wonderwoman

    i am in awe

    xxoo

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  3. I didn't know that. That's an interesting fact. Your illustration looks photorealistic. Great job!

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  4. Wow, wow wow. What a detail!!
    You do not disappoint ! Wonderfull drawing! How did you do the bee's hair? Amazing! And how fortunate you got to draw from a real bee.
    I have a set of new 120 Faber-Castel watercolor pencils which were a gift. I want to use them right,I think I first have to make a color swatcher to use them, but have played around. Beautifull colors! I also have a book by Gildow & Newton:Colored Pencil Solution. I am itching to use colored pencils and yet so intimidated, don't know where to start...
    Your work is just beautifull.

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  5. This is fabulous Sarah! I love the wings, so transparent and beautifully rendered. You are a master. And how exciting to be onto insects now.

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  6. Oh, aren't you all so nice? This was a fun one, that's for sure.

    Malka,
    A lot of the "furry" rendering uses techniques that I learned from studying Ann Swan's book on Botanical Portraits (see "What I'm Reading" on my sidebar) because plants hairs and animal hairs are so much alike. I scratch some of the lines into the paper before using the pencil...try it! As for the water soluble pencils, check out Paula Pertile's blog...she's a master at so many aspects of colored pencil, and has done some detailed posts recently discussing those watercolor pencils. (She's on my blog list.)

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  7. Thank you so much Sarah.
    I am following wonderfull Paula already, but haven't quite researched her blog yet.
    I thought you might have used electric eraser for the hair, but the scratching sounds so interesting, my brain is "swarming" with ideas! I will deff. check out that book on botanicals, which intriques me as well. When I was a child, I made pressed plants journal. One page had the pressed herb and on the opposite page I drew the herb and wrote a description. I think I'll do it again this summer with my children.
    Thank you for your support and inspiration!! ♥

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  8. Wow! (this seems to be a familar comment on your work). Beautifully sensitve rendering.

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  9. Beautifully done, and I like your research methods too. At least the dead bees can't sting!

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  10. Wow, you really give it your all and managed to learn some biology in the process. Great image. You may have a job in medical illustration too.

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  11. Sarah,

    If the body is elongated, and the head and eyes not quite right, I assume this is the Colin Firth Bee--just a little bit more handsome and the form to which the other bees aspire.

    Lorie

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  12. Wowza, what an approach. I'mm so impressed that you went to the source. You know in this world of googlegargle images, it's good to see something clean and honest and not appropriated.

    It's a classic drawing, so wonderfully handcrafted and (unlike me) balanced.

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  13. Wowza, Sarah...this is superb! What a gorgeous interpretation of the prompt and I love the letters as well..wonderful! I will need to take my hubby to Willow Glen Honey! I am going to check out his site now..wow, you are inspirational with your attention to detail and fine craftsmanship.

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  14. Amazing detail, all those little hairs and the wings look so transparent!

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  15. It's incredible, as usual! The detail is spot-on. Excellent work.

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  16. Hey Sarah! First off, God bless you for teaching our youngsters. Secondly, you have a wonderful blog! I found you by way of Bella. And finally, as I was reading your “swarm” post, I was waiting for the part when you say “And since I wasn’t happy with my attempt at illustrating a bee, I posted the photo that Mr. beekeeper gave me as a reference.” This is totally amazing! You have an wonderful talent Sarah Melling!

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  17. Thanks, everyone! I'm so behind on getting started on "warning"... Hopefully something will materialize soon.

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  18. Oh my goodness, your bee is incredible! I enjoyed enlarging it and admiring all the teeny tiny hairs and details. Astounding work! And your hand lettering is excellent!

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  19. OH MY GOODNESS!!! I am so glad you stopped by my blog as I got the chance to meet you. Your work is incredible!!! I love all your work. Your chestnuts up there is beautiful and this bee is out of this world. You are a true learner!!! You actually asked for specimen. That's amazing!!! I see my friends have been by your blog too. Wonderful!

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  20. Very beautifully done. With coloured pencils? Derwent?
    How can somebody NOT like bees?
    Paula

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  21. Sarah, sorry it's taken so long to visit! But as someone above wrote, "You do not disappoint!" This bee is wonderful and your work's right on par with John Burgoyne! A friend of mine's a beekeeper and if you get the chance to watch Steve extract the honey, do it. The whole world of bees is truly amazing and they're such wonderful critters and your rendition is so delicate, subtle and superb. Thank you!

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  22. Suberb detail in this rendering! Makes mine seem quite shabby by comparison. And getting deceased bees from a beekeeper; now why didn't I think of that? ;)

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  23. Hey Sarah
    Many thank for your comment on the blog! I am just getting straight after moving back to the UK ( well not really organised but at least almsot readjusted to time zone. Lovely bee!! how cool that you drew one from life. They are not easy are they! ... I didnt realise when I first started how tricky their legs were. You have a beautiful elegant style!
    Val

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  24. I am also inspired by patterns in nature and take many photographs with this as my subject, unsure where they may be of use in the future, other than purely as a source of amazement.
    Your illustration is beautifully executed. I love the contrast of the very delicate wing structure with the large bold body.

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  25. Wow. Wonderful work, Sarah. I love drawing bugs as well. My first real illo jobwas to draw 78 bugs for the Philadelphia Zoo. I wasn't 100% comfortable with bugs before that project but afterwards I found them just fascinating and much more comfortable to be around.

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