Behind the Idea: Bugs and Birthstones

A few summers ago I undertook one of my most challenging and most enjoyable projects to date. Most of you have probably seen my Bugs and Birthstones work, and today I wanted to share a bit about how I came up with and developed the idea. 

August’s birthstone, a peridot, paired with a green shield bug. Finding bugs to pair with each of the gemstones was quite a challenge! Reference photos by AomaiCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons and Norbert NagelCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It started with Guelph Bug Day, a local event that I have participated in for the last three years (pre pandemic, of course). Each summer I start planning for the next bug day, coming up with new pieces to display at the event. One year I was pondering what bugs to draw, and started to think about doing a butterfly series in which each butterfly was perched on a matching colourful flower. 

I turned this over in my head for a while, and then thought about matching the butterflies with some kind of stone, because I really like rocks. From there my mind went to gemstones, and then the rest kind of fell into place. I had the idea of birthstones, and thought it would be far more exciting if I had all kinds of insects instead of just butterflies. 

The Bugs and Birthstones poster, in all its glory

So I had the idea, but the next part was a bit tricky: finding bugs for all twelve birthstones. I wanted to vary the types of bugs as much as possible (ie not all butterflies or dragonflies), as well as have each bug match the birthstone as closely as possible. Some of them were easy, but others took quite a bit of digging before I found an insect that fit (opal in particular was a challenge). One reason for this is that I love showcasing unusual or under-appreciated species in my art — insects in particular are often overlooked and incredible beauty can be found in the tiniest of creatures. 

The next difficult part was finding appropriate reference photos for both the gems and the insects. They needed to be of sufficient quality that I could get details, have relatively similar lighting, and be creative commons or copyright free. Needless to say, I spent quite a bit of time sifting through the bowels of the internet to find pictures to draw from. 

I started my first drawing in late April, as it was intended to be a birthday present for my Mom, who has an early May birthday. I finished the final piece at the end of July, so it was about a four month project, which isn’t too bad for twelve separate drawings!

Do you have a favourite Bugs and Birthstone drawing? I find my change, but I love December, September, and August.

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