Detailed Observations of natural objects #2- “The Hornet Chronicles- Studies in Monochrome”

As part of the detailed observations of natural objects, I decided that I wanted to examine dead animals. Of these I found that the ones I was drawn to were mackerel and other sea life, and hornets.

In this blog post I will be writing about The Hornet Chronicles- studies in monochrome.

My aunt found a Hornet on the patio one morning and immediately knew that this was something that would interest me enormously!

I immediately wanted to draw this beautiful, dead creature. I have no desire to be around living hornets, but dead, though a little freaky, I felt that it took on a delicate yet somewhat sinister beauty. I must admit that handling the creature- even though dead- was somewhat scary! I had an irrational fear that it would somehow spring to life and get me on the finger or worse, face! but obviously it didn’t….

My initial study of it was in regular hornet colours. which is here:

Yellow Hornet
Yellow hornet, Colouring pencils on brown paper

I was really pleased with this although it was very tricky to draw, they seem huge when they are flying round my head threatening to kill me, but when I came to draw him, all of a sudden the detail seemed minute and intricate. I purchased a magnifying glass. This helped.

This drawing really, really piqued my interest. There was something morbid, curious and beautiful about this creature. They are so scary when they are alive, they are ruthless and horrifying. Dead though, it was amazing to see that the whole creature is covered in hairs, tiny little fine hairs, and the markings are terrifyingly beautiful.

Moving on from this I started to draw the hornet in blues. I drew him first just in solitude as a hornet on a page:

playing with colour, blue hornet
blue hornet: Monochrome studies

I mixed the media that I used with pencil, colouring pencil and biro and think that this is a very successful study, I am really happy with it. Again, I really enjoyed drawing this. I am realising that my loves for drawing are largely organic items, animals, faces, the human form, living and dead creatures, wood, leaves, life.

I decided to draw the hornet in a matchbox to give it some context and intimacy, given the title of the module. This is here:

blue hornet in a matchbox
blue hornet in a matchbox

I drew the hornet literally just nestled in the corner of the box. I just wanted to ground it rather than have it suspended in space. As it happens I was not as happy with this depiction of the hornet, it just wasn’t as successful as the first blue hornet.

I decided to explore the idea of having another object or subject in the drawing and as I had struggled so much with holding the dead hornet, I decided to draw myself holding it. Holding the hornet, though it was dead, was actually really scary. Like I said, I was somehow afraid that it would spring to life and sting me, even though this was irrational. I wanted, therefore, to portray me holding the hornet in the most uncomfortable way possible. There was a real push pull to the way that I was having to hold the creature. I needed to have it close enough to be able to see the detail on the hand and the hornet, but my instinct was to hold it as far away form me as possible. So I had to contort my hand in a very weird and uncomfortable way to make both of these things possible.

This actually works really well as it happens, I think, because it allows the whole picture to LOOK as uncomfortable as it felt. The push pull I think comes from the pulling the hornet close to me, then pushing it further away in the same movement. The picture really shows this weird relationship.

hand holding hornet study
hand holding hornet study in blues

I was really happy with the way that this turned out. It is really effective. I think that the detail and the tone on the hand is really well portrayed.

Having now established that I wanted to put both my hand and the hornet together, I needed to place it in some kind of background.

I wanted to have a wash or some kind of ethereal looking background that would contrast with the jarring image of the contorted hand and the dead beast, somehow making the conflict even more obvious, the background I wanted to be serene and calm, whilst the blue hand is stiff and contorted and the beast, though dead was once dangerous. I set about trying out different colour combinations for backgrounds using an ink wash. To add to the ethereal nature of the ink wash I splattered tiny dots of masking fluid onto the paper before putting the wash on it, so that it looked almost other worldly.

potential backgrounds for hand hornet
potential backgrounds for hand hornet

Out of these colour combinations I decided that the ones that worked best were the yellow/blue/green combination. I felt that the red and yellow was too much like a warning which wasn’t offering enough of a conflict. The purple and blue and black were too dark and brooding and the pinks and blues looked too pretty.  The green and yellow and blue seems very serene and that would really conflict with the contorted hand and scary hornet. I wanted it to be a drawing of conflict and each part of the drawing to make all the other parts increasingly less likely and comfortable.

So I went for the green, blue and yellow.

I did a small piece of paper with a wash and the masking fluid. Once the ink wash was dry, I peeled off the making fluid and then drew the hornet over the top of the wash. This was the mock up of what I hoped would be an effective piece.

hand hornet mock up on background
hand hornet mock up on background

Next I wanted to do the drawing of the hornet on the background in more detail. I was happy with the way that that the mock up came out and felt confident that it would work on a bigger scale and  started out confidently.

One thing I did decide to change was instead of using the masking fluid, I found that when I was trying to peel it off, it was lifting off layers of paper as well as just the dry fluid. Instead I decided to flick tiny spots of white ink which was not as effective but worked out ok.

As it happened, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. I found it really difficult to achieve the same kind of wash as I had in the mock up, it came out rather a lot darker than I wanted and though the hand and hornet were obviously more clear and the colours more pigmented, as I had intended, making them more striking and stand out better, the overall effect was not as pleasing.

hand hornet idea for final piece maybe
hand hornet idea for final piece maybe?

I think that the idea is good and I think that it would benefit from further development and thought. I would really like to use the hornet as I LOVED drawing it, it would be a shame to leave it behind completely and I am hoping that there will be an opportunity to ise it again. But I am not entirely happy with the finished article and think that it is definitely still a work in progress.