Michael Olsen is one of Britain’s premiere lepidopterological artists. His representations of butterflies mix hand painting with feathers and acrylics to create truly unique and idiosyncratic display pieces.
Since he was old enough to appreciate their beauty, Olsen’s has nurtured a lifelong fascination with butterflies and birds. In particular, he finds the moment when a butterfly stops to let an observer admire its form captivating. His work is an attempt to recreate the beauty of these small but significant occurrences on a large, indoor scale by creating great numbers of butterflies out of feathers and encasing them in perspex.
Browse our gallery of Michael Olsen artworks today.
Michael Olsen’s vocational background has been in retail for the majority of his life. This, he admits, was more a matter of circumstance rather than due to a passion for the role. For most of his first 70 years, Olsen pursued arts and crafts solely as a hobby, creating these artifacts for his own pleasure, or for their practical, decorative purposes.
That all changed recently, as Olsen began to pursue his artistic endeavours as a new full-time venture once he entered retirement. Inspired by Victorian butterfly domes, which kept the insects under glass to preserve their unique beauty, Olsen wanted to make works of art that put the retro appeal of these domes into a more contemporary package, and to allow them to be used as wall displays in people’s homes.
Olsen came up with his now-signature flights of butterflies, which often number in their hundreds in each of his works, as a way of bringing the beauty of the natural world indoors in a realistic and beautiful way. His pieces are so complexly put together, and created on such a large scale that viewers can look at them every day and still pick out elements and details which they had not previously noticed before.
In almost all of Michael Olsen’s pieces, the feather butterflies are arranged so they appear to be floating on the wall, whilst encased in transparent acrylic boxes. The artist is always experimenting with his installations, using different shapes, colours and sizes. As well as his own original pieces, Olsen also creates bespoke cabinets, which he makes to order.
Aside from Victorian domes, Michael Olsen’s inspirations are the simple beautiful things in life, such as love, family, the outdoors, music, and moments of happiness—alone or with others. These are the things that drive Olsen to create his displays, which he hopes reflect these pockets of daily beauty.