Cicada-Insect Art on Vellum

by Mindy on April 3, 2012

in 52/52 Challenge, Insect Art, Watercolor Tips, Workshops

Painting #13- week 13 of 52/52 Painting Challenge

"Cicada Passage" ©2012 Mindy Lighthipe Watercolor on Vellum

This past weekend I took a painting on vellum class with Karen Kluglein at the Sag Harbor Inn on Long Island. Karen does beautiful botanical watercolors on vellum. Her work is delicate and full of life and form. For those of you who don't know, vellum is animal skin. As I learn more about it I will share with you what I find out.

I knew that this workshop was going to be a challenge for me because this watercolor technique is with a very dry brush. For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I am the wet and splashy kind of watercolorist. I think it is always good for me to to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.  Working contrary to the way I am used to painting puts a jolt into my system and gets the creative juices flowing. I have admired the work of many artists who work on vellum so I thought I would give it a whirl. I must admit that it is labor intensive and requires a slow methodical repetition, but I enjoyed it! 

I always seem to have a hard time staying "pure" within a medium. I quickly strayed from the technique in many ways. I worked on 3 paintings during the 2 days, 2 of them were insects and the other one was a parrot tulip. Here is the cicada painting that I finished. Here is how I strayed from the traditional methods on this one. I started by inking in my subject using a rapidograph pen. It was super easy to get the fine lines of the veins on the wings. I painted mostly in watercolor but did use a dash of white gouache on the eyes, wings and body. The background texture that you see is actually the pigmentation of the animal skin. I believe this was calf skin and I really liked the variation in color. I am used to working on super white watercolor paper so this was a switch for me. All in all I was happy with my first attempt and I think I will keep up with this technique and see what I can come up.

Have you worked on vellum? What has been your experience? I would love to hear all about it!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sketchbook Squirrel April 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

Hi MIndy, your Cicada painting is just lovely, the wings are especially delightful. I would love to have a go at insects, i think they would add a certain something to flower paintings. It was great to hear about your experience with vellum. I have never used it myself, have had it in my hands though, close enough for now!!

geri derby April 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I would love to try painting on vellum one time. Looking forward to reading more about your working on it. I thought the background texture was interesting, not sure if I'd have been able to work with that so well. A very beautiful image :-)

Mindy April 5, 2012 at 8:29 am

Hi Geri! Welcome to my blog. The color of this vellum was a bit tricky to work with. The color comes through and changes the overlapping transparent watercolor. This is one of the reasons I used a bit of white gouache. I was missing highlights. I would not have used it on a flower or delicate subject because the color would had been too strong. I hope you get a chance to work in vellum. It is a bit tricky but worth the effort.

Mindy April 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hi Jarnie,
I agree that insects add another dimension to botanicals. Can’t wait to see you incorporate one in your next painting!

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