Creativity with Insects - Beetle Track Paintings

Ever notice how an insect scurries across a floor? Probably not if you're anything like my mother who promptly kills it (for the record she is getting better at this). Next time you see a darkling beetle cross your path on the sidewalk, watch the legs. They alternate, with at least three always on the ground. It is a wonderful orchestration of neuron coordination and precision.

Steve Kutcher has been able to artistically express this intricate functioning through paintings. And no, he doesn't do the painting himself; he has his beetle (or other insect or spider) friends help him out.

His background includes a masters degree in entomology from the University of California. You may actually know much of his work in the years after his graduation - Kutcher became known as the 'insect wrangler' of Hollywood. That spider in Arachnophobia that crawled across the bedroom floor and into the shoe? Kutcher coxed it along a wire that led the spider in a straight line. And how about the coloration of the spider that bit Peter Parker in Spiderman? He painted that pattern of blues and reds!

His keen eye for detail and passion for the insect world have culminated into his body of theatrical as well as artistic work. By using a variety of insects and other arthropods, Kutcher is able to create repeating patterns across a page unlike any hand or stencil. Smaller even tracks - beetle. Drag marks - cockroaches. Unpredictable globs - spider. The water-based paint comes off of the small artist's tarsi (feet, if you will) easily. But how does he get the insects to walk across a page anyway?

By using the same techniques he has employed throughout his Hollywood insect wrangling career - light and wind. For the arching patterns, Kutcher places the canvas on a rotating table, with a low fan on one side. As the beetle moves, he slowly turns the canvas, and the wind disturbance makes the beetle walk away, creating that beautiful archway. This technique has resulted in fantastic works like the ones below.

And Kutcher doesn't stop at paintings! Check out his website at He is still involved with entomological education and outreach at age 72! I aspire to become someone so well versed in culture, artistry, and entomology.

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