Beetles! Emerald greens.

Hello! Welcome to my Beetles! series. I am the behind-the-scenes photographer in the beetles department at the Natural History Museum (aka the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’). The collection is an enormous jewel box of six-legged beauty, and I’ve got plenty of photos to share!

My favourite thing is colour, and unsurprisingly, that’s probably my favourite thing about the museum’s beetle collection. Drawer after drawer after drawer, there are beetles in shocking blues and velvety browns and luminous golds.  I could never pick a favourite beetle, but I have a particular fondness for those covered in green: shimmering emerald metallics, dark mossy hues, or glossy vivid greens. Nature’s colour palette is absolutely top notch.

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I’m currently working on a painting featuring beetles and foliage, and these green guys have been providing more than their fair share of inspiration. (You can see some of my preliminary sketches here and here.)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting lots of visual inspiration for my project, and have come across lots of other artists and designers who have incorporated beetles into their work, some more literally than others. See: Necklace made from real beetle wings.

Helena-Maratheftis-emerald-beetles--07Above: A close up of Derbyana oberthuri, a specimen collected in Tanzania.

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Helena-Maratheftis-emerald-beetles--06Now, let me make one thing clear: there is much more to beetles than colourful exteriors. They are an astonishingly massive and diverse group of beings, and the more I learn about them, the more fascinated I become. However, just because they have Real Scientific Value doesn’t mean that we can’t admire how they look and, as the resident artist, I’m pretty sure that’s my job!

p.s. This is my first Beetles! post since June (whoops!) but that’s not because I haven’t been busy at the museum. I’ve got a set of exciting photos to reveal, but that won’t be until next month. Watch this space!

Beetles! Photographing Gold & Stripes.

Hello! This is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been taking photos for the beetles department (officially known as the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’)! I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week, so stay tuned!

Today I’m showcasing some stripy, golden beauties (click here for a detailed close-up). Aren’t they stunning? I love the contrast of soft metallic gold vs. glossy black stripes and swooping antennae. Have a look:

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Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes3Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes5My (accidentally) matching gold nails and black ring.Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes2

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Nature: Just Too Cool. When I stumble across specimens like these, I can’t help but marvel at how much style nature has. I’m a complete sucker for shiny metallics and bold stripes (in case ya hadn’t noticed), so it’s nice to know that I share the same tastes as mother nature!   Those are my hands in the photos – I happened to be wearing matching nail polish and jewellery on this particular day, which made me extra excited.

Click here to see other Beetles! posts in this series.

Beetles! Pins, more pins, and perfect shapes.

Hello! This post is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been lending my photography skills to the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’ (which roughly translates as ‘beetles department’). I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week, so stay tuned!

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This week I want to show you some pins. Yes, pins. Have you ever looked at museum specimens? If so, you may have noticed that they’re perfectly laid out, with their six wiry limbs in a neat, symmetrical arrangement – see above. Unfortunately, this does not happen by magic. It is done with pins, and lots of precision.

Helena-Maratheftis-beetles-pin-cages-04Before specimens go on display, they are soaked in alcohol and left to dry while in a ‘cage’ of pins. Think of these pins as scaffolding, holding everything in place. I know I’ll be called a crazy artist (again) by the people in the department, but I think the cages look quite beautiful! Sort of like crowns of thorns, or rays of light beaming out. Here’s my artistic representation:

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Helena-Maratheftis-beetles-pin-cages-06The final product, after the pins have been removed:

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P.S. I know some of you are squeamish about insects, so I’ve been trying to only publish pictures of the pretty ones. The problem is, I think they’re all pretty ones! I hope you agree – and please let me know if you don’t!

Beetles! Photographing Glow Worms at the NHM.

Hello! This post is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been lending my photography skills to the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’ (which roughly translates as ‘beetles department’). I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week, so stay tuned!

This week I photographed glow worms. You might be surprised (and relieved?) to hear that they’re actually beetles, not worms! Some of the specimens at the museum are truly beautiful, with ridiculously long and elaborate antennae.

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The above specimen is special for two reasons. Firstly, because of those antennae. Secondly – and more importantly – because it is a type specimen. In other words, this particular individual is the ‘flagship’ specimen by which all others of its species are verified. The species’ name and description are officially attached to this one beetle, making it very precious indeed.

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Some of the specimens are very old, and I love the delicate, typewritten (or hand written) labels.
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Beetles! Behind-the-scenes photography at the NHM.

Hello! I spent yesterday at the Natural History Museum, lending my photography skills to the Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division (which roughly translates as ‘beetles department’). I was presented with a jewel box of Tanzanian beetles, and was asked to take close-up portraits for their beetle database and. I was also given free reign to take as many ‘arty’ shots as I liked! Let’s just say I was in heaven. Most of the ‘literal’ shots will end up on the NHM Beetles and Bugs Flickr page, so I’ve mostly included creative photos here. Enjoy!

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Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-07From this angle, it looks like a tiny dragon! (‘You arty people love your weird angles, don’t you!’)

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Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern2I couldn’t help but create a pattern out of these gorgeous, flame-hued beetles.

Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern1 Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern3I love the subtle variations in shape and pattern. Nature is just too cool.

Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-04Real entomologists wear beetle earrings. Continue reading

Jungle of Colour: A Private Commission

Hello! I’ve just finished working on a very colourful and highly detailed piece. The brief was to create ‘a woodland landscape with animals/figures doing stuff.  And the landscape features trees … which don’t necessarily have to look realistic. I am thinking colourful and vibrant’. That was literally the brief, word for word, and it was right up my street. Here is what I came up with:

As you can see, I decided to create a lush, tropical forest canopy, filled with dozens of little characters. It’s hard to see the details here (the canvas is huge – 120 x 80cm) so I’ve zoomed in on some of my favourite bits:

I started off by painting stripes onto canvas, then layering on branches and leaves. When that was complete, I got to work on all the animals. I love adding all the details, down to tiny caterpillar eyebrows (above) and curly proboscises (below):

So, to summarise: Fluoro colours, gold ink, rhinestones, and stylised little beasties. It’s a Thefty piece, through and through!

I hope you like it, Miss C!