News Stories

Sedges: An introduction

Story posted: 13. July 2018 by Lizzie Harper

I frequently get asked to illustrate plants which many see as a little dull, and one of these familiess is the sedges (Cyperaceae).  Sedges, however, are far from dull but are elegant and beautiful plants.  Perhaps all it takes to make people love them is a little information on their anatomy and diversity?

Like grasses and rushes, they are monocots, but are a distinctly different group of plants.  Here is a beginners guide to the Sedges.  (For a beginner’s guide to the Grasses, please click here ).

Sedge Anatomy

Anatomy of the Common sedge Carex nigra…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 291

Natural Science Illustration: Field Vole step by step

Story posted: 28. June 2018 by Lizzie Harper

A recent natural history illustration commission was to paint a Short-tailed or Field vole ( Microtus agrestis ) for an information board to be erected in a nature reserve.

I’ve painted voles before, and I’ll be brutally honest and acknowledge that these illustrations have been far from my best.  Voles are small and fluffy, and they tend to hold themselves hunched up.  This makes them quite tricky to capture in an illustration as any defining features are hidden in curled up fur.

Embarassingly awful Field vole illustration done in the mid 1990s

However, this vole…

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Category: Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 242

Grasses: An introduction

Story posted: 7. June 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Grasses (Poaceae) are one of my favourite botanical illustration subjects; I adore drawing and painting them.  I have written a blog on my passion for this family of plants before but wanted to take another look at the way grasses are put together, and introduce beginners to the basic anatomy and terminology that’ll help you start to understand these glorious and diverse plants.

Drawing a plant is one of the best ways to begin to understand it, so I hope this crash course in grass anatomy will help.

Anatomy of Grasses:   Overview of the Plant

Grasses have long…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 609

Support the Bees & Save the World: Guest Blog by Gus Stewart

Story posted: 22. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Support the Bees and Save the World by Guest blogger  Gus Stewart

Apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, onions, hazelnut, green beans, celery, coffee, watermelon, walnut – no, this isn’t a grocery list. These are just a few of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we will  lose if the bee population continues to decline. While you might have thought that humans were responsible for food production, it is in fact the bee that holds the key. Without bees the world would look drastically different, but there are ways you can help.

Bees pollinating Pear blossom


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Category: Showcase of themed natural history illustrations    Comments: 0    Viewed: 198

Telling Bluebell species apart

Story posted: 15. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

May is a really wonderful month for botanical illustration; all the spring flowers are in bloom and there’s almost too many subjects to illustrate!  I always like to visit our local bluebell woods at this time of year, and thought it might be an idea to write a blog on how you can tell the difference between a native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and a Spanish or garden variety Hyacinthoides hispanica (or a hybrid of the two!)

Native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta

The iconic British bluebell wood, carpeted with deep purple-blue flowers, is one…

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Category: Scientific Illustrator out and about    Comments: 0    Viewed: 335

Botanical Illustration: Cheating doesn't exist

Story posted: 10. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

When I chat to people who are just beginning botanical illustration, I quite often get questions about whether or not certain things are “cheating”.  This annoys and upsets me; everyone should be encouraged to draw and paint, and to use whatever tools are available to them.

There seems to be a strange idea that various shortcuts , tools, and techniques which are incredibly helpful to a botanical illustrator are somehow “cheating”.  I want to try and dispel some of these ideas, and by so doing I hope to encourage beginners to draw and paint plants and flowers without any…

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Category: Illustration techniques    Comments: 0    Viewed: 502

Illustrating a Pansy step by step sketchbook study

Story posted: 10. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Pansies and violas are one of the loveliest garden plants to study through botanical illustration; they’re also common, affordable, and quite easy to paint.  This blog will talk you through the basic steps in completing a sketchbook study of a viola or pansy.

First, choose a plant whose petals have colours that you think you’ll enjoy working with.  Purples, whites, yellows and warm pinks predominate.  I was taken with this pretty plant, and it also allowed me to play about with both pale and dark petals.

Draw up the flower in pencil, as always I use a…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 328

Pencil Botanical Illustration: Drawing a Bean leaf

Story posted: 29. March 2018 by Lizzie Harper

In order to complete a decent botanical illustration, you need to understand about lights and darks, and be able to see where your shadows fall.  One of the excersizes I recntly got my flower painting workshop to try was to complete a detailed pencil study of a relatively simple leaf, in this case the leaf of a runner bean.

Working on cartridge paper, with a soft eraser and a sharp pencil (I love mechanical pencils like the Pentel P205 , and use HB and H leads), I started out by plotting the outline of the leaf shape onto the page.

Step 1: Basic rough outline


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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 523

Woodpecker Skull Biomechanics: Natural History Illustration

Story posted: 16. March 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Sometimes I get asked to complete natural history illustrations on topics that are as fascinating as they are random.

Last week, Bloomsbury Publishers got in touch to ask me to do a diagram for one of the books in their “Spotlight” series of natural history titles , this book will be all about woodpeckers.  (I've done diagrams for other titles in the series including "Spotlight: Robin" and "Spotlight: Bumblebee").

This specific illustration was to be showing how a structure called a hyoid helps support the woodpecker tongue, and also has a vital role in cushioning the…

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Category: Zoology Terms and Anatomy    Comments: 0    Viewed: 424

An Eye For Nature: Lizzie Harper's Exhibition of Watercolours

Story posted: 15. March 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Lizzie will be holding an open envening on

Tuesday 29th May at  Shepherd's , 6.30-9pm

She'll have her sketchbooks and portfolio on show, and will be chatting and selling prints, greetings cards, and a wide selection of unframed original drawings and paintings; along with the framed work in the exhibition.

Please come along!


Lizzie's watercolours of wild flowers and animals will be on exhibition at Shepherd's Ice-cream Parlour in Hay on Wye from

April 27th - July 11th 2018


Browfield landscape, on show at the exhibition


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Step by step Botanical illustration of a Sliced orange

Story posted: 2. March 2018 by Lizzie Harper

In the middle of winter it can be hard for a botanical illustrator to find good subjects to paint; so for my Monday Botanical illustration drop-in class in Hay on Wye I chose to work on a sliced orange as a subject.  The process of breaking down a painting into steps can be tricky; what surprised me most about this subject was how much harder it turned out to be than I’d anticipated!

A good thing about choosing an orange as a subject is that in most places you can get your hands on one easily, and no matter what the season.

(I do need to offer a minor apology, I took the…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 536

Blooms & Bees: Illustrating a Honey Label

Story posted: 16. February 2018 by Lizzie Harper

I love it when I'm asked to produce botancial illustrations and natural history paitings for packaging, it's a different side to what I do and I find the change refreshign and challenging.

Sleeping Bear Honey Farm in the USA have commissioned me before to produce artwork for their honey labels, botanical illustrations of the Orange blossom and of the Tupelo (click here for a blog on the steps involved in producing these).  This time they wanted something a little different, a landscape.

Sweet orange Citrus sinensis artwork for another Sleeping Bear honey label…

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Category: Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 482

Exhibitions: A step by step guide

Story posted: 2. February 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Every once in a while I get around to putting on an exhibition of my illustrations.  In many ways I'm incredibly fortunate, as all I need to do is to flick through the past year or two of botanical illustrations and natural history paintings and decide which ones might look good framed up, or might be appealing enough to sell.  It's a good opportunity to see what work I've done, and to get some of it out of the attic!

There are many things to sort out when arranging an exhibition, so I thought I'd put together a brief step by step guide.


First up, even…

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Category: Illustration techniques    Comments: 0    Viewed: 564

Step by Step Botanical illustration of Tupelo & Sweet orange

Story posted: 19. January 2018 by Lizzie Harper

A recent natural history illustration commission was to complete two botanical illustrations for labels on jars of honey.  The plants in question were Sweet orange Citrus sinensis and Tupelo Nyssa ogeche .

Neither plant grows wild here in the UK, and there was quite a tight deadline so I needed to work from other illustrations and photos.  For more on how I go about doing this, please check out my blog .

First step is to complete the pencil roughs.  I worked with a mechanical P205 Pentel pencil , and I’m currently working on Stonehenge Aqua Hot Press watercolour paper…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 1107

Teaching Botanical Illustration at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens - Autumn

Story posted: 2. January 2018 by Lizzie Harper

In the autumn I was lucky enough to do two day’s teaching at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens teaching a botanical illustration course with a focus on drawing autumn fruits, berries, and leaves,  to a class of twelve adults who varied from quite experienced to complete beginners.  The first day we looked at leaves, and collected a wonderful assortment from the gardens.

Table of autumn leaves collected from the Botanic gardens

We looked at colour as well as shape, veins, margins, and how the light falls on the surfaces of the leaf blades.  The students did some…

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Category: Painting workshops    Comments: 0    Viewed: 269



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