how to paint a Rove beetle the size of a grain of rice?
Recently I was commisioned to do a painting of a particular type of beetle called a Staphylinid, (aka Rove Beetle). This beetle’s latin name is Zalobius nancyae. Of course I was very excited to do a large “habitus” of this fascinating and ancient lineage, but I had no idea how small it was until I was handed the box with the specimens inside. We are not talking about long-grain basmati, this was more like a runt-sized grain of short grained rice: TINY.
As I do not own a stereo microscope, I had a major dilemma in making my preliminary sketch accurate- actually making one at all! But without too much having to dig around and research, I was soon offered use of the stereo microscopes in the back room at the jewelry shop where my sister works..thanks Sarah! I sat down to do a large shaded pencil study of the details, with notes on shading patterns, hairs, and glare. (I then reduced the prelim sketch down for the transfer).
I decided to use gouache for its amazing blending properties, and how rich the tones can be by layering more and more and more swaths of color. Artists of any medium must always be patient to push on through the “ugly” phase of a painting, when it appears flat and dull. This illustration certainly had that stage, but truly I live for the last moments of a painting like this when I get to add the glare, and the drop-shadow…utterly rewarding!
It does this amazing dimensional transformational thing where it just starts to bulge and warp in waves right up off the paper. I just finished the piece last week, and I am quite cheeky with it…check out the nice version of it in my portfolio- there is no tissue-paper smudge protector around that version!