Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Thunderbugs are go!

I don't know what they call them in your part of the woods; when I lived in the Midlands they called them Harvest mites, here in Suffolk they call them Thunderbugs, in tribute to their appearance on particularly hot, humid days. I am talking about the little creatures that look like a short black 1mm pen mark, and there is no defence against them.

A week or so ago, we were in the middle of roasting temperatures, and in the studio it got up to 36 degrees. A little too hot of course, but as someone who complains about the cold for 99% of the year, I feel I should grin and bear it. I opened the doors and windows in the studio to let the air in, drank plenty of water and all was fine. Until they arrived.

They started in ones  and twos, landing on the paper I was working on, then irritating me by crawling over my face. By lunchtime they were marching in and out of the paint, across my glasses, and crawling over my arms and through my hair. The itching was unbearable, I was swearing loudly and on any other day I would have made a quick exit, but I was on a deadline for a set of illustrations of Milan:

Lots of smart buildings and statues...

 Italian cars, scooter riders and of course Polizia...

And whilst Thunderbugs are annoying, they are too small to damage the artwork, although my oil painter friend has had far greater problems of course, oil paint being so sticky. By 4pm the work was finished and so was I. Running into the house I filled the sink with water, and splashed it over my face and arms, it ran down my t-shirt in dark patches, making my hair stick up, but I didn't care. As I walked into the kitchen the teen entered with a friend who had come for tea, and exchanged 'Mad Woman' looks.

Finished at last!

Rain the next day dampened them down, although I am still finding dead ones on every surface in the studio. 

Last Sunday I went with two of my students to paint in Layer Marney Tower grounds, near Colchester. 

Deciding I would not have time to do the building, I sat down near a selection of beautiful Hollihocks in the flowerbed and attempted to do them justice. Again the Thunderbugs arrived... After a couple of hours we decided to go and look around and talk to the artists exhibiting indoors. I had been invited to display work/demonstrate inside the long gallery, but had declined due to most of my artwork being displayed elsewhere. I enjoyed talking to the other artists, some of who I know, but the most striking thing was the absence of Thunderbugs indoors... I am pretty sure where I will be next year, and it won't be in the flowerbeds!

The painting of Hollihocks is still work in progress, and after a few days doing some additional illustrations for the previous Cardiff project, needed to appease the Welsh Tourist Board (who seem rather fussy), I am looking forward to finishing my flower painting.


  1. I love Layer Marney! Such a spectacular piece of architecture and a beautiful little chapel / church too. Must go back sometime...

  2. I'm so with you. I took The Duckling to Lyveden New Bield the Elizabethan gardens and unfinished banqueting house here in Northamptonshire and we were absolutely crawling. Who would have thought that such teeny tiny bugs would cause so much discomfort. I scrubbed The Duckling and my hair twice just to be sure!