Dakota skipper

Dakota skipper
Photo of Dakota Skipper butterfly

Inspiration: In the midst of my grief about the climate crisis, I heard that the Trump administration was weakening the Endangered Species Act. I paint the natural world to bring me closer to it and remind me of the interconnectedness of life. “The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth,” wrote Marlee Matlin. I would guess that many of the animals I represent in my paintings are at risk. This month, I searched for images of endangered species in my geographical area.

I discovered the Dakota Skipper, a prairie butterfly smaller than a penny. Unlike showier butterflies, it blends in with the colors of the grasses in its habitat. It fills the same ecological niche, helping pollinate and providing food for birds.

I discovered the Dakota Skipper, a prairie butterfly smaller than a penny. Unlike showier butterflies, it blends in with the colors of the grasses in its habitat. It fills the same ecological niche, helping pollinate and providing food for birds.

Here is a fact sheet: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/insects/dask/daskFactSheet.html

The Minnesota Zoo has a Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program. They are breeding Dakota Skippers and reintroducing them to prairies.

Creation: I worked from two photos. One showed the butterfly on a purple cone flower. I really liked the way the center of the flower was shown in detail. However, the butterfly in that image showed gray and I didn’t want to work in shades of gray. The image from the fact sheet showed more golden hues, which I prefer.

I did a quick pencil sketch first. Then, I painted blue sky and light green prairie and concentrated on the petals of the flower, trying to give them some dimensionality. The center of the flower – the part of the image that fascinated me – was the most challenging to paint. I loved the golden spines tipped with orange and reddish-brown. Unfortunately, on my watch, they lost some of their cone shape. After my first layer of paint in the center of the flower, I returned to the background to add more grass-like forms. I alternated between bringing the butterfly and the flower center to completion.I am fairly happy with the final image.

Insights:

Painting allows me to be witness to and companion of my creaturely brothers and sisters. It was a privilege to spend some time with this (sadly) disappearing resident of the prairies.

Skills

Posted on

September 28, 2019

2 Comments

  1. Julie

    Beautiful thank you Kate!!

    Reply
    • Kate

      Thank YOU for the encouragement!

      Reply

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