Red-Spotted Purple


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With a title like that I bet you were expecting red spots, weren’t you? Well, they are there, but hidden on the underside of this large butterfly’s wings.  I’ll try to photograph one with his wings raised so I can show you how pretty they are. Hopefully you  share my delight in this side of things as well. I love this dramatic black butterfly with its electric blue markings. The larval food for these butterflies is the black cherry tree. I’ve never seen an adult get nectar on flowers~I only ever see them hanging out on trees. I suspect they get sustenance from sap, as do Mourning Cloaks and a few others.

I started this painting 2 weeks ago, but have been busy with a commission, so I finished him today while sitting outside for a classic car show going on in our town. I had no delusions that anyone there for the cars would be interested in paintings of butterflies, but  I did think it would be fun to sit out there and admire the classics and it was. We had a dragster (Do I have that right?) start up to drive away~my, was it loud! Most impressive.

Yesterday I attended a meeting for a new artist coalition forming in my little town. This is exciting news. We’ll have painters, a circus performer, jazz musicians, and authors. How cool is that? I never thought Grayslake was capable of such coolness 🙂

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36 thoughts on “Red-Spotted Purple

  1. melissabluefineart says:

    Thank you Robyn 🙂
    I’ll be interested in how things turn out. This was our first meeting but it looks like a good group of people who share a vision. You’re right, it will be so good for the community.

  2. shoreacres says:

    Your title, with its reference to red and purple, brought to mind the Red Hat Society. I saw a group of them at the movies once, and I must say, they fluttered about as surely as your butterfly.

    This time, it’s the bark on the tree that really attracts me. I’ve recently seen both a sculptor and a glass artist who’ve done tree bark as pieces, and it’s fascinating to see how different people portray what’s actually an almost-never-seen part of nature.

    When you mentioned Grayslake, I finally looked it up on the map, and nearly died. I’ve got a friend who lives in McHenry. She’s forever going on about Fox and Pistakee lakes, where they take their boat, but never once has mentioned Volo, or the bog, or Illinois beach. So near and yet so far, as the saying goes. I suppose that’s much like me, never having taken the tour at the Johnson Space Center, which I could see from my window, were it not for the trees.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      I’m glad you like the bark. I had fun with that, painting it loosely with my brush loaded with different colors.

      Isn’t that amazing! You are absolutely right. There are places around here (like McHenry) that just don’t make it onto my radar very often. The distance is more in the mind than on the map. How remarkable that you have a friend living so close to me. Do you ever venture up this way?

  3. Steve Gingold says:

    This is a wonderful collection of colors, Melissa. So the spots are only visible in the ventral view. It’s nice when that has something to offer in addition to the dorsal. It is amazing that the top and undersides can be so different, but I would guess that is part of evolution’s strategy for protection and/or mate attraction. Keeps it interesting for us.

  4. melissabluefineart says:

    When I do that I’m thinking that my paintings are snapshots of the natural world, and I want the viewer to be thinking about what lies beyond the frame I am presenting them. However now that you point it out, perhaps I’ve made an error. Hm.

    • Steve Gingold says:

      I hesitated to say that just because I didn’t want to influence how you felt about it. It is your vision and if that is your thinking when you make these decisions then I am glad to understand it. Rules were made to be broken and if you decided this was your vision then it isn’t a mistake no matter what I or anyone else may think. I just wanted to know. 🙂

  5. melissabluefineart says:

    I appreciate your mentioning it. I think perhaps I’ll change that, and see if I don’t like it better. Ideas are all well and good, but they can get in the way of an otherwise good image. Thank you!

  6. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    Beautiful painting, Melissa! I love both sides of butterflies. I just love butterflies no matter what side is showing. 🙂 I’m glad your town has the art coalition. That should be very interesting to see how that grows and develops. Yay!

  7. Myriam (Myr's Bytes) says:

    Oh, you’ve seen so many different butterflies! Lucky :-). Thanks for sharing your beautiful painting and the information about sap eating butterflies (I didn’t know!). I find it fun that some butterflies have two distinctly coloured sides. Glad your town turned out to be even cooler than you thought. Curious about what the Grayslake Artists’ Coalition will get up to…

    • melissabluefineart says:

      We really are fortunate here in the Midwest in our wealth of insects. Or at least, we were… The years I was monitoring I always wanted to do a series of paintings highlighting them but somehow never found the time.
      I’m really curious to see what the artist group will do too.

  8. circadianreflections says:

    It’s beautiful Melissa! I don’t think I’ve seen this one. Thank you for including some facts. I had no idea it ate the bark or sap and not the nectar from the blossom.

    I did think I’d see a red spot! 🙂

  9. Gunta says:

    Who knew there were so many different sorts of butterflies. Thank you for informing and introducing me to them. I think I’d best start paying more attention to these delightful critters.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      Here’s to diversity! I seem to recall that there aren’t as many different species there in the Pacific Northwest but I’m sure you’ll see some lovely creatures you weren’t aware of.. I guess it is the tradeoff~we don’t have the stunning views, or the nice climate. But we have bugs! 🙂

  10. Steve Schwartzman says:

    Just set your camera to transparent mode so you can see the red dots coming through from the other side. On second thought, your camera probably doesn’t have that mode. On third thought, neither does mine. Dream on…

    It’s great to hear about the new coalition of artists taking shape in Grayslake. May it serve you well.

  11. shoreacres says:

    Melissa, I happened across a very interesting blog that you might find valuable, too. It’s called Nature Inquiries, and the fellow seems to be knowledgeable about insects of all sorts, as well as other parts of the natural world. Not only that, he’s located in your area. Here’s the page I turned up when I did a search for Illinois. I recognized a few of the place names that I wouldn’t have known a few weeks ago.

  12. melissabluefineart says:

    Amazing! I came across the group when they were looking at the Katydids referenced in the article you sent me too. I met one of the group that day. She had come all the way from the Boston area, I believe. What a wonderful coincidence. I am tickled that you came across it and let me know. Thank you!

  13. melissabluefineart says:

    Hey Kim,
    Yeah, sorry about the spots. I’m working on a butterfly painting now that I have shots of both the top and bottom but that will probably be the last one I do until Spring. I can’t believe summer is over.
    Vrrm! xo

  14. Jane says:

    Hi Melissa,
    What a treat to catch up on your blog again and see it filled with beautiful butterflies. Many of the butterflies I see here also have a very different underside to their top. There are some gorgeous little darters that tease me so much when I am trying to take shots. I wish they’d stay still! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your precious artwork with us. They are such joyful pieces. 🙂

  15. melissabluefineart says:

    You are so kind, Jane! Yes, the little teasers here do the same thing! When I was younger I remember being able to sneak up on them better but then, I wasn’t trying to aim a scary camera at them back then.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      Haha! Yes, it was fun actually and I do love old cars with their fins and wings. I did have a few people stop by to see what I was up to. The contrast between cars and butterflies was startling in a gentle sort of way.

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