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Moths and Moonshine

Updated: May 24, 2022

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter will know that I am rather partial to moths. The hot, still summer days of the past few weeks has meant there has been an abundance of moths in my garden and each day I have been drawing my new discoveries. You can see the results on my sketchbook pages on my website.

I am delighted that this article has appeared in the Summer edition of The Suffolk Argus, the magazine of the Butterfly Conservation Charity.

“Moths and moonshine mean to me

Magic – madness – mystery” – James Reeves

I am now rather ashamed to say that, although this poem was a favourite as a child, until quite recently moths were those brown, flappy creatures that darted unnervingly at your bedside lamp at night. And then one moth changed all that.

Outside my front door one morning was the White Ermine Moth. I look at it entranced. Its soft fur cowl and speckled wings were not what I associated with those dark, erratic creatures of old. I drew it, took photographs and then made my first moth painting. And so began my obsession.

I quickly set up a rudimentary moth trap and each morning was like Christmas, lifting the egg boxes to discover what treasure lay inside. I studied guides and became entranced by their poetic names: Scalloped Oak, Brimstone and Hebrew Character. I began recording them and making drawings while they were still sleepy, and each season bought new beauties. The December Moth was a particular joy, with its dark amethyst and chocolate wings and coppery fringing. I managed to take it into my cold studio where it sat obligingly to have its portrait painted.

I also began to make dry point etchings. This was the perfect medium to capture the delicate tracery of their markings. The process involves using a Perspex plate that is placed over your drawings. A fine needle engraver then scratches into the surface of the Perspex and it is then carefully covered in ink. Excess ink is then wiped away and the scratched burrs hold the ink in the raised reservoirs. This is then printed by placing it next to a damp piece of soft paper and is rolled through a printing press where the ink is then released into the paper. The fragile nature of the Perspex means that only a few of each drawing can be made. My work is not intended as scientific drawings, but instead I like to try to capture their beauty and the features that fire my imagination.

As the summer brings more delights, and the expectation of new and yet unseen creatures, I shall continue to draw and paint these magical moths.

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