Attacus Atlas and rambutan tree step by step

For the last illustration for the exhibition during the Museums at Night 2016 event I chose the Giant Atlas Moth in the various stages of development. At first I wanted to paint an orchid which I have in my room but I started to read about the Giant Atlas Moth and I found out that it lives in the Malay Archipelago. I was surprised because it evoked my memories from my two trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Then I read that this species feed on a variety of plants including Rambutan Tree. I realized that when I was in Malaysia I took many photos of the leaves of this tree as well as the fruits. I thought it would be a great idea to show the Moth with the Rambutan.

Composition

Here’s my sketch. I placed the eggs on the leaves. Newly hatched caterpillar is at the same twig where the eggs are. Older caterpillar is crawling on the twig. I also sketched one more leaf below and placed the pupa there. The adult moth is in the bottom left corner. The whole painting will be in contrasting colors: reds, browns and greens.

Do you know why they are called rambutans? The word “rambut” in Indonesian and Malaysian languages means… hair. Here is one of the photos I took in Kuala Lumpur:

Rambutan fruit

I started with one opened rambutan. At the beginning I painted each section at a time as I normally do but I realized that it would take me ages to finish it and I kept in mind my deadline.

I decided to paint the whole fruit in a different way. I applied yellow ends on the hairs. Rambutans start out green, then turn red, orange, or yellow as they ripen. The hair-like “spines” are green when the rambutan is fresh picked, but later they turn yellow and then black.

I applied red on the skin. I used Winsor Red PR254 which I found the most suitable here. It’s a very strong red. ​

For the shadows of this red I used a mix of the same red with Winsor Green (Blue Shade) PG7 or in some parts Winsor Red Deep PR264.

I painted the second rambutan exactly the same way. I started with applying the colors on the ends of the spines. Here I used more green.

Then I was gradually adding reds on the skin.

This painting so far has taken me about 15 hours including the sketch. ​

Caterpillar

The next step was the fascinating caterpillar of the Attacus atlas in the fourth stage of development. I have seen lots of photos and videos showing the life cycle of this moth and I must honestly admit that they are amazing. One of my favorite videos is the one made by Mr. Adam Grochowalski.

The caterpillar is covered with a white powder. First I painted the whole body, then I added whites with white tempera.

Eggs and leaves

I placed the eggs on the leaves and covered them with masking fluid. This way I was able to paint the leaves freely, not afraid of the oval shapes of the eggs. The masking fluid laid on the paper for three days. I took it off the eggs and painted them with a mix of Winsor Red Deep + Permanent Rose + some browns mostly for the main light parts and for the darker spots in the middle I used Perylene Maroon with Quinacridone Magenta and some brown + some Transparent Orange and very dark mix of French Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna + a bit of Quinacridone Purple in the centre.

Basically, I’m using three greens here:
1) Permanent Sap Green (PG36, PY110, Winsor&Newton)
2) a mix of Permanent Sap Green and Quinacridone Gold (PO49, Daniel Smith)
3) a mix of those from point 2 + French Ultramarine PB29 to make it darker.

My three favorite basic greens are Winsor Green Blue Shade PG7 and Yellow Shade PG36 and Permanent Sap Green PG36 / PY110. I use them as a starting point for mixing other greens. Sometimes I add French Ultramarine PB29 to darken the color. I also love Quinacridone Gold PO49, because it is very versatile and creates beautiful greens with blues.

Here is a little tip. I don’t have a brush holder and usually I lay my brush on a tissue but I noticed that the bristles sometimes deform. I took a little cardboard box in which I kept my business cards and cut out triange shapes on both sides. Now my brushes are laying still and the bristles are straight. ​

I also removed the masking fluid from the eggs and painted them using a mixture of Winsor Red Deep PR264 + Permanent Rose PV19 + some browns for the lightest parts, and for dark spots in the middle I used Perylene Maroon PR179 with Quinacridone Magenta PR122 and browns + a bit of Translucent Orange PO71 and dark mixture of French Ultramarine PB29 + Burnt Sienna PR101 + a touch of Quinacridone Purple PV55 in the middle.

There is also this little guy at the bottom. I painted this leaf because I wanted to add the chrysalis of the Atlas moth somewhere and this idea seemed to be a good one.

Imago

Attacus Atlas is the largest moth in the world. I could not wait to paint it, because it is simply extraordinary. The ornaments on the wings are like a huge puzzle.

I found a lot of very interesting information about this moth. Let me write about some of them:

1. This is the largest moth in the world in terms of wings surface. The can reach 400 cm² with a span of 25-30 cm
2. The word “atlas” contains many meanings referring to patterned wings, giant wings (reference to Atlas – the Titan holding up the sky for eternity) and to the tips of the wings which look like a snake’s head. The latter results from the observation of Chinese people who call this moth “a moth with a snake’s head”.
3. After leaving the chrysalis, the moth lives very shortly (a few days, a maximum of two weeks). They do not have mouths, so they can not eat. The only food is stored during the larval stage of their lives.

I liked the Chinese observations very much. I have not noticed it before, but the tips of the upper wings really look like the snakes’ heads.

Here are a few close-ups. To paint the moth I used a lot of Perylene Maroon PR179 and all four browns from my palette: Gold Ochre PY42, Burnt Sienna 101, Raw Umber PBr7, Burnt Umber PBr7. I made small spots with white tempera.

The final result:

Five of my illustrations will now go to Gdansk. They will be exhibited during the Museums at Night 2016 event at the Library of Polish Academy of Science.

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By |2018-02-16T04:40:24+00:0011 May 2016|Tips, Work in Progress|