More about the Paintings
Superficially the paintings describe the rare Birdwing, or Ornithoptera, butterflies of tropical New Guinea. but, as most of them fly above the treetops, I am really concerned to paint the canopy of the forest on which they depend. For me the leaf structures, patterning, colour and surface quality are of the greatest importance.
For the past thirty years I have been interested in plant structures and growth patterns and recently spent a fair bit of time studying and photographing tropical plants and leaves in Borneo and Malaysia. I have occasionally painted from photographs but I prefer to design imagined leaf structures knowing that somewhere in the jungle canopy there is probably a tree that looks like my invention. I have only once tried to paint the Aristolocia vines on which the ornithoptera caterpillars feed.
I paint with acrylic on 1/8 inch birch ply. With some works I include pieces of local wood, with others pieces of recycled tropical hardwoods. My intention is to ask,“ When, under what circumstances, and for what purposes should tropical and temperate woods be used?”
At present I am completing 4 different series each depicting the 11 recognized species, and some subspecies, of Ornithoptera Butterflies.
The markings are very similar to the Ornithoptera
species Paradisea, Tithonus and to a lesser extent Rothschildi
except that the wing shapes in each are very different. Some
ornithologists refer to these four species as ‘Schonbergia’ as
distinct from Ornithoptera.
Webster’s also says ‘it pertains to an impossible or foolish fancy’. Possibly this species was seen only fleetingly. There are 2 subspecies.
Ornithoptera chimaera is classified as Indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’
Acrylic on birch ply & elm
16” w 27.5”