January 19th, 2015
Recently, I was asked why I painted so many butterflies.
In 2011, I was primarily selling ACEOs (baseball card size art) on eBay. While doing random research, I came across a listing for a real, dead, butterfly pinned up in a frame. I’m not sure why it surprised me, but it did. I went to the eBay store that listed it and saw dozens more. It struck me that people were actually killing butterflies for their beauty, just to be hung like art. With shrinking habitats, they are already endangered. One day, there may not be any left if people were actually buying these, which they apparently are. The thought “bugged me” for days.
I asked myself the question, if I painted butterflies to look like these pin-ups, would people be less likely to buy real ones that had been killed just for wall decor? I began researching to see if there was anything like my idea already out there. The only thing I found was vintage, scientific images that were painted realistically with the names underneath. I searched on Etsy and I didn’t find a single watercolor butterfly, not even one! I knew I was onto something.
I pulled out my paints and painted a Wizard butterfly. When I finished, I listed it on eBay and within one hour, I had three bids. I didn’t get anymore bids by the end of the week, but I was still encouraged. That winning bid was only $30 but that beat my little $10 ACEO sales. So, I painted another one, a blue morpho aega. I was going to list it on eBay, but first, I emailed it to a friend of mine that I thought would like it. She was on vacation in Hawaii but immediately emailed me back saying she wanted it and please consider it sold.
My friend ended up remodeling her kitchen around the butterfly and she asked me to paint two more for her in her colors. Of course, I did. Soon after, she informed me her kitchen remodel would be featured in one of the Better Homes & Gardens® publications, which would be released the following April. After doing a few cartwheels around the house, I knew I needed to paint more butterflies! It was close to the end of the year and my New Year’s resolution became the plan to paint 100 butterflies in 100 days, but I actually ended up painting a few more.
Keeping the pinned up look, I chose to paint my butterflies in a painterly, contemporary, watercolor fashion, rather than the realistic, vintage paintings with the titles underneath. As I painted my way through 100 days, I chose to paint a few imaginary butterflies, but most are actual species. All are around the same size on white backgrounds so the originals or prints will work well in a grouping. My original butterflies sell for $325 each, now, and I repainted the Wizard that I originally sold on eBay because I didn’t have a good scan of it. The second Wizard came out even better.
As with any good idea, my butterflies have been copied like crazy. Try a search on Etsy now and you’ll see how many people have copied me. Whew! Makes my head spin. I even saw a couple bad knock-offs in a national chain store.
I really do hope that my butterfly paintings will allow a better option for decorating our walls than the ones that originally inspired me. I love my paintings and since they’ve been featured multiple times now in BHG publications, they will make any room look like it’s right out of a magazine.