Thistledown Studio : Nan Wilson : Rochester, NY

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Although I live in upstate New York, I became a member of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. This is the finest group of citizen scientists (and comedians) I've yet to come across.

Recently they took the lead in establishing a state butterfly. Working with the Girl Scouts, they led the process in which a bill is being sent to the Mass legislature nominating the Black Swallowtail. A facebook page, The Massachusetts State Butterfly documents the process.

I couldn't resist horning in. So here is my latest butterfly lifecycle painting:

ARCHIVE

My interest in butterflies is leading me far afield. I decided if they migrate I might as well do the same. For years I've been following them to one of their main gathering places in the Rio Grande Valley. A number of our butterflies end up there, as do many strays from the tropics of Mexico. It is a great playground for nature lovers and critters. and I fit right in with both. This valley inspires much of my new work.

I have done many shows while in Texas including the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival In Harlingen and the Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission. For Mission, I designed their Tenth Anniversary Festival T-shirt (right) around the ten favorite butterflies of the Rio Grande Valley.

 

 

As a place to stay in "the Valley", for both Butterfliers and Birders, you can' beat the Alamo Inn, in Alamo, Texas. Innkeeper Keith Hackland has tuned everything to the needs of nature people. Keith is a knowlegeable naturalist himself, a writer about travel and nature, and a member of the board of the Valley Nature Center. Each of the Inn's spacious rooms has a colorful theme. A fully stocked fridge holds breakfast food, snacks and drinks for each day's outing. The kitchen is a cordial spot for meeting other guests from around the world.

 

I've recruited a network of accomplices who make possible the tricky business of tracking down all the stages and host plants of each of the butterfly life cycle I paint. While most people chase the flashy adult butterflies, Ronda Spink (right) shows inconceivable perserverence—literally turning over every leaf and enduring the most brutal sun and heat to find the tiniest butterfly eggs and caterpillars. Rhonda joined me in leading a Caterpillar workshop at the Texas Butterfy Festival.

Some of my most recent works are from Costa Rica where I visited with a remarkable group from the Dragonfly Society of the Americas. Seeing some of the county's most beautiful areas, slogging through its swamps and rainforests, and living in the most primitve of reseach stations, these people established true friendships and displayed true grit. For more on this remarkable organization visit its website at odonatacentral.org.

I recently gave a presentation to the Master Gardeners group of Schenectady, NY:      "Where the Wild Things Are -- In Your Garden".

While we covered lots of topics, the main thrust was to increase their awareness that many "worms" (caterpillars) and "weeds" (host plants)  were desirable if you want gorgeous butterflies to populate your garden.

I do believe the group changed their gardening habits as a conequence of my talk!

 

Raising butterflies is as fascinating as painting them. Here is a Tiger Swallowtail, dining on his egg just after emerging. There's more where that came from so you might want to check out The Making of a Life Cycle.

 


PS Some years ago couple of new "critters" crept into my life!

They sometimes put a crimp in my art plans, but what can you say?





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