Painting Big in a Small Space...Hive Mentality Process Story

 The Making of: Hive Mentality 


66" x 72" Acrylic and Resin on Canvas




First, some thanks. I would like to thank my fellow artist, Amber Blazina for contributing an entire gallon of pouring medium for this project! It created a great flowing layer that tied much of this piece together. Also, thanks  to  Art Resin for contributing the resin needed to complete this piece! They gave me a free starter kit, which for this large of a painting was just enough to fill my honey cells. It was fitting to have many contributors to this painting, bringing forth a "hive mentality"in the works.
So, this piece, is big. I started with a 66" x 72" stretched canvas, and supported the back of it with boards and foam in preparation for the acrylic pouring medium and resin steps. I have a big table in my small studio, which takes up the bulk of the floor space, and about 2-4 feet of walkway around the sides of it. I worked this entire piece on the table, getting up on a small step stool and trying to get a good angle of view from above to check things out. Any artist who paints on a large scale will tell you about the importance of stepping back to see the overall piece...well, that's not exactly an option for me, but I think my years of experience working on this scale have helped me to visualize the final outcome.
For my birthday this year, my husband enrolled us in a beekeeping class and ordered us some bees through the Montana Honeybee Company, an awesome local honey shop that provides apiary supplies and inspiration to take the leap into the fascinating world of honeybees. Truly, the more you learn about these creatures, the more in love with them you become. It is incredible to see 10,000 bees act more like a single organism at any given time than 10,000 individuals and to observe them come and go so diligently to the hive with fat wads of pollen attached to their legs. So now you know the inspiration for this piece.

 I used warm tones brushed on for an underpainting, and poured a layer of browns, yellows and creamy whites with that whole gallon of pouring medium which did not entirely coat the surface of my canvas (just to give you a feeling for the scale of things) After the poured layer dried, I built up the surface with modeling paste to create cells of different depths in yellows and browns.

 Next, I brushed in some more hexagonal cells of varying sizes around my canvas, and airbrushed some shading onto them. I cut stencils based off of photos I had taken of my beehive and airbrushed bees and comb shapes in several layers all around the piece. I stuck with the classic colors on some of the bees, but added some more ghostly brown and yellow hints of them all around as well, indicating the bees that have come and gone, and the movement of the little creatures. Did you know bees don't rest, that they simply work themselves to death for the benefit of the hive? They have one mission in life, and they 

never quit doing what they were born to do...sometimes I wish I could find that kind of motivation for art making, aaaand sometimes I am just fine with my couch and my snoring dog doing absolutely nothing, er, I mean, waiting for my paint to dry so I can add another layer! After airbrushing, came the resin pour. I mixed the two components and added a little paint to tint, making a transparent honey color that looked good enough to eat! I poured this into the cells I had built, allowing some of it to spill over the walls, as honey is a very messy situation whenever humans get involved. These filled cells looked like amber jewels glistening on the canvas. (see the above pics for details of this) After my resin pour cured, I topped off the painting with a few more airbrushed layers and some hand painted larvae and eggs in a few spots to help round out the life cycle. After a couple of days of drying, my husband and I carefully maneuvered this larger than life work out of the basement. It currently is hanging on display at the Emerson Center for Arts & Culture with more of my grand-scale abstracts until November 17th. Come check it out!