In the Studio with… Lucy Arnold

Giving the World Wings


By Lucy Arnold
Golden Gate-Marin County Branch

Butterflies (and moths) appear frequently in my artwork. Their infinite patterns and colors make them ideal art subjects, but they also have symbolic significance. Metamorphosis, rebirth, transmutation of the soul, inner spirit… Perhaps esoteric concepts lay behind my attraction to these winged insects. Whatever the reason, I love depicting such stunning examples of nature’s beauty.

Wings of the World painting

“Wings of the World,” pastel by Lucy Arnold featured on the Summer 2018 cover of The Pen Woman


“Wings of the World” is one of seven pieces in my “Wings” series. Each painting in this series features greatly enlarged, overlapping butterflies. I depict real species, as I can’t imagine life forms more colorful and varied than those right here on Earth.

I usually choose geographic areas as parameters for my choice of species, but for “Wings of the World,” I simply picked my favorites from anywhere. (My very favorite, the Madagascar sunset moth, dominates the upper left of the painting.) To begin, I research online and in books, searching for just the right combination of species. I then create numerous pages of resource images and note the scientific names, which I’ll use when making an ID chart after the painting is completed.

Next come sketches for composition as well as for each butterfly. The trick is placing all the overlapping subjects so that each is distinct, but with no background showing.

Usually only sections of wings are visible rather than entire butterflies, as the title of the series implies. The final sketch is done directly on prepared watercolor paper, although I erase and change it as I go along.

At long last, it’s time for color! With watercolor, I work wet-in-wet in small areas defined by the surrounding dry paper. With pastels, I fill the paper’s grain completely until no white shows at all. In either case, it takes many layers and many weeks to complete the painting.


Tropical Wings painting

“Tropical Wings,” pastel by Lucy Arnold



About the Artist

Lucy Arnold

Besides butterflies, Lucy Arnold’s natural history paintings feature all sorts of flora and fauna. Her award-winning work also includes colorful cosmic abstracts, surreal digital photo montage, and book illustration, and has been exhibited in solo, invitational, and juried shows for over 25 years. Her art has been published as prints, cards, stickers, and book and CD covers, as well as in calendars, textbooks, children’s books, and art instruction books.