Embracing Bombus Affinis

I have decided to make a large monotype of the first bee in the US to be listed on the endangered species list. I was looking online for a photo that would accurately depict the Bombus Affinis. Searching, I came across the USGS site. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a science bureau within the US Department of the Interior. The USGS provides science about the natural hazards that threaten lives and livelihoods; the water, energy, minerals, and other natural resources we rely on; the health of our ecosystems and environment; and the impacts of climate and land-use change. It is a great resource. They have developed a Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program. Part of the program is to develop identification tools for native bee species. Taking and collecting accurate and detailed photos of the native bees. The over 4,000 images are freely available for the public to use. Looking at these up close detailed photos I was amazed to see how beautiful these tiny beings are. Their beauty rivals that of any creature on the planet. I looked at bees for an hour, in awe at their stunning uniqueness. The opportunity to work from such close up photos is exciting. It will also be challenging, I normally work from bad photos. I like poor quality photos because I don’t want to get bogged down by the details. My work is about the physical or emotional energy. These photos are works of art already. I have in my head what I want my abstraction to look like. I am just not exactly sure I know how I am going to achieve it. Step one is to experiment with my process and technique and develop a mark making that captures the elegance, majesty and energy of these tiny busy beasts.

Below are the first four days of experimenting. It has been a struggle to loosen up and not get bogged down by the details. The last one I like the most, I was just making marks and not worrying about if it resembled Bombus Affinis. That works best for me.

Bombus Affinis I  30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Bombus Affinis I

30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Day 1-

When working in color, the ink looks much darker and muted on the plate than when printed on paper. My first impression of Bombus Affinis I was that the paint was too heavy, too bright just  too much all the way around. The ghost was too light. I want my Bombus to express the lightness, fragility and majesty  of the bee. 

Wing detail from Bombus Affinis I

Wing detail from Bombus Affinis I

Bombus Affinis I ghost  30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Bombus Affinis I ghost

30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Day 2-

I like the big black brush strokes, the antennae, but I do not like that both wings have the same weight. I want the back wing to be in more motion and fainter. When I look back at the work from day one, I am feeling better about parts of it. I like the wings and the last sections of his abdomen. Below are some close up shots of the parts I like of both days’ experiments.

Bombus Affinis II 30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Bombus Affinis II 30” X 44” watercolor monotype

Day 2 antenna

Day 2 antenna

Day 3 - layering the different processes. I am closer to what I want but I am not there yet.

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Bombus Affinis III

Bombus Affinis III

A favorite moment in Bomus Affinis III  a tail, leg and two wings

A favorite moment in Bomus Affinis III

a tail, leg and two wings

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Bombus Affinis III ghost

Bombus Affinis III ghost

Bombus Affinis IV

Bombus Affinis IV

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Bombus Affinis V

Bombus Affinis V

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Day 4

Below are some moments I especially like. Today anyway.

Finally I am loosening up. I want an image of the bee’s energy - I want the life, movement and energy of a fuzzy pollinator even if he is endangered. I do not want a drawing of a bee.

Top of Head and thorax

Top of Head and thorax

Mauvish/brown/black bee eye and thorax

Mauvish/brown/black bee eye and thorax

The fuzzy tail and two delicate wings

The fuzzy tail and two delicate wings

My work space

My work space

Leftover ink in the trey- Inspiration for a bee wing.

Leftover ink in the trey- Inspiration for a bee wing.

Hurricane Harvey - sculpture day 4 “bringing home the bacon”

Connecting the legs and reinforcing them.  

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Building the hips and connecting the legs

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Side view  

View from back

View from back

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I create triangles to give the piece stability and strength.

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Left side view with triangles 

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View from the back

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view of the right side

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Using scraps to create triangles to strengthen the ankles.  

Looking back, I can now see the hips are not right and are exaggerating the movement. I will have the movement exaggerated when the piece is finished, but for the armature, I will have to tone it down.