The Outdoor Palette

Asuka Hishiki Monarch Butterfly Type B Metamorphosis – Life Cycle 10.5” x 13.5,” watercolor on paper, 2008

The primary goal of natural history illustration is scientific accuracy. Since the work is used to educate, it must portray a species with precision and a high level of detail. If it’s beautiful, it’s even better. Asuka Hishiki’s illustrations are beautiful. Her work is detailed, scientifically accurate, and elegant, as is evident in the image below, entitled Monarch Butterflies.

But there is another side to Hishiki’s work that deserves attention. In a sister painting, entitled Monarch Butterfly Type B Metamorphosis, Hishiki introduces fanciful elements into an otherwise rational, realistic environment, thus proving that she’s also adept at the aesthetic style called “magic realism.”

In art, recognizable truth appeals to us, and we readily accept it; so much so that a “magic” element can sometimes be slipped in undercover, marauding as truth. By blending reality with hypothesis, the magic realist intends to direct us towards a deeper understanding of life. In Monarch Butterfly Type B Metamorphosis, Hishiki faithfully follows the well-established format of scientific illustration she knows so well. But something is new here: within this butterfly’s life cycle, she has embedded a fantastic narrative of her own. The image she presents us with follows the unique and mysterious plant-formed transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Utilizing the familiar, Asuka Hishiki convincingly seduces our imagination to take flight.

Asuka Hishiki Monarch Butterflies 18.5” x 12.5,” watercolor and graphite on paper, 2009

Asuka Hishiki’s work will be a part of two exhibitions this summer: Focus on Nature XI at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York, through October 31st, and “Botanica” at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey, through September 12th. She may be reached through her website:


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