Artist's Intricate Jeweled Insect Art Creates Precious, Imaginary Organisms

These whimsical drawings reimagine humble insects as something to be treasured and conserved, not despised.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat

Steeven Salvat

Ah, insects: they are small, innumerable, sometimes almost invisible and often considered pests by humans. But whether we like them or not, insects are vital to the world's ecosystems – and the huge declines we've seen in various insect populations in the last several decades could spell disaster for all of us, for the other species that depend on them, and for the planet in general. So it's no wonder that many – from scientific researchers to bug enthusiasts to artists – are all sounding the alarm in their own way, reminding us that humble insects are worthy of our respect and attention, whether that's inside the home or outside in the garden, or heck – even in our waffles.

In a respectful nod to the amazing and wide-ranging qualities of insects, French artist Steeven Salvat creates intricately drawn art of beetle-y bugs that are cloaked in gem-encrusted, gear-laden exoskeletons.

Salvat's art combines his long-running interest in nature, science, and history. According to Salvat, these precious skins overlaid on top could be thought of as:

"...an allegory for the preciosity of biological systems. A way to drive attention to our smallest neighbors on this planet—we need to preserve them because they are worth much more than all the gold and jewels I dressed them with."
precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat

Characterized by complex ink work depicting great anatomical detail, Salvat's work echoes the elaborate entomological studies done by naturalists in the past. In terms of artistic influences, he draws a lot of inspiration from artists like Albrecht Dürer, Gustave Doré, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Moebius.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat

For this series on precious bugs, Salvat begins by first soaking heavyweight watercolor paper in black tea to lend an old-fashioned sepia tone to the surface. He then draws each piece meticulously with a combination of Chinese ink, contrasted with white ink, and adds pops of colors with various watercolor paints. It's a long and tedious (but essentially worthwhile) process, says Salvat:

"The smallest piece took me more than 30 hours of work, painting and drawing thousands of black lines with 0.13 millimeter Rotring pen".
precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat

One really has to get up close to appreciate the amount of painstaking detail that each artwork must have taken – all the complicated layering and connections between all the various different elements of mechanical gears and jeweled facets.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat close up of ink work
Steeven Salvat

Remember, each work of art here begins as a flat piece of paper, and it takes many hours of careful cross-hatching, and delicate painting to manifest what looks like three-dimensional jeweled wonders of the natural world. Insects are unfortunately often overlooked and even despised, but in this series, they have been elevated to something remarkable and dare we say, highly esteemed and cherished.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat work in progress
Steeven Salvat

For Salvat, this series of works shows "insects evolving to precious hybrid lifeforms by wearing highly detailed armors made with goldsmith work, gemstones, mechanical gears and luxury watch dials." It is perhaps an approach done in knowing recognition that sometimes we humans will pay more attention to shiny things.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat 

Even better is the fact that Salvat includes official-looking, hand-drawn nameplates describing the fanciful and fictitious scientific names of these hybridized and reimagined organisms. But to lend that touch of whimsy, those made-up names are annotated along with the types of highly valued materials that they sport, such as gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and more. All rendered in ink, and lovely to see in all its sophisticated detail.

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat

It's wonderful how Salvat's considerable skill has transformed flat paper into imaginary new insect species that will hopefully compel us to rethink our relationship with insects. Rather than seeing them as a nuisance to be battled with dangerous insecticides and murderous zapping devices, couldn't we perhaps appreciate them as the incredible treasures that they truly are?

precious littles insect art series Steeven Salvat
Steeven Salvat

Besides these fabulous works, Salvat has also created other intriguing series of hand-drawn art, focusing on birds, primates, dogs, and crustaceans, all combined with fancy, filigreed details – some of which are featured on useful objects like helmets and skateboard decks. To see more, visit Steeven Salvat, or head on over to Instagram or Behance, or shop his online store to purchase a print.