These portraits of insects aren’t actually insects at all

Using flowers, leaves, twigs, and seeds, Canadian artist Raku Inoue creates intricate portraits of insects.

Read Caption
A butterfly constructed of rose petals offers a fresh way to see nature—and waste. When a local florist has leftover flowers, artist Raku Inoue finds a way to give them new life.
This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Tropical plants aren’t abundant in the northern latitudes of Montreal, Canada. Nor are the planet’s most diverse animals, insects. Even so, Montreal-based artist and photographer Raku Inoue finds a way to showcase both with his colorful portraits of insects and other animals made from flowers, leaves, twigs, seeds, and stems.

“Insects have always been symbolic for me,” says Inoue, who grew up in Japan. Each summer his grandmother would leave the door open to cool their house in the countryside near Hiroshima and welcome in dragonflies, an insect that she believed represented the presence of her late husband.

View Images
The goliath beetle, which can grow to a length of more than four inches, is one of Earth’s biggest insects. Inoue usually makes his sculptures without adhesives, but for complex projects, he’ll use glue and tape.

Now Inoue makes dragonflies, beetles, ants, and whatever else inspires him, using materials from his own backyard. He takes leftover rose petals and baby’s breath from nearby florists, and occasionally people will send him plants from other parts of the world to challenge his creativity. During a recent trip to the American Southwest, he wanted badly to see a scorpion. When none appeared, he did the next best thing: He collected twigs and seeds, and made one.