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Fireflies - Perspectives No. 314

Fireflies

Perspectives No. 314

Nocturne: Night Ramble-Fireflies © J. Hulsey
Nocturne:  Night Ramble - Fireflies     Oil      © John Hulsey

   This time of year we are treated to a spectacular, silent fireworks show after dark created by our friends, the fireflies. We can each remember running around the yard as children trying to carefully capture them in old glass mayonnaise jars. We would place some grass in with them and punch air holes in the top to create a kind of nocturnal terrarium which would glow on our night tables. Today, we live in the countryside, part forest, part meadows and the fireflies are here to mate in the tens of thousands. This year there are more than we can ever remember. They are interesting creatures with complicated life cycles and are devilishly hard to photograph as they urgently flash their mating messages in the night.

   There are about 2,000 species of firefly beetles in the world, over 150 in the United States and Canada. They undergo complete metamorphosis with four life cycle stages. After their sparkling mating dance, female fireflies lay about 100 fertilized eggs (which in some cases are bioluminescent themselves) at or just below the surface of the ground. The eggs hatch in three or four weeks producing larva which feed until the end of the summer and then hibernate for the winter, sometimes for two winters. Larva may also produce light and are sometimes called glowworms. (Glowworm also refers to a different distinct beetle type.)

   In spring each larva begins its amazing metamorphosis into an adult firefly. Adulthood is short-lived, however—only about two months—and is strictly concerned with reproduction. Some adults do not even feed. The chemically produced light that fireflies produce to attract mates is considered a "cold light", having no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. There is still no conclusive information on how the firefly turns its light on and off. It is a scientific mystery.

   The variations of fireflies are many, from daytime fireflies who do not have bioluminescence (and use pheromones to attract mates,) to the famous synchronized flashing fireflies in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains.

   Which brings us to the painting above. We are avid proponents of painting under moonlight, especially on these soft and not too warm early summer evenings. Our cameras are not of much help with this. So, it comes down to the human eye and the human heart to capture the experience, as it always traditionally has. In those years when the full moon coincides with the firefly mating dance, it is truly a magical moment and an opportunity for the artist to capture a mysterious wonder of nature.

   To learn more about painting nocturnes see, Nocturnes: A Primer on Night Painting.

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Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
About Ann
     About John
 Hulsey Trusty Studios

We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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