This is the sketch for a fairly common skipper butterfly found in New England, a silver spotted skipper, or Epargyreus clarus, on Verbena bonariensis, a flower on which it typically feeds. For some reason these creatures do not favor yellow flowers. Since its coloring and the composite flower itself is relatively drab and unimpressive, I will add a bright, light green background.
Since yellow dulls purple, I take care not to let yellow-green mix too much with purple as wet- and dry-on-wet washes mingle on wet paper. The soft-edged flower shape at left will ultimately help tie the subject to the background’s suggested shapes.
More saturated bright green is placed onto wet paper at left, while its right edge is applied to dry paper to create defined negative space shapes for the lavendar flowers.
The local brown color in the skipper’s wings is added next in its palest value.
Both local and more saturated form and shadow colors begin to add definition to subject and flowers. The right side of this composition is pale so it will ultimately contrast with the darker forms of the flower mass.
More blue in the background would add more variation to it, so it’s loosely and quickly added before any more dark value is applied to subject and flowers.
A bit of blue behind the wings helps balance that color’s background shape with the other painting elements. Richly saturated color and darkest subject shapes now pull the painting together.