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A Live Model

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Wednesday 11 November 2009

A Live Model

I am frustrated if I can’t see the real thing when I am drawing. That is my preferred reference, a photo of my own is second best and then the last resort is searching through hundreds of reference photos of my subject, drawing it over and over again until I understand how it works and what  I am trying to do. It can be a long job.

Bee number 5 is to be the tiny little metallic green sweat bee. One of the Halictid family. My biggest admission here is that I have never seen them before.. and that is only because I wasn’t looking or rather wasn’t seeing.  I also thought they would be bigger. Before I started this project, bees, to me, came in two sizes.. bumble and honey, but these are tiny, and look more like our UK hover flies.  To see them you have to adjust your focus and tell your brain to pick up on tiny things.. once you have done that you will see them (if you live in Florida anyway), literally thousands of them, all over horse mint, the daisies and the roses.

Yesterday I went to Leu Gardens to try to get a decent photo or two and by accident met my friend Robert who was photographing butterflies. I explained my frustration, lack of a decent camera etc etc . “Well” he said, “what you need to do is catch one and pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes.” This literally chills them out enough for you to photograph them while they warm up.

This morning I went back to the horsemint on the lakeshore and tentatively captured a bee…it wasn’t difficult, they are too busy gathering nectar to notice. I put a large plastic bag over a large head of mint and cut the stem, then took the bag, mint and bee home.  My model was still quite busy clambering about the mint, so it was not difficult to transfer it in a glass jar and to the fridge.

I have to say I was worried about this. I don’t want to kill anything even for my “art”.  But both the bee and I survived and an hour later I was able to let it go, back to the very same spot. It immediately continued gathering nectar as if nothing had happened.

The photos are not great by professional terms but I am so pleased. Apart from the photos, I was able to watch the little stripy bee wake up slowly and give itself a good sprucing up which seemed to involve a lot of antennae preening. I could see the beautiful black markings on its yellow legs and the glittering iridescence of its head and thorax. From what I can see this is Agapostemon splendens.

I did take lots of photos, many were out of focus as I am having to use an enlarging ring to get close enough which is something new to me … but here are just a few of the reasonable ones:

bee in jar

Bee in jar with some Horsemint.

out of the jar

Coming out of the jar.

bee and ruler 

Bee waking up .. see how very small he is.

bee preening

Bee sprucing up, he was using his front leg to wipe his face and antennae.

Bee glaring at me …

back to work

and straight back to work ….

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Blogger Gabrielle said...

How cool is that! And the horsemint bloom are gorgeous. Can't wait to see the sketches and paintings that come from this foray.

12 November 2009 at 04:22  
Anonymous Lynne said...

Val, your tiny bee is a wonder! The picture of him glaring at you is priceless - he doesn't realize how hard you work to create a perfect portrait of him!

14 November 2009 at 06:39  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thank you both.. I have been a bit distracted this week and slow to follow up with the sketches, but this little bee is just so adorable isnt he. I get hopelessly fond of living things.. well most of them, am still stuggling with spiders and cockroaches.. and mosquitoes..

15 November 2009 at 13:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What beautiful colors! So much to notice once we take time to pay attention.

Glad to hear you won't kill for art. Not for food either?

16 November 2009 at 05:19  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Well I guess I am a bit of a hypocrite as I am not a vegetarian and maybe, if the chips were down, would go and catch a rabbit or two. but hunting definitely is not my idea of a fun time!

17 November 2009 at 21:11  

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