Learning About Bumblebees

They call them “studies” -the preliminary drawings before executing a painting – and for good reason.


My ignorance of the anatomy of a bumblebee became obvious as soon as I tried to think how to compensate for fuzzy focus in the reference photos. Of course I knew that as insects, they had 6 legs, a thorax, abdomen, and compound eyes. But what does the face look like? And what species, exactly, was I painting? It matters to know. Otherwise I could omit details that would be glaring mistakes to anyone who really knows bees. My bees are Bombus vagans, the half-black bumblebee.

Three surprises along the way were: Bees are so hairy! And their faces are so weird. They look alien, or perhaps mechanical, with plates and mouthparts every which way. And finally, they have cheeks (the dark “malar” spaces under each compound eye).

Having done my studies, I was prepared to block in the bees and flower. That took up most of an afternoon. This might be my most ambitious painting so far. It’s going to be a lot of fun intellectually to complete.


Next step will be adding details – a lot of details for three complex animals and a complicated flower. I’m excited – it’s going to be so challenging to get this one right!

Interested in seeing the beginning of the painting? Please visit the earlier posts for the beginning stages.

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