The Making of “The Butterfly Effect”

I admit my fascination with butterflies started early. I loved watching them fly around and couldn’t help but think how wonderful, carefree and beautiful they were. I remember pretending to be one, flying from flower to flower without a care in the world during those long, endless days of summer.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m still fascinated. Here at MapleCreek Farms, I always pause to watch them. They bring me such joy. 

However, about 7 years ago, I went an entire summer without seeing 1 monarch on our farm. This saddened me so much. I had noticed a drastic decline in these beautiful insects over the years but to go an entire summer without seeing one was just heartbreaking.

I did some research and was shocked to see the decline was not just on our Eastern Ontario farm, but across North America. It was at the point that the monarch was put on the endangered species list. The loss of the caterpillar’s only food source the milkweed, is the number one cause of it’s decline. Modern agricultural practices use a broad spectrum herbicide that targets weeds, of which the milkweed is considered to be.

But we are an organic farm, we had milkweed, so why did we not have any butterflies? Well, I think I found the answer one very wet spring and early summer that made it impossible to cut hay until mid July. Then, I noticed butterflies. Normal practice is to cut our hay mid-late June. This was not giving the caterpillars long enough to feed and develop. We still have to harvest our hay mid June, but we are intentional about leaving a piece of a field for a late hay harvest. We also don’t cut our ditches and field boarders until fall. This gives the milkweed, and the caterpillars a chance to mature. It is not much on a global scale, but we are doing what we can.

The good news is that monarch numbers are now on the rise. Protection plans and widespread awareness of the decline of this species is helping to bring back the numbers. My hope is my grandkids will be able to spend their endless summer days dreaming of being these beautiful insects too.

“The Butterfly Effect” is the third drawing in my Vanishing Thunder series. This is a series of drawings highlighting endangered species. 20% of the profits go to WWF to help with research and education to help save our most vulnerable species.

I purposely made this drawing chaotic. There is a lack of a focal point, instead, your eye wanders around the drawing unsure of what to take in first. This was deliberate. Going to Mexico to see where the monarch congregate in trees is on my bucket list. This drawing is how I imagine it would feel to have your eyes take in thousands of butterflies clinging to branches. 

I have to say that this piece took me awhile to complete. There is roughly 60+ hours in it. I also have to admit that I was seeing spots for weeks and took a mental break from drawing for a bit after it was complete. I focused on some acrylic pouring paintings and planned out my next drawing.

Hope you enjoyed reading about the thoughts and the process that went into this piece. It remains one of my favourites, I hope it is one of yours too.

Yours in art