Red Admiral Butterfly Watercolor

Red Admiral Butterfly on a Leaf, watercolor painting by Leora Wenger
Red Admiral Butterfly on a Leaf, watercolor painting by Leora Wenger, 2014

Last year I went in search of birds and I found red admiral butterflies. This year I’ve photographed plenty of birds as I’ve been good about filling the bird feeder, but it has been sparse on butterflies. One of the advantages of art is you can re-create what you like in a watercolor.

This watercolor is inspired by an exercise in the book One Watercolor a Day by Veronica Lawlor in which you are supposed to paint a design, such as a butterfly, using masking fluid. After drawing your design in pencil on watercolor paper, you paint the masking fluid on the white paper first, then let it draw. Once it is draw (takes about fifteen minutes), you can paint on top of it and around it. When your paint dries, you can then carefully peel off the masking fluid (I used an eraser). You will now see the bright white of the paper. That’s the best way to get white in a watercolor painting: let the paper show through. I used masking fluid where you see veins of the leaves, white dots on the butterfly, and also for the orange areas. I painted in the orange after I peeled off the masking fluid.

I may try this exercise again with a different sort of design. Maybe I’ll look one up in a book – a castle might kind of interesting for example, or a dragon. Someone did a simple paintbrush with a variety of colors and got beautiful results. I originally thought of painting a bird, but it didn’t seem to lend itself well to a masking fluid project. I want something with different parts and pieces that can be separated with the white lines I create with the masking fluid.

Thank you to Michelle of Rambling Woods who helped me identify those red admiral butterflies last May. If you want to see what else I’ve been inspired to paint from nature, here is a red cardinal watercolor painting.

On a completely different note than a red admiral butterfly watercolor painting, here is a photograph of my daughter and my husband at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (I’m posting this so she can use it for a project in school, where the teacher said they can only use photos from Google Images (?!x!?)):
evil paro
My favorite part of the Metropolitan Museum is the American Wing. If you have been there, what is your favorite part? Do you have a favorite in another art museum?

18 thoughts on “Red Admiral Butterfly Watercolor

  • What a beautiful water color! I really enjoyed reading the process, and might try it myself with still life stick figures. LOL

  • I love the expressions on your daughter and husband… I haven’t been to the museum in so long, but I loved my visits. What an interesting technique. I hope to see many butterflies this year…

  • I love how you explained the process of painting that butterfly. Watercolor take skill and patients. Judging from the end product, I would say you have both my friend. Oh, and I love the picture of your husband and daughter. That is a really cute picture.

  • Lovely painting of the Admiral Butterfly! Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to visit the Metropolitan Museum and hopefully this will be soon rather than later.

  • I love that painting Leora, it’s spectacular. I find watercolors so difficult to work with, but their effect can be so moving. They are as great at evoking emotions as oils, but in such a completely different way.

    What is going on with teachers and weird technology requests? My daughter’s art teacher at school recently insisted that she create a Picasso-ish picture by using an online program instead of allowing her to do her own rendition. I might have understood if the online program was even remotely interesting. :)

    • I don’t know what to say about that particular teacher, but my daughter shares frustration with your daughter on a teacher who thinks she is letting kids be creative when in reality the kids feel boxed in.

      I’m very in watercolors right now … I find them relaxing. I don’t even know why! Partly it’s because I love participating in the online group for One Watercolor a Day. They say you should play tennis with a partner better than you … and that group has a lot of great players.

  • A beautiful watercolour, Leora – and it reminded me how sad it is we see so few butterflies these days – they’re becoming a real rarity.

    That teacher’s barmy!

  • Very nice painting, but I loved the cardinal more (I guess I can see it’s eyes and thus it’s personality and that’s what attracting me to it). I also do painting and I know how difficult water color can be — honestly more difficult to me than oil painting.

    Yes, I have been to that museum many times as I live very close to NYC. I think the whole museum made me awe-struck and thus don’t know which part is particularly favorite :-).

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