18"x18" acrylic and grease pencil on paper mounted board
I was inspired to paint this portrait of my friend Eshu, after he wrote this beautiful piece of memoir from his childhood:
"The Monarch Butterfly has a special place in my heart. When I was a kid in Whitby, Ontario, after school I would often play in a small forest at the centre of a farmer's field. One year the field was fallow, growing among other things, Milkweed. One day I noticed that the farmer was out in the tractor mowing, and the plants were covered in the iconic striped caterpillars. I got a box and plucked probably hundreds of the caterpillars off the plants. I took them home and put the box in my garage. Every day I would go and find milkweed to bring to the box of caterpillars. My sisters thought I was crazy.
The caterpillars didn't stay in the box either. Oh no, they went all over the garage. By the time they became chrysalis, they were hanging everywhere! Off of shelves, even off of the side mirrors of the old VW Beetle my dad was trying to restore.
Then, one day I came home from school and opened the garage door and was greeted by the sensation of Butterflies fluttering past my face and hands. Even to this day I don't know if I can express this experience adequately. Utter freedom. This happened for several days in succession, as they emerged from the chrysalis.
It wasn't all beauty though. I learned some painful lessons. Non-interference, and controlling enthusiasm for example, simple patience. In my rush to "help" I even went so far as to use a blow dryer to "help" one of the poor creatures "dry" out it's wings quicker. It didn't make it. I was heart broken.
One thing I remember is that my parents didn't interfere. They let me do it all myself. I wonder what they thought.
When someone asks me what Zen is all about, for some reason, this is the story, and the feeling that I most want to share. It is the freedom of transforming, and finding the open air.
If I were ever to take an animal as a symbol, crest, or totem, it would be the Monarch Butterfly. A distinctly North American beauty."
The concept sketch
The background, which is a layer of incised and embossed grease pencil sandwiched between two layers of acrylic. It's a painstaking and time consuming process that leaves me with blackened fingers for days!
Once I set the under painting skin tones in blue, I convert the image to black and white for a quick check on composition.
Starting on the orange and loving the balance of color.
An accidental giggle.