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‘The Benefactor’, painting the worker honeybee

Painting of bee

he SALA2018 exhibition’s theme of ‘Farm to Market Town’ is a celebration of the rural life in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills region. It’s a celebration of the amazing produce, agriculture, viticulture of the region, and the people who live in the area. The honeybee is synonymous with the agriculture of this region. My decision to create a painting of a honeybee was based on how this amazing creature works not just for it’s own kind, but mankind and all of nature. Where would our world be without these small but important creatures?

Initially I found the theme of ‘Farm to Marketplace’ challenging. My existing artwork was floral in nature. After some thought it occurred to me that flowers are part of the agriculture of the region. A number of stall holders at the Farmer’s market sell cut flowers, plants and seedlings.

The trend of painting farm animals seemed to be reaching saturation so I wanted to create a theme which was different, yet relevant. So many print and interior decoration stores carry prints of farm animals like pigs, sheep, cows, ponies and chooks. I guess they’re popular, but why reinvent the wheel?

The process of creating a honeybee painting ...

I find starting a canvas difficult. I recall seeing a meme along the lines of “art: 90% sitting and staring (at a blank white canvas), 10% doing”. As an emerging artist I’m still finding my way around this initial hurdle. The way I deal with it now is to just pick my colour scheme, or a select few tubes in both warm and cool tones that I like and just put brush to canvas. It’s random and intuitive, but it’s a start. It’s just an under-painting, right?

‘The Benefactor’ came about in exactly this way. I started with a colourful, abstract under-painting which, when I looked at the shapes, was heading into a landscape theme.

I refined it a little more with clouds, however it just wasn’t working for me. The painting was left for a few days so I could think more about the theme. In fact I did lots of thinking about that theme! When I went back to the painting I decided to focus on texture and colour rather than the subject. I was hoping that my new approach would bring on some inspiration.

Layers always give depth so it was a matter of working out what to layer over the top of the existing gaudy background. I had a few stencils on hand, one of which was a honeycomb pattern. Inspiration struck, what about the honey industry! I turned the canvas around 45 degrees and added a layer of the honeycomb pattern with yellows, using the stencil.

I went through my old photos and found some that I’d taken of honeybees a few years ago. The painting was coming together now.

As much as the painting was coming along, I felt that more layers were needed. The honeybee was given more definition and texture over it’s body by using a gel medium. The areas around the wings were given more movement and depth with shading and lightening of areas on the canvas. The colours were made deeper.

There had to be more of a story than just a honeybee in flight, so I had a think about what flowers the local bees would be harvesting pollen from. I decided to add in gum leaves and eucalyptus flowers. With more shading and highlighting, the painting was done.

The finished painting is 20″ x 20″ / 51cm x 51cm, acrylic paint on a deep edge canvas.

'The Benefactor', honeybee painting by Tricia Hood