Painted Dragonflies, Inspired by 6th Grader Jack M. from Arkansas

I've been painting dragonflies in my sketchbook. Whimsical, colorful dragonflies. 

Immediately before I started painting dragonflies, I was doing prep work for an upcoming trip to Arkansas. I'm very excited to get to see some of the things we were supposed to have seen over winter break. I thought rescheduling the trip would be a lot easier than it's turning out to be. I'd already done all the research before, so it's just a matter of booking exactly the same things, right? Nope. We're traveling for a different number of days. Attraction hours have changed, due to the season and holidays. Hotels I'd booked for winter are full or prohibitively expensive for when we'll be traveling. All this to say, I'm basically having to redo everything.

But plenty of good has come of this. We'll be visiting a few places that were closed over the winter holidays and now will be open. The extended daylight hours and non-freezing temperatures make parks, botanical gardens, pedestrian bridges, and other outdoor attractions much more, well, attractive. And speaking of attractive, I stumbled across the awards ceremony for the 61st Young Arkansas Artists Award Ceremony

One piece stood out to me: Spring Dragonflies, by Jack M. Jack is a 6th grade student of teacher Jamie Freyaldenhoven, somewhere in Arkansas. Or at least, he was. The video was posted 10 months ago, so presumably Jack M. is in 7th grade now. 

Jack got Honorable Mention, but I am awarding him Judge's Favorite. I love Jack's artwork. The colors, the textures, and the sense of motion really draw me in. I dropped everything so that I could make my own version. This is officially the latest project in my "Inspired By" series. As before, my style is nothing like this artist's. I was curious to see how my personal aesthetic would come through using Jack's piece as inspiration. 

I know absolutely nothing about his process, although I do know he used acrylic paint, paint sticks, and a Sharpie. I don't own paint sticks (something to add to my Amazon wishlist?), but I own plenty of acrylic paint and Sharpies. (Well, not plenty. I'm always on the lookout for new colors of both.) Affiliate links here and below. 

I started by painting two pages of my sketchbook sky blue. While that was drying, I cut out a dragonfly template from some scratch cardstock. I could have drawn them freehand, but having the template made it easier to play with orientation and to keep the sizes consistent. 

I traced dragonflies, then painted the wings with random spots of color. I used the same basic colors Jack did (yellow, orange, pink, blue, and purple), but I made no effort to mimic his placement of color. When that was dry, I used a navy colored pencil to scribble onto the wings. This added some of the movement and texture I see in Jack's work. 

Next, I painted the black bodies of the dragonflies and outlined their wings with black paint. In between the dragonflies, I put patches of green. While Jack used a a bright, almost-neon green to do a loose outline, I used a leaf green to paint leaves between the dragonflies. 

My next step was using a green colored pencil to draw veins on the leaves. Then I painted on the dragonflies' antennae. I switched to scanning because it was getting too dark in the craft room to do quick phone photos. 

The last thing I did was to use my new Posca pen to add eyes, highlights, and outlines to the dragonflies, similar to what Jack did. I opted not to add any white to my background like he did. Here's my finished artwork:

And here's Jack's: 

No surprise, mine feels very controlled next to his more whimsical, freer piece. I like control - what can I say. But the inspiration is definitely there and I did use techniques that I wouldn't otherwise have tried. Jack M. from Arkansas, keep making art. I'm a fan. 

One final note: both Washington and Alaska have a dragonfly as their state insect. It's easy to adapt this painting to make either of them. For the Green Darner Dragonfly, leave the wings the color of the background, then scribble in them with a brown pencil. Paint the bodies green, blue, yellow, and garnet, as shown in the photo. For the Four-Spot Skimmer Dragonfly, leave the wings the color of the background, then use a silver pencil to scribble in them. Paint the bodies gold, brown, and black, using the photo as a reference. 

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