The Eighteen-hour Butterfly

I never took art in high school. In grades 9 through 13 it was an elective, and I didn’t think it worthwhile since my marks in grades seven and eight had been so poor. The following account, fleshed out from my time sheet, will suggest why.

On December 5th, I practised a watercolour technique using felt-tip pens. Mark only the outline of a given space — a petal, say — with the pen, and then use a fine paintbrush and a little water to spread the ink throughout the space. Nifty, n’est-ce pas? I also used the brush and water to blend three different green markers for three-dimensional effect.

Then I got greedy. How about more markers, for more shading fun? 

Unfortunately, Michael’s was having a sale on themed ten-packs of the kind of pen I was interested in, congealing my lust and soldering it to my determination. What colours were in each package? How could I purchase the maximum number of colours with the fewest duplications? Why is this website so bleepin’ slow? Three hours’ research scuppered December 6th’s time allotment.

Of course it turned out next morning that the store offered different packaging options than did its website. Only half an hour later, though, I was staggering triumphantly to the car, bearing five packages totaling 48 new colours. That evening I passed three febrile hours testing the reds, oranges, and yellows in a colouring book.

Three hours, and barely into the greens.

On December 8, I scattered the new pens across my desk in rainbow order, plus pinks, greys, and browns, and made a swatch sheet in my drawing book. Two and-a-half hours.

On December 9, I redid the swatch exercise onto stiffer, smoother paper, only this time tripling my work by adding in the markers I already owned, and doubling it again by organizing one swatch sheet by brand name, and a second sheet by colour groupings. Six hours to make 268 little squares. 

Thank heavens I’m not into makeup.

Yesterday, December 10, I went to Catapult Café (yes!) with my swatch sheets (no!) and my butterfly photo book. Over a 50-minute mochaccino, I squinted at the photo of a brown and yellow butterfly, sussing out eleven different hues or shades of swatch. Once home again, I traced and coloured the little beast. The day’s total: three hours, twenty minutes.

So, a mere eighteen hours and twenty minutes over five days produced a rough-copy, 3-inch by 2-inch butterfly. You can imagine the number of finished products I produced in those mandatory 7th- and 8th-grade art classes.

Maybe today I’ll practise music.

2 thoughts on “The Eighteen-hour Butterfly

  1. The finished butterfly looks lovely, but, oh my!! I wouldn’t have the patience. Would love to look inside your brain and see how it works, because mine doesn’t work that way for sure! Throw the paint on and tell myself how great it looks (and don’t show it to anyone else!)


    1. That’s so kind of you, Moira, to wonder how my brain works, and not simply whether it does. 😀 The meticulous lobe of my brain would be a godsend if ever I could get it and the must-do-housework-NOW lobe to collaborate.


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