Bee Painting

As part of my upcoming exhibition with Yaniv Janson, "Our Bees" I thought I should paint at least one decent-sized bee, to explore the creature's morphology, if my 6th form Biology terminology serves me right.

I have been able to take lots of reference photos, as conveniently many of my garden bees have been almost tame the last winter, possibly because I've been feeding them honey water each day.  So I have some nice close-ups to look at through my magnifying glass.  Yes, I could zoom in on a digital screen image but I have never been able to paint (or even read) long from a screen for some reason.  I prefer to have a printed image.

I thought a side-view might bring us down, as it were, to the bee's world.  A bee's eye view.

Apis mellifera, the European Honey Bee.

Apis mellifera, the European Honey Bee.

Here's the process I followed.  Not very systematic, and in fits and starts.  In watercolours I tend to work from light to dark, but sometimes, as in the case of the legs, I knew they had to be very dark, so I went at them with lots of pigment pretty much right from the start, only warming them up with one glaze of dark orange, and selectively washing parts off later to lighten the colour and make hairy the stripe for the pollen groove.

I began with an accurate pale pencil drawing, and generally built up from a base colour which was modified by glazes and texturing detail.  I generally use larger brushes at the start, laying in large areas of flat colour, or dropping in strong mixes to a clean water patch and allowing the colours to mix on the paper.  As I need more fine detail, I use smaller and smaller brushes.  

The last two images differ mostly in that the shadow under the bee seemed too blue initially so I warmed it up and was much happier with it.

The differences in colour of the surrounding  paper are due to different times of the day/ night.