We look forward to featuring Deborah Davis’ beautiful moth paintings at the 13th annual Moss Rock Festival. We are creating a special exhibition featuring her paintings and real moth species from Samford University’s collection. The exhibit promises to be both visual and educational. Check out our short interview with Deborah as we delve into her world of moths! And we’ll see you November 3 & 4 at The Preserve in Hoover.
Are you a night owl?
I actually consider myself a day person. Since I have been actively “mothing” for the past several years I have been enchanted with nature at night. I typically turn on my UV lights as it is getting dark. I check to see what is showing up a couple of times before bed. I leave the lights on and get up about an hour before sunrise. I do this several days a week. All of my painting is done during the day.
How did you discover the magic of moths? Or were you always a fan of this nocturnal creature?
I actually became fascinated with moths and butterflies (lepidoptera) when I was 10 or 11. I read everything that I could find in the library and had a little field guide. Back in the early 60’s there was no internet!
Was there an a-ha moment when you decided to make the moth a new muse in your artwork / paintings?
In my adult years I was very involved with plants, so my focus on insects was centered on how they interacted with the plants. I was building my house in 2007 and I discovered a dead moth on the floor one day when I went to do some work. I thought it was lovely, but I didn’t know what species it was. I managed to ID it from an internet search. I decided that when I was done with the house that I would paint moths. The house still isn’t totally done, but I have been painting and moth-ing like crazy.
Do you paint from a real moth specimen or from a photo? If the former, what is your process? Do you catch and release?
I paint the moths that I see at my place. I catch the ones that interest me and put them in the refrigerator until the next afternoon. Cooling them slows them down a bit so I can get a good photograph. They are then released alive and well. I have the detailed photos to paint from.
Your paintings are 30×40. Why do you paint the moths so large?
Scale is an important factor in art. It certainly changes how we regard the piece. I want to invoke a feeling of intimacy with these beings. Inspiring a sense of wonder and awe of these hidden and mysterious creatures is achieved by the size of the work.
What has been the most challenging moth to paint?
There are a couple of moths that come to mind that were especially tedious to paint. Both have intricate markings. Glorious Habrosyne and Tufted Bird Dropping Moth were the most challenging.
Do you have a favorite moth painting that you’ve created?
That isn’t easy with so many wonderful moths. I have to say that I was particularly pleased with the painting of the Pandora Sphinx. It is also a moth that I really love.
Is there a moth that you are especially fascinated with and want to paint but have not yet?
There are quite a few on my moth “wish list” that I would love to see and paint. One that comes to mind is the Tersa Sphinx. of course Psychedelic Jones is high on the list. You can imagine that it is quite colorful. It is also very tiny and shiny.
Do you have a favorite moth species, or one you like that is native to Virginia? Why is it your favorite?
Oh my! That is truly a difficult question. I can only narrow it down to a group. The Sphinx moths have appealing shapes and colors. I tend to gravitate to choosing one of them to paint.
What interesting fact(s) have you learned about the species since you’ve been painting them?
What I have learned about moths over the past few years could be a book! I think that the most important knowledge that I have gained is how crucial they are to the eco system. Their interactions with other species of plants and animals is necessary to the life and health of the planet. Everything in nature is connected and elegant in design. I hope that my paintings spark conversations about nature’s intricacies and inspire awe.