Nature, Graphite, and Caterpillars

graphite powder, matte medium on w/c paper, 10 x 11″

Nature speaks through us quite naturally when we allow it.  Like this finger drawing done with nothing “in mind” on a day when I’d left my heart outside in the soil and greenery.  The process was to paint matte medium on the paper, and while it was still wet, to sprinkle a tiny bit of graphite powder on.  I spritsed it with water to get some grainy rivulets moving, then got my fingers into the action.  About 4 minutes of play.  Is it a beginning or is it finished?  I could keep going with acrylic glazes, some dry media like pastels, or just enjoy the plant that has magically appeared.  Is it one of the weeds I’ve been removing from my garden, or perhaps a foxglove about to start sending colorful spires aloft?

If you want to try some dry media explorations, I recommend taking a look at Robert Burridge’s new series “Impure Thoughts”.  He’s another one who never stops experimenting and always so playfully that you can’t help wanting to join him.

Those of you in Saturday and Sunday Muse Groups will be doing a lesson this summer using graphite powder this way!

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars in my studio garden.

How many caterpillars can you see here? I enjoy watching them munch and munch while the adult butterflies waft on gentle breezes.  Pretty soon there will be no more heart shaped leaves, only big polka dotted creatures looking for a safe place for their next phase of chrysalid-ing.  It’s a constant wonder to me that these opulent creatures take on the form of a dry brown package half their caterpillar size.  So I go through my day feeling a bit distracted, wishing I could slow the season down somehow, make it last.

Wishing all of you moms a Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!



  1. I see the caterpillar in both images! Fun to see them in person, too. They are oddly inspiring. I know that metaphorically they are butterflies-to-be, but they have their own charm just at the stage they are: spotty and hairy. Well, that’s probably a metaphor too. I like the delicate quality of the graphite– silvery and powdery.


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