Wild Nectar: Paintings of Flora and Pollinators
by Erin Hunter
January 7 – April 30, 2022
Beautiful, intricate, and enlightening, Erin Hunter’s paintings are the perfect way to start a new year and restore the library’s art exhibit program. After a long pause due to the pandemic we are thrilled to welcome Erin Hunter and present her new art exhibition, Wild Nectar: Paintings of Flora and Pollinators.
Close observation, deep interest, desire to know more: these are threads connecting my child self and my adult self. These threads run through my work as a science illustrator, and as a painter and amateur naturalist—the artist and the naturalist both pay keen attention to the world around them and want to share what they find with others.
In my case, this close attention has distilled into a deep interest in plant-pollinator interactions, and my artwork reflects this. I paint portraits of flowering plants and their floral visitors, primarily pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. We often see portraits of wildflowers, but we don’t often see the fauna that do the work of helping these plants reproduce. As a born-and-bred Californian, I’m particularly interested in our state’s vast array of wildflowers and the pollinators who visit them. As I’ve learned more about those pollinators, I’ve felt compelled to draw and paint them as a way of showing others what I see. Most people can recognize hummingbirds and at least a couple of pollinating insects—swallowtail and monarch butterflies, maybe, or honeybees and bumblebees—but California is home to a staggering 1,600 species of native bees, over 100 species of butterflies, and scads of other pollinating insects like flower flies and hawkmoths.
The goal of this show is to introduce people to some of the beautiful flowers, insects, and pollinating birds that are all around us (plus some that come from further afield). Artwork that depicts the real organisms that inhabit our world can remind us to look up from devices and take a closer look around. My hope is that my art will inspire viewers to observe their own world and develop a deeper connection with nature.
About Erin E. Hunter
Erin E. Hunter is a painter and science illustrator based in the Monterey Bay area. Apart from a few years in New York and an internship in Washington, D.C., she’s always been based in California—from as far north as Chico to as far south as Escondido. Not surprisingly, the Golden State landscapes that Erin calls home now influence her work as an artist: the arid foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains; the sunny suburbs of the East Bay; the pine forests and oak woodlands of Monterey County. As a kid, Erin carried around a Reader’s Digest Guide to North American Wildlife. She tried to identify the plants and animals she saw, while also drawing all the time, everywhere, on everything. As an adult, she combined these two urges into a career as a science illustrator. Erin’s passion for nature has distilled into a deep interest in plant-pollinator interactions, and her artwork reflects this. She paints portraits of flowering plants and their floral visitors, primarily pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
Erin’s paintings of wildflowers and floral visitors begin with extensive research into plant-pollinator relationships and ecosystems. She reads books, emails scientists, and observes nature on hikes. During this initial phase, Erin begins sketching plants and animals in graphite on tracing paper, making detailed studies and notes, before working on small thumbnail sketches of potential layouts. Once a layout is finalized, she assembles the sketches (either in Photoshop, or the old-fashioned, scissors-and-tape way) into a composition that gets transferred to hot-press watercolor paper using graphite transfer paper. She blocks in a first round of color with thin washes of acrylic paint throughout the entire painting, then adds layers of thicker acrylic for deeper color, contrast, and detail. Erin often finishes the details of a painting with very fine-point pigment pens or mechanical pencil, particularly for details like bee wings or butterfly scales.