Inspiration from the World of Insects – An Artist´s Palette

Meadowhawk Dragonfly Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly – Sympetrum corruptum

Many insects are a rainbow of colors just waiting to be emulated in art, fashion, and interior design. It may seem that the “Universe” has arranged in them the oddest color combinations but somehow they do work.

Watercolor of Desert scene by Donna Walker

Desert scene on U.S. Highway 10 between California and Arizona, utilizing warm hues from the variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly.

Are you an artist wondering what colors to use in your next painting or drawing? Or maybe you plan on redecorating and you´re trying to figure out which colors go well together for a particular room.

Take a moment to look around and you´ll see there is help and inspiration right in front of you, an entire palette of color combinations to choose from – within the world of insects.

All the colors of the color wheel are found in nature. Most of us think of insects as pests but many are amazingly beautiful, just like the birds. But with insects, the female is often just as lovely as the male bird is gorgeous.

The Color Wheel

Color Wheel

Isaac Newton invented the first color wheel, or “color circle” utilized by artists and designers today. Try placing opposite colors together for a striking contrast

The history of the color wheel involves one Sir Isaac Newton, the father of science, who in his experimentation of splitting sunlight with a prism, also created what artists´ employ today – the color wheel or Newton´s “color circle.”

Drawing of 1920's Flapper

Cool blues with black makes a nice contrast similar to the blue-black damselfly.

In 1706, Newton arranged bands of color; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet according to their progression in the spectrum on a disc, when the disk spun, the colors blurred together so rapidly that his eye only saw white.

Newton´s experiment proved that white is actually a combination of all the wavelengths of colored light. The expression of this color organization is represented today with triangles, tables and charts, and is utilized by artists worldwide.

Warm and cool color schemes are found in some insects with a touch of complementary colors as an accent. The same contrasting schemes can be applied in a painting.

A splash of blue- purple with some yellows and orange-browns produces a harmonious split complementary effect.

Designing with Dragon and Damselflies

Blue Pond Damselfly

American Bluets (Enallagma) – Female Pond Damselfly, a monochromatic (one color) scheme (black is not a color).

Yellow-winged Dragonfly

Yellow-winged Darter (Sympetrum flaveolum) has a split complementary color scheme of red, yellow-green, and blue.

Dragonflies and Damselflies are easily spotted because of their bright colors and lacy wings.

The differences between the two are in their eyes (Damselflies´ are further apart) and their wings.

When at rest, Dragonflies spread their wings sideways while Damselflies hold their wings together, over their back.

These frequent flyers can travel up to 35 miles per hour so catching a glimpse of their color combinations, while they are at rest, is a real treat.

The Meadowhawk Dragonfly likes to perch in meadows. He can be seen soaking up the sun making it is easy to behold his beautiful “landscape” of colors; oranges, reds and browns, and just a touch of green with purple.

Jazzy Jumping Spiders

Spiders are not insects (they belong to the class Arachnida) but one cannot speak of brilliant and amazing colors without mentioning the Jumping Spider.

Tiny and fast, Jumping spiders pounce on their prey rather than build webs. Of all the different spider species, Jumping spiders have the keenest vision with the ability to respond to any movement up to 18 inches away!

Jumping spiders are quite small, ¼ to ½ inch in length (not including their legs) with little tuffs of hair, presenting them with a soft furry appearance.

Blue and Brown Jumping Spider

Jumping spider (Phidippus putnami) dressed in blues and orange- browns. Complimentary Color Scheme – two colors opposite and their various hues.

If spiders had a beauty contest, the jumping spider would win the “cutest spider” category, spider claws down!

Creating a Harmonious Environment

Color sets a mood, attracts attention, and provides order to what is sometimes a chaotic world. One can use color to energize or create a calming atmosphere.

Color evokes emotion; it can be uplifting or depressing depending on individual taste. For one person, a room decorated with browns and beige may make that person feel down or lethargic while another may find it comforting and pleasing to the eye.

Color can not only be a powerful design element but also a tonic for one´s spirit. Look closely at the honey bee and see how striking she is next to a bright colored flower. Do the colors make you want to smile or are they overly stimulating to the eye?

Finding the right color scheme for your personal space is important in how you feel. This can include a work space as well, since most of us spend the greater part of our day in an office.

Honey bee with full pollen baskets

The honey bee has brilliant, yellow-orange pollen baskets – and she sports designer stripes of yellow, white, and black. Male bees don´t have pollen baskets.

Surround yourself with colors that keep you alert and feeling productive; and then at home, create at least one room that has a calming effect – your own personal retreat.

Look to the insects, yes………bugs and butterflies, dragon and damselflies, and even spiders for inspiring color combinations. Below is a list of the meaning of colors.

The Meaning of Colors:

Blue– Often a favorite color by many people, blue in nature is considered calming, like the sky and ocean and the “heavens” but blue is also used as an analogy for feeling down – “feeling blue,” or “singing the blues.” It is however, also the color of trust and utilized in logos for most businesses.

Study of monochromatic color scheme of blue

A Monochromatic color scheme is all the tints, shades, and tones of a single color.

Blue works well when combined with other colors such as green for a calming, soothing atmosphere. Blue is one color not found in food so it can also act as an appetite suppressant.

As a favorite color, blue people are creative, sincere, loyal and innovative. They enjoy nature and the arts, and are drawn to literature. Blues need harmony and to share emotions. As idealistic people, blues often get involved in special causes but they can also be quiet and shy.

Green – Ahhh…..the color of nature. Green is found everywhere including healthy foods such as vegetables and fruit-bearing trees. Green is the symbol of environment causes and the term “Going Green,” is utilized constantly in this eco-friendly world.

Green eases anxiety, it is the color of balance and growth. If green is your favorite color then you may be considered detail-oriented, precise, a little controlled and a bit of a “neat-freak” but organized and reliable.

Green people seek to understand the world, believe work is play and like to analyze and rearrange. They also seek intellectual stimulation, are curious, but detached.

Yellow – The color of sunshine and happiness. Many foods are yellow (vegetables, egg yolks, lemons, etc.) and so are many kitchens; yellow is appetizing. Yellow is found throughout the insect world as well. It brightens a room, provides enlightenment, stimulates creativity, and projects warmth.

Split Complementary Colors – Mixtures of Red, Yellow, and Blue

“Yellow” people are friendly and expressive, optimistic but sometimes extravagant, like to talk, and are outgoing and team-oriented. Yellow enjoys a position of authority, is responsible, dedicated, and goal-oriented.

Orange – You either like it or you don´t. Orange is the only color named after a fruit. It symbolizes vitality, energy, adventure, and warmth. Most oranges in painting and design are muted with other colors since bright “Big Bad Orange” (a 70´s term) is a bit too bright.

Varied shades of orange include terracotta, cayenne, salmon, and melon which can be more appealing to the eye.

If you like orange, than you may be a social and optimistic person, competitive, impulsive, generous, and like to be the center of attention. You are active and have a great deal of endurance but you may also enjoy a little drama once in a while – to make you feel alive.

Red – Red is a symbol of love, of happiness, and good luck. It is the universal color for “stop” and an attention-getter. There are two kinds of reds though, a yellow-based-red and a blue-based red; if you are a red person, you usually prefer one of the two, not both. Yellow-based red is often called an “orange-red” and blue-based is called a “berry red.”

English Ladybug

English Ladybird – From the ladybug originates bright red and black combos – and polka dots!

Red is energy, it stimulates and excites. An accent of red will perk up an area and keep one alert. In Feng Shui, adding a little red or pink to the bedroom invites love.

A “red” individual enjoys recognition, prefers individual sports, is usually on the move, embraces leadership roles but is sometimes perceived as being on the bossy side. Red also stands for strength, power, and determination.

What is your color? Has it changed over time? Are there characteristics about a certain color you wish you had?

Try incorporating that color into your life, be it a couple pillows here and there, or applying it with paint, or wearing it. Will it change you? Yes, because color evokes feelings, not just your own but in how others perceive you.

As a teenager, I loved the color blue; every piece of clothing I owned was some shade of blue. I was, and still am, an avid reader and artist, quiet and shy.  Today, with all my, uh, years of experience, I am a green – orange person.

Although I still like it, there is very little blue in my closet.  However, after writing this article, I plan to add more blue in my repertoire of colors in hopes that it adds some calm and creativity in my life … besides, I’ve always been told blue is my color. …

To find out your color, visit: Discovering Your Personality Through True Colors

Close up of Dragonfly  Article and Art by Donna Walker

Photos are credited within each image.  Thanks to my sister Debbie, who lives in England, for the English Ladybird and the Glasswing Butterfly photos.


Imes, Rick. The Practical Entomologist. A Fireside Book. Simon & Schuster Inc. 1992. New York, N.Y. Print

Wikipedia: Jumping Spiders; Cochineal; Carmine; Color Wheels. Online

Barber, John. The Acrylic Paint Color Wheel Book. Alex Publishing Limited – Barnes & Noble Publishing Inc. New York, N.Y. Print – Color Symbolism. Online – What Color is Your Personality. Online – Discovering Our Personality Style through True Colors. Online


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