Black Butterfly by Alice McMahon

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Charcoal on mylar drafting film, 22 × 18″ The drafting film is translucent, so I have used a moonstone Canson pastel paper under the film for color. I work on the frosted side of the paper for tooth. The mylar lends a lovely soft effect, beautiful for rendering the translucence of skin. It is a tricky surface to work on, just a flick of the finger brings you back to the clean surface. I load my fingers with charcoal to get the soft gradations of tone.

There were several unusual spiritual moments for me while working on this self-portrait. One was a near out of body experience while on a walk in the park, which spurred me to write my first poem in 30 years. A few days later, I started seeing black butterflies. Not so unusual in summer I suppose, but I don’t remember seeing this particular type in Chicago, maybe it’s due to our changing weather patterns. The odd thing was that I had just found a photo of a black butterfly online at RedBubble at Then a black butterfly fluttered around me several times while I was walking that same afternoon! It happened again a couple of days later, this black butterfly flying in loops around me as I walked. Odd that the only black ones I saw, also seemed to notice me as well! Almost like they knew of my transformation. So, that inspired my second poem, “Black Butterfly” and I decided to incorporate a black butterfly into the drawing. The piece was made to fit a vintage distressed frame I found at my local antique shop.

The Poem:

Bemusing muse

Black butterfly

Came through the ether

Mystical wings

Encircled me along the way

Enraptured on a summer day

Music painted on the sky

Black butterfly

Blown in from far off dust

Astral soul

Dressed in stardust

Black butterfly

Draw me perfect

Emergent from this coal black shell

Wet wings spread in joy to stand


Flawless at the artist’s hand

Evanescent passion lies

In our wavelengths intertwined

Black butterfly

Never caught

Light gently in the mind

Bring luminous thought

© Alice McMahon White 2008

I specialize in figurative charcoal drawing. My work was recently shown and sold at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Current works delve into the realm of symbolism and magic realism.
All of my drawings are meant to be noble representations of individual subjects, and also bring together a wealth of influences, recognition of art history and myth and a contemporary attitude to create images that are of the moment, but hopefully will also remain relevant in the future.

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  • geikomaiko
    geikomaikoover 6 years ago


  • Tony Ryan
    Tony Ryanover 6 years ago

    Strikingly beautiful image. Also facinating words. I think co incidences like these lead to renewed hope and faith in knowing there is so much more to life.

  • Thank you Tony. I know you are very in tune with these sorts of things. :) ~ Alice

    – Alice McMahon

  • Traceyisanozzy
    Traceyisanozzyover 6 years ago

    Such a beautiful image and love the story and poem, it is so inspiring to believe……

  • Thanks so much Tracey!

    – Alice McMahon

  • Barssel
    Barsselover 6 years ago

    Marvelous……………………….well done.

  • Thanks for dropping in Barssel. :)

    – Alice McMahon

  • Sean Farragher
    Sean Farragherover 6 years ago

    amazing work

  • sorina
    sorinaover 6 years ago

    beautiful work!!

  • Douglas Hunt
    Douglas Huntover 6 years ago

    I love it.
    Very well done.

  • Lynsye Medalia
    Lynsye Medaliaover 6 years ago

    :) I just had to favorite this one….you already know my thoughts! You, too, are a beautiful soul.

  • Aw, thanks Lynsye! xx

    – Alice McMahon

  • Skye O'Shea
    Skye O'Sheaover 6 years ago

    This is gorgeous!

  • Thanks Skye! First in a series, I think. ;)

    – Alice McMahon

  • pauldrobertson
    pauldrobertsonover 6 years ago

    beautiful and gentle, as must be, i am certain; the mind and hands and heart of the woman who made it

  • Always such a gentleman Paul. Thank you from the bottom of my soft heart.

    – Alice McMahon

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