Moth

Moths (A4 coloured pencil on prepared paper 2017)

Isn’t ‘moth’ a beautiful word? It’s almost onomatopoeic in that soft ending, suggesting talcy, fluttering wings.

I haven’t always been a fan of moths. As a teenager on holiday in a Welsh cottage I was reading one night when a beast the size of a small bird flew in and started battering itself against my light. It took me about half an hour to get rid of it. More recently, one laid eggs in a ridiculously expensive winter coat that I bought when I worked for an international German publisher. It now has three noticeable holes.

Many moths share that peculiar single life purpose that one finds amongst insects: they exist only to breed and have no mouths as they don’t live long enough to require food. What’s the point of existing only to breed creatures that exist only to breed? Other moths with more complex missions sip nectar.

Inevitably they have acquired symbolic value for those who like to give themselves animal characteristics. Their single-minded attraction to light suggests  determination, yet their inability to differentiate between a teenage boy’s bedside lamp and a candle flame apparently demonstrates the dangers of blind faith.

They are also symbols of love. The female moth emits powerful pheromones that can attract a male 11 kms away. He’ll fly through the night, making clicking noises to confuse predatory bats, charting his course by his relationship to the moon, until he ends up in the dusty embrace of his one true love.

Talking of which, here’s an excerpt from a poem which I bought from a homeless street poet in New York City for $5:

 

My gentle love

Holds you like a moth

In cupped hands.  Protecting,

Not confining, I release you

To the sheltering night.

 

I’m not sure what the implication of that last part is, but I didn’t feel that $5 covered both poem and explanation.

The drawing above owes a certain amount to the wonderful drawings and paintings of wild things by Cornwall-based artist, Kurt Jackson. It’s drawn in coloured pencil on gessoed paper which gives the drawings their mothy textures.

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39 thoughts on “Moth

  1. Beautiful. I didn’t know that some moths didn’t ever eat. I knit and am most familiar with those who do eat my hard work. Your picture is lovely. I’m going to try painting on gessoed paper it is really a lovely texture.

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  2. What a wonderful story and drawing. It’s the caterpillars that eat your wool…I’m always trying to kill those little white things fluttering around before they can lay eggs. But I find large moths to be magical…maybe it’s the darkness? (K)

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  3. Another moth supporter here (and also of Kurt Jackson)… very moth-like drawings, fragile and light-feeling. Thanks also for sharing the poem, short but very sweet, a good investment… 🙂

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  4. Your drawings have the brisk flutter of a moth. Lovely! Fascinating creatures; I’ve always rather liked them, but I can remember one of those birdlike beasts coming right up to my bedroom window – thank heavens it was closed. It was startling. I’d never seen anything like it! (Ouch re the coat.)

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  5. I love the drawings and I was very interested in the writing. I have a friend who as part of nature volunteering is raising Luna moths. I thought the same thing as you did about a moth’s sense of purpose.

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  6. I love your drawings of moths.
    Your teenage visitor might have been an elephant hawk moth. I once disturbed one sheltering in some curtains and thought it was a bird at first, it was so big. And its desperation to get out was frightening. Once it got out, it lay on the grass to recover and I was so concerned that I had caused its demise. But it had gone by the morning and I’ve always wondered if it flew away or became owl food. There are smaller cousins called hummingbird hawk moths which feed on nectar during the day and are fascinating to watch and far less scary.
    I remember reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book ‘Prodigal Summer’ many years ago. Luna moths, coyotes, and environmental protection featured a great deal. I’ll have to dig it out.

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  7. I love working on gesso with dry media, that ready made texture, mmm. Sorry to hear about your wool coat. Is there someone near you who does invisible mending? It is worth a try, they can be awfully good, and the holes will either disappear or be less noticeable.
    Nice studies. cheers, Sarah

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  8. Thanks for taking the time to look at my art blog Michael. Its great to see your own work and corresponding writings too. Personally, I find moths linger on the border between being fascinating and disturbing for me. It’s the unpredictable nature of their frantic fluttering that unnerves me. Once still, they’re beautiful to look at.

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  9. I saw a hummingbird moth in my garden here in Wiltshire. I didn’t know what it was. It was large enough to be a hummingbird and flew just like one. I was transfixed. A great post as always Michael

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