black-eyed susan & monarch butterfly #10

Monarch butterfly watercolor painting


Every now and then, I get email from someone who has stumbled on the 100 monarchs page. I feel guilty for not having accomplished my original vision. (In 2015, I had a grand idea that I would paint/draw monarch butterflies and somehow raise money for the MS Society and a nonprofit that encouraged monarch habitat. I underestimated the complexity of the task.) I forgive myself for betraying the original vision, make 100 monarch images a lifetime goal, and paint/draw a butterfly. The project, when it comes to mind, has the drag on energy that most unfinished business does. In a month when I am considering rekindling, it seemed that some gentle re-visioning and reclamation of this project would be therapeutic.

When I looked for reference photos, I found a monarch and a black-eyed Susan. I have fond memories from childhood of walking down country lanes with black-eyed Susan’s growing riotously alongside them.


I got confused while drawing. I didn’t consider the relationship between the butterfly and the flower. I drew the butterfly first and then started drawing the flower too far away from it. Once I have marks on paper, I can’t erase them, so the flower got a bit distorted by the end. I thought that might be a problem, but flowers are forgiving.

I painted the background green first, trying to keep it very light (lesson from last month’s efforts). Inspired by watching painting videos, I tried to paint the flower one petal at a time using yellow and orange, reaching for dimensionality. I painted the flower head in yellow, tan, and brown. I used a dark purple for the black of the monarch. (My high school painting teacher, Z, told us never to use true black in a watercolor painting. I remain loyal to his advice.) Painting the dark parts of the butterfly was challenging because of my head tremor.

Finally, I added some dusky purple around the flower petals and head to give them volume and help them stand out from the background.

After scanning the painting, I adjusted the levels in Photoshop to make the painting a bit brighter for electronic use.


  • I grieve for the earth, for the loss of the green spaces I love and the critters who share the planet with us. In our shortsightedness and greed, we have damaged and destroyed them (and we keep on). I heard a radio report about the California Condor. There were 12 when we started to try to recover the species and now they reckon there are 300. We can make reparations if we have determination and dedicate resources to it.
  • Working on the monarch project is an exercise in self-forgiveness and tenacity. I will continue continuing, gently and playfully.
  • Painting is getting more tiring. What about working smaller? I wonder if I could find a way to work with the iPad again.
  • I had a good time with this project and am generally pleased with it.

Posted on

July 24, 2019


  1. Lee

    Another beautiful painting! The vibrant colors and shadows of the flower and flower head draw me in, and the details of the butterfly’s wings feel organic. Thank you, too, for what you’ve shared here about environmentalism, self-forgiveness, and tenacity.

    • Kate

      Thank you, Lee. Your encouragement strengthens my tenacity!


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