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Katy Nelson~ Week 5

This Week’s Workshop:

This week we had a workshop on Monday with Miranda. The theme of the day was ‘Now’ and we were each given a bag of soil to look at and touch as we listened to Echart Tolle talk about ‘The Time is always Now’. What Tolle said was somewhat interesting and I began thinking about my project’s themes- Life, Death and Rebirth- and how I always focus on my fear of death and the future primarily, when I think the present might scare me just as much. After this, I did not eat a piece of crystalized ginger as I don’t like the taste but for the meditation I moved to sit on the floor, where I felt more comfortable to relax and close my eyes. The meditation was peaceful. I usually struggle to clear my mind enough to meditate effectively, but I found it surprisingly calming. The next part of the workshop was really fun. Thinking solely about the physical work that we have created for our projects so far, we ‘brain dumped’ anything and everything related onto till roll. I thought about my butterfly studies, their importance to the progression of my project, Cherry, the painting of her that I made last semester and any other words or sentences that entered my stream of thought. Some of it is repetitive or just doodles, but as a whole it felt relieving to get it all out on paper. I will definitely revisit this roll of thoughts when I come to write my proposal form, as it is a collection of the thoughts and feelings that gave me the idea for my project in the first place.

Planning for my Workshop Proposal:

During this week’s workshop we also began our planning for our workshop proposals in Week 6. I started by considering what mediums people seem to gravitate towards in a group setting, so things like clay, and also how I could create an idea that directly links in with the focuses of my own project as well as benefitting my thoughts in terms of further development and presentation. My current ideas included creating an installation of butterflies hanging from the ceiling, so I decided to work with this for my workshop to see the effect it would create visually and emotionally. My visit to the butterfly house had brought my attention to the wings of butterflies and how, when transparent, they almost look like little windows- maybe windows to ‘the other side’ or the truth of death. I linked this with sun-catchers, as they seem very similar and relevant and decided that my workshop will be titled ‘Butterfly Memorial’, where we will think of a passed loved one and remember them through the beauty of butterflies.


‘Dead Butterfly n.1’, Kevin Scott Miller, 2014,

Oil on canvas, 15.2 x 15.2cm

Kevin Scott Miller was born in 1979 and is an artist from Seattle, Washington. He received his BA in Art Studio from the University of California in 2006 and has also completed four years of classical realism training at Aristides Atelier, Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. Miller creates a variety of styles of painting, from dead insects to surrealist landscapes. He typically works with oil on canvas and each of his studies of insects are simplistic in composition but really intricate and accurate. Having created my own studies of butterflies, it is easy to understand the painstaking attention to detail that is required to recreate the wings in particular, as they are made up of so many different shapes and patterns. I chose to research Miller’s paintings as they seem atypical in the fact that they are studies of dead insects rather than alive ones. I think butterflies are such a significant symbol of positivity that they are usually admired and represented as alive- even taxidermy butterfly pinning is commonly seen as morbid and immoral now. However this artist chose to focus on them after death, simply placing the bodies on a simple plain surface and capturing their stillness and consequently their beauty even in death. I think the paintings are elegant and calming, almost creating the impression of a deep and peaceful sleep, instead of the negative connotations typically derived from anything dead. The utilization of shadow within each composition helps to add to this effect and also create a realistic rendition of the subject. I love how the wings are the main focus of each painting. With the rest of the canvas being neutral tones, the only pop of colour in each comes from the vivid wings of the insects. This is significant in my opinion, as the vibrance of the colours add a sense of life to the scene- one not provided by expression or movement as you would typically see in portraiture. It gives the impression that even in death butterflies retain their sense of aliveness. They’re really beautiful paintings.

Dead Butterfly n.2′, Kevin Scott Miller, 2014

Oil on canvas, 15.2 x 15.2cm

My Butterflies…

This week I wanted to start moving my project forwards more, as the first proposal form is due soon and so I need a general idea of where I would like my project to go in preparation for the takeover. My exploration has led me to be fascinated by butterflies and more specifically the wings. They are all unique and the endless variations of colour, shape, pattern and even transparent sections are beautiful. After purchasing my first two specimens during my visit to the butterfly house, I felt I need more to investigate and admire. After looking online, I found some butterflies for sale on Etsy from ‘Taxidermy Artistry UK’ and ordered 16 to be delivered by post. When they arrived I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were really carefully packaged and I even got an extra one for free. I have since unpacked, identified (as best I could) and placed each one in an airtight container for safekeeping. As can be seen from the photos, some of them are missing legs and/or antenna and a lot of them were a little crushed from having been transported in the mail, but I plan to buy the necessary equipment to rehydrate them over the Easter break, so that I can maneuver their wings into more natural, less compacted positions to hopefully be able to see the interior wing markings.

My project ideas/plans:

My experimentation progress has slowed down recently as I have been sick with a bug of some sort, which has left me feeling very lethargic and unproductive. With it being reading week next week I plan to: make some studies of my own taxidermy butterflies both in pencil and paint (to relate to the work of my artist from this week, Kevin Scott Miller), investigate wing patterns in more detail as the uniqueness of each set of wings creates a sense of individuality, further design and begin to paint my last painting of Cherry, which will be thought-provoking I’m sure. I also need to complete my first proposal form for the takeover which will require some more forward-thinking about how I can collate all of my research and experimentation into a single exhibition-worthy piece.

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